Pubdate: Tue, 31 May 2016
Source: New York Post (NY)
Copyright: 2016 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
Note: by Associated Press


BOGOTA, Colombia - The streets of Colombia's largest open-air drug
market look like a war zone following a police sweep through one of
Bogota's most dangerous neighborhoods.

More than 2,500 riot police officers and heavily armed soldiers
participated in a raid that began Saturday in the capital's "Bronx"
area, nicknamed for its comparison to the troubled New York

New Mayor Enrique Penalosa decided to clamp down on the district in
response to complaints of brazen drug consumption and crime in plain
view and just blocks from the presidential palace.

More than 1,000 people, many of them homeless crack addicts, were
removed and offered treatment. Authorities also rescued 136 minors,
some of them possibly used as child prostitutes, and turned them over
to the state welfare agency.

Julian Quintana, head of the judicial police, said 11 people were
arrested and large amounts of cocaine, marijuana and a highly
addictive crack-like substance called basuco were seized.

Police also located a 100-meter-long hidden passageway running under a
building overrun by squatters that was used by criminal gangs to
smuggle drugs, weapons and possibly even kidnapping victims in and out
of the neighborhood.

"The Bronx will never again be an independent republic of crime where
city officials and agents of order can't circulate freely," Penalosa
said as he outlined plans to provide better lighting and clean up the

The Bronx has long been a major embarrassment and symbol of
abandonment by the state. Authorities have tried to neutralize the
neighborhood in the past, most recently three years ago, but to no
lasting effect.

On Monday, police wearing surgical masks to keep out the stench of
human excrement escorted journalists through the desolate
neighborhood. Streets were littered with furniture and trash -
evidence of a fierce street clash when police swept into the
neighborhood unannounced just after dawn Saturday.

Not everyone welcomed the intervention. Dozens of people removed from
the Bronx relocated to a nearby plaza and have been burning stores and
fighting with police using gasoline bombs and rocks.
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