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Colombia’s attorney general on Monday suspended arrest warrants against 19 members of a group of former rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal, a step toward new negotiations promised by President Gustavo Petro.
The Estado Mayor Central armed group was founded by former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels who did not join that group’s demobilization and conversion to a legal political party.
“The attorney general of the nation, after weighing the arguments presented by President Petro, and in accordance with his legal and constitutional duties, has decided to suspend existing and future arrest warrants against 19 people,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement. None of the 19 have extradition warrants, the prosecutor’s office said.
The suspension will allow discussions to take place between the dissidents and government officials, Petro said on Twitter – a first step to beginning formal talks. The attorney general said in January he would not drop extradition warrants for drug-trafficking bosses, with whom Petro wants to agree to surrender deals.
“A second peace process is beginning,” Petro tweeted, adding discussions would be established between the government and the group. The government is already in peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels and the two sides have said they are progressing toward a bilateral ceasefire deal.
Clan del Golfo Breaks Ceasefire
The government is holding a ceasefire with the dissident groups and some criminal gangs, though Petro said on Thursday that the Clan del Golfo criminal group had broken its deal.
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro accused the Clan del Golfo, the country’s biggest criminal group, of breaking a ceasefire by attacking an aqueduct during demonstrations by miners protesting against military operations targeting illegal gold mining.
Roadblocks connected to the protests affected up to 300,000 people across 12 municipalities in Colombia’s Antioquia and Cordoba provinces, resulting in shortages of fuel, food, and medicine, the government said. Police lifted the majority of the roadblocks last week.
The government reached a ceasefire with the Clan del Golfo – also known as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces (AGC) – as part of efforts to end the group’s part in Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has killed at least 450,000 people over six decades.
The group did not immediately respond to Petro’s statement.