By Dialogo February 13, 2012 More than 4,000 members of criminal gangs, including important leaders, were neutralized by Colombian Government forces in the last 18 months, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón reported during an accountability event held at Nariño House. “Year to year, arrests of members of those organizations have been increasing, and several of them have been killed in the course of legitimate police operations or legitimate Military operations. During 2011, 3,856 members were neutralized, and in January, 333 members of those organizations were neutralized,” Pinzón announced during the meeting at the presidential residence. The minister highlighted the neutralization of alias “Cuchillo” [“Knife”], a major leader of ERPAC, alias “Valenciano,” head of the “Los Paisas” criminal gang, and alias “Giovany,” the top-ranking leader of “Los Urabeños.” He also emphasized the dismantling in September 2011 of the “Alta Guajira” [“Upper Guajira”] criminal gang, responsible for countless criminal acts in the northern part of the country. Finally, Pinzón made special acknowledgement of the commanders of the Military and the director of the National Police, and through them, each and every one of the men and women of the Armed Forces. “The reason for being of the Defense Ministry, of the Military, and of the National Police is to protect the human rights and the constitutional rights of all citizens, without any distinction whatsoever, and to defend the sovereignty and interests of the nation; this is a task that our Military and police personnel carry out without rest, 24 hours a day,” the minster affirmed.