To combat crime and the most prominent criminals in Colombia, including drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar, the country’s police commander has said that he and other officers have resorted to exorcism and prayer.
General Henry Sanabria, whose office is decorated with crucifixes, effigies of the Virgin Mary, and other Catholic symbols, told local media on Saturday that the police had benefited from religious observances throughout the country’s 50 years of armed struggle.
He cited the 1993 death of Escobar, the 2011 death of FARC guerilla leader Alfonso Cano, and the 2010 death of his military chief known as “Mono Jojoy” as examples of successful police operations.
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“The existence of the devil is certain. I have seen him. I have felt him,” Sanabria made this statement in an interview with Semana magazine, crossing himself whenever the devil was mentioned.
He told the magazine that only lately, hundreds of aggressive protestors surrounded a tiny handful of unarmed police officers. According to Sanabria, he arrived at the scene carrying a cross.
“They picked up everything and left,” Sanabria said. “The policemen looked at me. They didn’t dare ask me what had happened.”
Sanabria asserted that criminals engage in the practice of witchcraft and that a police officer had been successful in killing a criminal in a particular operation by “praying while shooting.”
In Colombia, a secular country with strong Catholic roots, his comments have ignited heated online disputes. President Gustavo Petro showed no signs of alarm.
“We know the beliefs of the general, but we try to make sure that these beliefs do not affect the rules, it is as simple as that,” he said. “I think he has respected them, as far as we know.”
The police chief has made some controversial statements in the past. C*ndom use, which Sanabria has referred to as an “abortive procedure,” is illegal in Colombia, despite the fact that abortion is lawful there up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
He tweeted something derogatory about Women’s Day on March 8 and called Halloween a “satanic” celebration back in October.
“A woman’s charm makes her husband happy and if she is reasonable, she makes it last. A discreet woman is a gift from the Lord,” he wrote.
More conventional strategies have also been used in recent days by Colombia to combat crime and drug trafficking. The navy of the country intercepted two “narco subs” earlier this month, which are semi-submersible vessels used to transport large quantities of cocaine. Moreover, there were two bodies found on board one of the ships.
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