Former Colombian Paramilitaries Pose Possible Surrender
By Dialogo January 19, 2011
Groups dedicated to drug trafficking and responsible for a spiraling crime rate in northern Colombia have put forward the idea of a possible surrender to the government in an effort to put an end to the violence, a senior Catholic clergyman said on 17 January.
These so-called ‘emerging criminal gangs,’ made up of former ultra-right-wing paramilitaries, are engaged in a war for control of drug-trafficking routes and areas for growing coca – the raw material for cocaine – in which hundreds of people have died in recent months.
“They’re not asking for dialogue commissions, just to reach out to the government to surrender weapons, routes, crops. To turn themselves in, even if the outcome is extradition,” the bishop of Montería, Msgr. Julio César Vidal, told reporters.
“They’ve told me that they don’t want Colombia to turn into Mexico, and that it doesn’t matter if they’re extradited, but that this has to be stopped,” maintained the bishop, whose diocese is centered in the capital of the department of Córdoba, one of those most impacted by the violence of these illegal armed groups.
According to the National Police, there are currently seven emerging criminal gangs dedicated to drug trafficking in Colombia, with around 4,100 fighters.
The government maintains that unlike the paramilitaries, who had a political and ideological motive for their fight against the country’s guerrillas, the new groups are dedicated only to drug-trafficking activities.
President Juan Manuel Santos’s administration left open the possibility that the gangs’ leaders and rank-and-file could submit to justice and lay down their arms, but it warned that there will be no negotiations.
“The administration’s policy has been to confront these organizations with complete decisiveness and determination,” Interior and Justice Minister Germán Vargas Lleras said.