Following criticism over the release of more than 250 alleged members of neo-paramilitary group ERPAC who turned themselves in last week, Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Monday ordered the arrest of 229 of the alleged neo-paramilitaries.
A total of 248 arrest warrents have now been issued against members of the group of approximately 280 alleged neo-paramilitaries who initially were released because prosecutors said to not have the legal means to detain members of the group, despite them admitting to be part of a criminal organization.
Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras, whose government had been negotiating the demobilization since August, distanced himself from the mass release of the alleged arms and drug traffickers and said that the government had only provided logistical support to the demobilization operation and had in no way struck a deal with ERPAC that would allow its alleged members to walk free.
After the surrender of the ERPAC faction on Thursday and Friday last week, only 19 members — including its five commanders — were arrested. The remaining members were sent home, causing Nuevo Arco Iris, an NGO that monitors the conflict, to call the demobilization a “media show.”
ERPAC was formed by “Cuchillo,” a former paramilitary who formed his group after the paramilitary organization AUC demobilized in 2006. According to military intelligence, the group has some 1,100 members and is guilty of arms and drugs trafficking at the Venezuelan border.