A north Colombian bishop reaffirmed the willingness of the leaders of 5,000 criminal gang members to surrender themselves and their troops, while National Police Commander General Oscar Naranjo rejected any dialogue with drug gangs.
In an interview with Caracol Radio Tuesday, Bishop Julio Cesar Vidal from Monteria, in the northern department of Cordoba, reconfirmed statements he made in January that 5,000 criminal gang members wish to lay down their arms and submit to justice. He added that leaders of these groups have approached him to seek a dialogue with authorities.
General Naranjo declared hours later that the authorities will not establish dialogue with these criminal gangs and that the offensive will continue to submit them to justice.
“The prison population has increased by about 11,150 inmates, they didn’t get there by a voluntary manner or by invitations that somebody formulated. They arrived there because the police captured them and judicial decisions were enforced,” said Naranjo, who added that “we have not let down our guard.”
According to Bishop Vidal, these gang leaders do not want a “negotiating table,” however they do want a clear path to turn over their arms and demobilize.
“These are mafia groups, they don’t need to negotiate, however they need to determine which people are going to speak, how many people [will submit to justice], in what place, on what date, what prison will they be sent to, what judge will be in charge of their case, all that is included in submitting to justice,” said the Cordoba religious leader.
“They are pointing to a penalty reduction; I was very surprised when one of the groups told me, ‘we know we are able to be extradited, but we want to stop this violence in the country.’ Those are the bosses who wish to submit to justice,” said Vidal.
In January, after initial reports from the bishop were released, President Juan Manuel Santos and his top security officials vehemently rejected any negotiations with drug gangs. High Security Advisor for the Santos administration, Sergio Jaramillo, said that not “under any circumstances” will they open a dialogue or negotiation with members of these gangs.
The bishop reported that among the groups that are seeking demobilization guarantees are leaders from narco-trafficking group “Los Rastrojos,” as well as leaders from Valenciano’s faction of the neo-paramilitary organization “Oficina de Envigado.”