Colombia’s most powerful criminal network the Urabeños may have entered into a pact with rivals Oficina de Envigado in Medellin, where the battle for control of the city has costs thousands of lives.
According to Medellin-based NGO Corporation for Peace and Social Development (Corpades), the two gangs have agreed a ceasefire as part of the preliminary stages of a truce, reported El Colombiano. If by December the ceasefire has seen results then the aim is to massively extend the agreement into a wide-ranging truce, which would include provisions for an end to child recruitment, forced displacement, extortion in lower income neighborhoods and a host of other crimes that are part and parcel of life in Colombia’s second city.
Corpades President Fernando Quijano, an expert on Medellin’s conflict, outlined an ambitious proposal for the eventual pact in which the two gangs would ultimately stop selling drugs to children, stop collaborating with members of state institutions and erase invisible borders in a “gradual diminution of territorial, social, economic and military control by the two structures and their more than 350 groups which operate in the metropolitan area.”
The proposal also includes plans for the withdrawal of the military from conflict-heavy neighborhoods and and their replacement with a community police force.
The aim was not to end the city’s conflict, said Quijano, but to turn it “from a violent one into a social one.” If the first phase was successful a “period of discussion and negotiation on all topics” would begin in January next year.
Medellin Security Secretary Arnulfy Serna told El Colombiano: “It is clear a pact has been agreed between some criminal structures. However murders continue.”
Medellin has been the center of Colombia’s underworld for years, with domestic microtrafficking, extortion and lucrative drug trafficking routes out of the city earning gangs tens of millions of dollars a year.
The city has been controlled by the Oficina de Envigado since the death of Pablo Escobar, but in recent years the group has splintered while the powerful Urabeños have been muscling in, contracting street gangs to fight a proxy war against their rivals.
Currently, the Oficina retains control of more territory in the city, according to Corpades’ mapping of the city’s conflict zones, but the Urabeños have been making steady progress seizing strategically important zones from their sorely weakened opponents.
At this stage it remains unclear exactly what each group hopes to achieve through a ceasefire, or if it could lead to permenant shifts in Medellin’s criminal dynamic. However it seems unlikely the powerful interests that profit from the city’s underworld will be prepared to walk away from the lucrative criminal opportunities on offer.