Colombia’s AGC and government exchange views on terms for surrender and peace

nsnbc : Colombia’s right-wing neo-paramilitary Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces (AGC), a.k.a. Los Urabenos, on Tuesday published a video through the press, suggesting its willingness to surrender and participate in building peace in the Country. President Juan Manuel Santos asked Colombia’s Justice Minister and Prosecutor General to evaluate the request which Santos said he had received on Sunday.

Colombia_AGC_Usuga_Otoniel_2017The AGC have for several years demanded to be included in the peace process while President Juan Manuel Santos at times implicitly denied the presence of any neo-paramilitaries but demanded that the AGC surrenders. The Colombian government does not recognize the AGC as political actor and describes them as bare criminals despite the fact that they are rooted in the disbanded right-wing AUC and have a clear right-wing policy that often targets leftist communities, grassroots leaders, andleftist political activists.

Caracol Radio received information from a non-identified AGC source saying that the AGC’s conditions would include a guarantee to no extradition for the paramilitaries as well as political conditions for no-repetition. Santos, for his part, stressed that he would look into the situation to evaluate a surrender and not to debate political conditions. Santos said “I have asked the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor to proceed to evaluate that request and take appropriate action”.

AGC fighters_Colombia_2016The AGC was formed in 2006 and announced in 2008 by dissident members of now-defunct paramilitary umbrella organization AUC. It has since grown to become one of Colombia’s most-feared illegal armed groups. The AUC has earlier claimed it had 8,000 members, making it significantly larger than the country’s largest still standing leftist guerrilla group, the ELN with its approximately 3,000 members. The demobilized and disarmed FARC-Ep had about 7,000 troops.

One of the reasons that made negotiations with the AGC difficult is that the government denied that it is a politically motivated group like the AUC, the FARC-EP or ELN, that it is barely a criminal organization, and that it therefore has no place in peace talks and should surrender. Needless to say that this position didn’t exactly motivate the AGC, that controls approximately 70 percent of Colombia’s cocaine export to play ball with authorities. Extensive involvement in narco trafficking and fear of extradition are not exactly motivating either.

Colombia’s Vice-President Oscar Naranjo said it will be the Prosecutor General’s Office that ultimately decides under what conditions the group can lay down their weapons. Naranjo also said that the AGC is identical with the criminal cartel dubbed Gulf Clan, and that it is not a politically-oriented self-defense force as Dario Antonio Usuga, a.k.a. “Otoniel,” and his men have claimed. Mirroring the words of President Santos, Naranjo said “We are not talking about a political negotiation or a judicial negotiation. We do not recognize them as an armed political actor. We do not recognize the name Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.” Consequently, “it will be the Prosecutor General’s Office that determines how to expedite justice effectively and efficiently,” he added.

Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, for his part, laid out the government’s conditions to proceed with negotiations that would allow the group’s surrender to justice on his Office’s website. “The surrender must be at least conditioned to the absolute cessation of criminal activities, the delivery of the illegal assets of the organization and, of course, the [illicit] crops and drug trafficking routes”, stated Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez. The Prosecutor General also said that he would talk to the Justice Minister to discuss the possible mass demobilization as Colombian criminal law lacks legislation to regulate the mass surrender of illegal armed groups.

A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 08.09.2017

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