An unknown group is negotiating a ceasefire between the two major criminal gangs in Medellin responsible for much of the city’s drug violence, Colombia Reports was told on Monday.
The mayor’s office denied having any involvement in the process. “We are not involved, nor is negotiating ceasefires with criminal groups part of our political philosophy,” communications officer Lina Cuartas told Colombia Reports.
The mayor of Medellin, Alonso Salazar, said in a radio interview that he was aware that the negotiations were occurring, but he could not comment on the details of the truce. He reiterated that the mayor’s office was not backing the ceasefire.
The ombudsman´s office also denied sponsoring the negotiations. “It’s a delicate matter,” a spokesperson told Colombia Reports. “We are currently analyzing the best manner to release more information.”
In an interview with Caracol Radio, High Comissioner for Peace Frank Pearl also said that the government was not involved.
“The government’s position is that we can neither evaluate nor participate in ceasefires between criminals,” he said. “We cannot permit drug traffickers to divide up the city and pretend that the police and the judicial system aren’t operating.”
“The only option for delinquents is to submit themselves to justice,” he added.
The ceasefire would halt turf wars between the criminal bands headed by Maximiliano Bonilla, alias “Valenciano,” and the rival groups led by Erick Vargas, alias “Sebastian.” Confrontations between the groups caused Medellin’s homicide rate to balloon to 2,178 murders in 2009, the city’s most violent year since 2005.
The negotiators currently brokering the truce have previously worked with disarming paramilitary groups, El Espectador reported. Daniel Rendon Herrara, a notorious drug lord known as “Don Mario” who is currently in prison in Colombia, is also reportedly involved.
The ceasefire may already be affecting Medellin’s homicide rates, with only seven murders reported last week. This is a sharp drop from January’s homicide rates, when the city registered 231 murders, up by 128 from 2008.
Medellin is struggling to control violence caused by battling neo-paramilitary drug-trafficking gangs. Authorities calculate that there are currently up to 250 drug gangs operating in the city, with up to 3,000 youths involved.