Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal announced that he had been transferred from his position in the northern Colombian department of Cordoba to the eastern city of Cucuta to replace Bishop Jaime Prieto who passed away.
The decision was announced as Vidal attempts to insert himself into negotiations between the government and former paramilitaries who have taken up the drug trade. This January, Vidal said that former paramilitaries had sent him a message and expressed their willingness to lay down their arms and submit to the government in return for concessions from the government.
Earlier this month Vidal suggested offering neo-paramilitary and other drug trafficking groups immunity from extradition. The move went against the wishes of Colombia’s government and prosecutor general, who stated that the paramilitaries should be treated as common criminals and that the law should not be bent for their sake.
It is unclear what role Vidal will continue to have in the negotiations between the paramilitaries and the government as his new position is located a great distance from the criminal groups’ area of operation.
Vidal was the central manager of the negotiations that led to the formal dispersal of the AUC Colombia’s chief paramilitary group. In 2006, the leaders of the AUC announced that the organization had disbanded and submitted to the governemnt, but the groups many members continued to operate under new names. Since then they have been accused of drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, assassinating political leaders and witnesses, rape, and thousands of murder cases.