The Catholic Church on Thursday stated it does not need authorization to speak to members of criminal groups, after the Colombian government banned the brokers of the Medellin ceasefire from conducting any more negotiations.
“As pastors we have the obligation to speak to everyone… especially the black sheep of the flock,” said Archbishop Ruben Salazar.
“We can not allow the country to continue bleeding and fall into chaos because of the situation with criminal groups. It is necessary, before we speak with the government, to have a pastoral dialogue with the leaders of these groups,” Salazar added.
Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo, the archbishop of Medellin, is one of the negotiators of the Medellin ceasefire.
High Commissioner for Peace Frank Pearl announced Wednesday that the government was banning further negotiations because the negotiators had only been authorized to speak with members of the Medellin gangs with the aim of bringing criminals to justice. A truce was not authorized.
Salzar said that some bishops will go on communicating with the gangs to stop them from committing acts of violence, El Tiempo reported.
The archbishop clarified that the bishops will do so with the aim of bringing criminals to justice, and that they will begin an official process with the government to seek the approval of authorities and Alvaro Uribe.
The ceasefire, in effect since February 1, has already drastically affected Medellin’s homicide rates. Only seven murders were reported last week, down from 231 murders registered in January.