Colombia’s vice president and interior and justice minister clashed Wednesday over alleged government plans to offer amnesty to members of criminal groups.
The disagreement between Vice President Angelino Garzon and Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras took place after Garzon told media that the government is studying whether to issue a decree that allows demobilized members of illegal armed groups that haven’t committed crimes against humanity to be pardoned.
If the law allows it, “all persons who belong to an illegal armed group and are dealt with on the principles of truth and non-repetition, can be released,” said Garzon of the alleged proposed amendment to Law 1424, which would define the legal situations of more than 19,000 former members of illegal armed groups currently sitting in judicial limbo.
The VP’s statement caused a backlash from Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras, who denied that a pardon for members of criminal organizations is underway.
“The statements made about this by the mister Vice President of the Republic, Angelino Garzon, lack any legal or constitutional basis,” Vargas Lleras wrote in his Twitter account, adding that “there exists no project for a decree that changes the policy regarding amnesties.”
In return, the Vice President responded to press that now that Colombia has officially recognized it is involved in an armed conflict, it means that members of illegal armed groups within the conflict “whatever you call them, will be free.”
The clash between the two officials was ended by President Juan Manuel Santos himself, who issued a press release in which he acknowledged that the government “in the coming days” will issue a decree regarding “Law 1424 from 2010 that seeks to fulfill the commitments to peace acquired by the national government and the demobilization of illegal armed groups, guaranteeing victims the reconstruction of historical memory and truth about the violent acts and the right to non-repetition.”
The Colombian government has always denied that members of groups that arose from defunct drug cartels or the demobilized paramilitary organization AUC will receive different treatment than common criminals.