Imprisoned Colombian paramilitary leaders sent a letter to former presidential candidate Gustavo Petro asking him to represent them in the proposed “government of national unity” of President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, El Espectador reported Wednesday.
In the letter, the paramilitary leaders expressed their desire to cooperate with Petro in his goal to return lands stolen from forcefully displaced populations.
According to the former paramilitaries, it is crucial that they participate in the government’s plan to restore displaced people to their homes, as the fighters have expertise stemming from “25 years spent living at the heart of the conflict.”
Paramilitary organizations have been seen as the main force behind the thousands of forced displacements taking place across Colombia’s countryside in recent decades.
Petro, from the left-wing Polo Democratico party, placed Colombia’s victimized populations at the heart of his presidential campaign, and incorporated proposals for land reform and land return in his bid for the presidency.
Despite land restitution forming part of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe‘s goals, little has been done over his eight-year administration to address the growing problem, Colombian political website La Silla Vacia argued last week.
According to the report, Uribe’s “unfulfilled mission will now be turned over to Juan Manuel Santos.”
The paramilitaries’ letter to Petro was signed by eight imprisoned paramilitary leaders, including well-known figures such as Freddy Rendon, alias “El Aleman,” and Edwar Cobo Tellez, alias “Diego Vecino.”