Neo-paramilitaries support and want to be involved in Colombia’s peace talks

Colombia’s main neo-paramilitary organization, the Urabeños, on Friday said to support ongoing peace talks with rebel group FARC and asked the government to be involved in the negotiations.

The neo-paramilitary group, who call themselves the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), released a statement saying that “there must be an awareness that while we do not take part in a negotiation process, peace will continue to be a delayed aspiration in the collective imagination. Seven thousand armed men, with presence in the entire national territory, can not be ignored.”

The Urabeños, formed by former commanders and fighters of demobilized paramilitary organization AUC, claim to be “the result of the failed peace process the Colombian state carries out with the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia [AUC], a process that was ended abruptly by the government of Mr. Alvaro Uribe Velez, who unilaterally and breaking made agreements, imprisoned our commanders and later extradited a large number of them.”

According to the neo-paramilitaries, they are a politically motivated organization and not drug traffickers. “Our purpose is not personal gain at any price as they have tried to portray us,” the group said in the statement.

“The fact we are active in conflict regions that in turn are sustained by illegal crop cultivation, does not make us drug traffickers or a drug cartel. Our relationship with drug trafficking consists of charging taxes on products that come from territories where we are present,” said the Urabeños.

In the statement, the neo-paramilitaries explicitly said to support ongoing peace talks with the FARC.

“Political negotiation, not the arbitrary and malicious submission, is the way to the demobilization of armed groups. We trust that both sides know to reconcile the genuine national interest with the pacts made during the negotiations… We believe that until now the achieved results are going in the right direction to restore farming live to favor well-being. Additionally, we hope that rather sooner than later, the guerrillas of the ELN begin their process of negotiation,” said the neo-paramilitaries currently under command of “Otoniel.”

The Urabeños denied being aligned with the so-called “Anti-Restitution Army” that has violently resisted the return of stolen land to their rightful owners. Additionally, the group criticized Uribe , “who is only interested in regaining power regardless of the price Colombia must pay.”

The neo-paramilitary group controls most of Colombia’s drug trafficking businesses in the north of the country and have increased their influence in the Pacific region after the voluntary surrender of key leaders of their main rivals, the “Rastrojos.”

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