Petro opens the possibility of meeting with AUC paramilitaries

Bogotá (BLAZETRENDS).- The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, stated that he is willing to meet with the former heads of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries who sent him a letter at the end of March requesting an audience to discuss the law that allowed his demobilization.

“Former paramilitary chiefs who have served their sentences also say publicly that they are willing to meet with me. I believe that this meeting should take place,” Petro said during an act to commemorate the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity with the Victims.

The AUC demobilized in 2006 after a negotiation process with the government of then Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

The President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, in a file image. BLAZETRENDS/ Matías Martín Campaya

As part of the agreement, the ex-paramilitaries took advantage of the Justice and Peace Law, which contemplated sentences of a maximum of eight years in prison in exchange for collaboration to clarify crimes, but some of the leaders lost those benefits.

In this sense, Petro assured this Sunday that he sees it necessary for the Government and the paramilitaries benefited by this law “to meet to establish in black and white what happened to the assets, evaluate what happened to the law, to what extent this peace process it was truncated or it can be finished and terminated”.

Statements and response

Colombian President Gustavo Petro in a file photograph.  BLAZETRENDS/Mauricio Duenas Castañeda
Colombian President Gustavo Petro in a file photograph. BLAZETRENDS/Mauricio Duenas Castañeda

It all started on March 22 when Petro criticized the justice and peace law because he believes that the victims have not been compensated and that the perpetrators should tell the country the truth.

“It was a law of impunity for the armed drug traffickers of Colombia,” the president said then, adding that the paramilitaries “believed they were doing business” by fighting the guerrillas and “perhaps they thought they were really cleaning the country of what they they considered inferior, but they were raised from power”.

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Seven days later, a group of 16 former paramilitary chiefs, including former AUC commander Salvatore Mancuso, requested a hearing with the government to “expose in great detail what” their “judicial and extrajudicial” contributions to peace and Colombian reconciliation.

In the letter they said that 4,902 demobilized members of the AUC have been assassinated since 2006 and stated that they hope that total peace, the flagship plan of the Petro government, will mean “the end of structural violence.”

“We believe that a public debate on the results of the demobilization of the Self-Defense Forces is pertinent and necessary (…) Today a true and objective balance can be made, which meets the call that you make to us,” said the former AUC chiefs.

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