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112 Members Of A Paramilitary Group Surrender In The Jungles Of Western Colombia

By Dialogo
May 22, 2009

A total of 112 members of the drug gang ''Los Rastrojos'', a Colombian paramilitary group created by a kingpin who was assassinated a year ago in Venezuela, surrendered to Army troops today in a jungle in the Western region of the country, the authorities announced. The outgoing Defense Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, specified that the massive surrender took place in the town of Nuquí, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, during a visit to the military base at Tolemaida, in the center of Colombia. The paramilitary forces surrendered after being pressured by Army as well as by Naval operations, Santos affirmed, who indicated that they were received by units of the XVII Army Brigade in Nuquí, a town in the (Western) department of Chocó. “This is a very harsh blow to this Los Rastrojos criminal ring”, the minister considered, and he indicated that these “bandits” surrendered in three groups, one group had 55 members, the other group had 40 members, and the last group had 17 members. The first group surrendered “carrying 57 rifles, 23,000 cartridges (of war), submachine guns and intelligence materials”, the minister added, which spear-headed the inauguration of a school at the Tolemaida base which will deliver courses on human rights and humanitarian international rights to soldiers. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Frank Pearl, assured that the paramilitary forces who surrendered will be tried under the Justice and Peace Act, which grants benefits to members of illegal armed groups, whenever they voluntarily surrender to the authorities with their weapons and they provide information which helps to dismantle the organizations of which they had been a member. Pearl explained that this Act could not be exercised because this was not “a disbandment”, but that they had surrender to authorities due to the pressure of the Law Enforcement Officers”, although he specified that “they could enjoy the benefits granted by the legal authorities according to the degree in which they cooperate” with the authorities. Los Rastrojos group was formed by mafia leader Wilber Varela, alias “Jabón” (Soap), who was assassinated at the beginning of last year in Venezuela. Varela established the group as an armed branch of his drug trafficking organization, which broke away from the old “Cartel del Norte del Valle” (North Valley Cartel of the Cauca, with Cali being the capital of this department, located in the southwestern region of Colombia). EFE