A bishop from north Colombia is set to meet with government officials to discuss 5,000 drug gang members he says are ready to lay down weapons and submit to justice, Caracol Radio reported Wednesday.
Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal from Monteria, Cordoba, said that he will meet with government officials on Friday to discuss conditions for the surrender of criminal gang members across the country.
Vidal said that gang members are ready to surrender and give up weapons, drug routes, and illegal crops.
The bishop told reporters that he spoke with President Juan Manuel Santos Tuesday night at the National Assembly of Bishops and said, “President Santos is indeed willing to open spaces for all these groups, among them these emerging gangs. If they really fulfill what they have promised, they will find a good reception from the government, ” newspaper El Tiempo reported.
On Tuesday the High Security Advisor for the Santos administration, Sergio Jaramillo, said that not “under any circumstances” will they open a dialogue or negotiation with members of these gangs.
Jaramillo said in the report from newspaper El Universal that,” [Colombian law] offers a number of possibilities of how people can collaborate with the law and surrender to it, and all are welcome who want to surrender.”
Critics like Liberal Party leader Rafael Pardo reject negotiating with these drug gangs. These new groups are thought to have emerged from the AUC paramilitary organization, whose members demobilized from 2003 to 2006.
Pardo said that establishing negotiations with BACRIM would only renew the mistake the Uribe administration made with its Justice and Peace law, which oversaw the demobilization and allowed partial amnesty for paramilitaries who confess their crimes and compensate their victims.
The Liberal Party leader said that the Justice and Peace Law “did not solve the paramilitary phenomenon, and instead led to the problem facing the country today with gangs.”