Colombia’s president suspends ceasefire with Clan del Golfo
Bogotá, Mar 19 (EFE).- Colombia’s president on Sunday suspended a bilateral ceasefire with the country’s largest criminal group Clan del Golfo, accusing it of attacking police and instigating the informal miners’ strike gripping the northwest of the country.
“I have ordered the Public Force to reactivate all military operations against the Clan del Golfo. The bilateral cessation with this group outside the law is suspended. We will not allow them to continue sowing anxiety and terror in the communities,” Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro wrote in a message on his Twitter account.
“As of this moment there is no ceasefire with the Gulf Clan. The public force must act immediately against the structures of the mafia organization,” he added.
The reason given was a “rifle attack on the available police force,” but the Colombian government had been blaming this group for being behind the miners’ strike in the Bajo Cauca area, where several vehicles have been burned and which threatens the local community.
On Sunday, at least four cargo trucks and two public buses were set on fire, according to Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria, despite the government saying last week that it had reestablished control in the area.
The miners have been protesting since Mar. 2 against the army and police operations against illegal mining in the area but, authorities say that behind the strike is the Clan del Golfo, which profits from the exploitation of minerals.
The “false mining strike,” as Gaviria described it, has confined more than 250,000 people from 16 municipalities in northwestern Colombia with shortages of food and other products, including gas, and has plunged the subregions of Bajo Cauca and Northeast into chaos.
Defense Minister Iván Velásquez said at a press conference with the entire military leadership that they have no doubt that the acts carried out Sunday were “committed by the Clan del Golfo and that by virtue of this situation, in which also an army patrol that reacted was attacked by a rifle, the national government has made the decision to suspend” the ceasefire.
The government and the president have ordered “the military forces and the National Police to carry out offensive operations against the Clan del Golfo with all their capacity,” insisting that this group is behind the situation in Bajo Cauca, Antioquia and southern Cordova.
Military general Helder Fernán Giraldo alleged that “in all the national territory where this armed group commits crimes, offensive operations will be carried out to neutralize, dismantle, the operations of this armed group.”
Meanwhile, the Clan del Golfo in a statement denied responsibility for the actions of which the government accuses them, and blamed the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN), despite the fact that they exercise more control in this area.
In addition, in contrast to announcing a strike like the one that took place when the previous government of Iván Duque signed the order for the extradition to the US of its former leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel”, they have reaffirmed their desire for peace.
“We continue with our peace disposition, which we allow ourselves to reiterate. We are willing to dialogue with the corresponding official instances to overcome the impasses that are arising,” the Clan del Golfo said.
Through the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace (OACP), the government has made preliminary contacts with the group, which is made up of some 9,000 people and has control in 14 departments, especially the Pacific and Caribbean.
Unlike with the ELN or the FARC dissidents, the Colombian government does not want to recognize a political status for this group, dedicated above all to drug trafficking and other activities such as illegal mining, and instead offers submission to justice.
However, there was still no concrete result beyond this bilateral ceasefire. EFE