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Cartagena ups security measures amid violent crime wave ahead of Colombia peace ceremony

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Colombia’s Caribbean port city Cartagena stepped up security measures on Sunday amid an apparent violent crime wave and a week from the arrival of numerous world leaders.

The city will host the ceremony that will end Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict between the state and the FARC, but has seen a number of high-profile attacks in upper class neighborhoods popular with tourists.

The attacks have forced the city to take provisional measures.

To curb the violence, Cartagena authorities temporarily banned motorcycles with passengers in the wealthier parts of the city where the world leaders attending the peace ceremony could be staying.

The new rule affects Bocagrande, Castillogrande, Crespo, El Laguito, Manga y Pie de la Popa, all in the affluent north of the city.

This weekend, the son of famous Colombian sports commentator Napoleon Perea Fernandez was killed in what appears to have been a robbery at an exclusive Bocagrande restaurant.

That same night, five heavily armed men forcibly entered the condominium of Jaime Gonzalez, the CEO of a major Colombian health care provider, in an attempted kidnapping. Fortunately, Gonzalez was not at home.

Also this weekend, armed gunmen entered an exclusive restaurant to rob wealthy entrepreneur Alfonso Hilsaca at gunpoint.

Last Wednesday, three assassins dressed as police officials attempted to kill neo-paramilitary drug lord-turned-government witness John Jairo Atencio, a.k.a. “Pichi.”

Cartagena Mayor Manuel Vicente Duque announced the measure after an emergency security meeting with the local chief of police.

Duque insisted that his city’s current security situation will not affect the signing of peace, which is “under the protection of over 500 police officers assigned by the presidency.”

His concern is for “the people of Cartagena” who are affected by violent crime, he said.

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