A Medellin “Commission” of criminals and corrupt members of the city’s elite has bartered a truce between local crime syndicate Oficina de Envigado and neo-paramilitary group the Urabeños, crime analysis website InSight Crime reported Sunday.
According to website, the bosses of both groups agreed to end hostilities two months ago in an apparent attempt to recover centralized control over Medellin’s criminal gangs as exercised by extradited AUC commander “Don Berna.”
The website reported that the two neo-paramilitary organizations are seeing to reestablish the city as Colombia’s crime capital using Don Berna’s former organizational chart to control the city’s dozens of militias.
The Medellin truce reportedly was bartered by “The Commission,” a group of prominent criminals and members of the city’s social and economic elite that have exercised varied control over Medellin’s criminal economy since the rise of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar in 1980s.
Among the members of this commission was Guillermo Valencia Cossio, the former director of Medellin’s prosecution office and brother of Colombia’s former Interior and Justice Minister, reported InSight. A second former member reportedly is imprisoned entrepreneur Marlon Javier Vergara.
InSight said that The Commission organized a criminal summit in the coastal city of Cartagena in May to begin linking the Urabeños to factions of the Oficina in order to obtain to a ceasefire before the Flower Festival, the city’s biggest festival held annually in August.
The ceasefire was finally agreed at a summit in the nearby town of San Jeronimo in July.
Present at this summit were “Don Daniel,” the Urabeños’ Medellin commander and five top members of Oficina gangs.
The agreement between the two criminal organizations reportedly consisted of the Urabeños to agree to cease hostilities over territory and open up the neo-paramilitaries’ transnational drug trafficking operations to the Oficina, whose member militias have had access to illicit drugs but had been cut off from the international trade after Don Berna’s extradition to the United States.
In return, the Oficina also agreed to a ceasefire and promised to impose discipline on members gangs that have been clashing with rival gangs loyal to the Urabeños for years.
This fighting between the Urabeños and the Oficina cost thousands of lives since Don Berna’s extradition in 2008 and was reportedly deemed as “bad for business” by members of the commission.
According to InSight, the cooperation pact between the two most dominant criminal organizations in Colombia’s second largest city could strengthen the neo-paramilitaries’ influence over Medellin’s mainstream politics and economy, traditionally plagued by corruption.
The alleged truce came months after pressure on Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria over a rise in violent crime that was measured in the beginning of the year. The violence forced then-Colombia Police Commissioner Jose Roberto Leon to move his office to the capital of the Antioquia department and oversee crime fighting.
Following the alleged pact, Medellin Mayor Anibal Gaviria said there had been a steep drop in homicides in the city. According to the executive, murders dropped 17.6% in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year.
The pact had been first alleged by local investigators in August.
“Historically, anytime you have a total stop in murders, it means that there is a pact in place,” said Diego Herrera, president of regional research group IPC in August. “Homicides don’t just suddenly stop happening.”