Medellín-based crime syndicate the "Oficina de Envigado" is allegedly seeking to negotiate with the Colombian government, a questionable development that raises skepticism over the benefits of such a process given the group's fractured nature.
In the letter -- dated March 9 and signed by "The Associated Directorship of the Urban Armed Groups Outside the Law" (Dirección Colegiada de los Groups Armados Urbanos al Margen de la Ley) -- the Oficina declares its wish to "enter a phase of exploration and rapprochement with the national, regional, and local government to seek a real peace deal."
"We believe this is a historic moment in [Colombia], one in which a legal scenario can be reached for our men to resolve their situation," the letter continues. "We are not asking impunity, but something reasonable for all parties."
Stating a readiness "to open a channel of communication and verification," the letter says the end goal is "a process of dialogue that reaches an agreement facilitating [the Oficina's] abandonment of arms and reintegration into civilian life."
According to Semana, the proposal has been in the works for months and is supported by civil society leaders with experience in previous demobilization processes.
The Colombian government has not yet issued a formal reply to the proposal, reported El Colombiano.
Formed by Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel, and then developed in the 1990s under Diego Murillo Bejarano, alias "Don Berna," -- who was extradited to the United States in 2008 -- the Oficina is currently estimated to have around 7,000 members, reported Semana.
InSight Crime Analysis
News that the Oficina de Envigado is seeking to negotiate its demobilization must be approached with skepticism.
For starters, the unconfirmed source of the letter makes it unclear exactly who is proposing negotiations and whether or not they legitimately represent the Oficina de Envigado. For instance, Dario Antonio Úsuga, leader of Colombian criminal organization the Urabeños, recently denied as false media reports he was negotiating with authorities the Urabeños' dismantlement and his surrender.
SEE ALSO: Oficina de Envigado News and Profile
Perhaps more importantly, however, the fractured nature of the Oficina de Envigado raises doubts over their ability to cohesively engage in demobilization negotiations and fully deliver on terms.
The 2008 extradition of Don Berna threw the Oficina into turmoil, leaving behind a scattered assortment of groups, known as "combos," that do not obey a single leader and engage in locally-focused crimes like extortion, microtrafficking, and robbery. According to estimates by Colombia's Attorney General cited by El Colombiano, the Oficina consists of 120 combos and 15 larger structures known as ODIN, or Criminal Organizations Integrated with Drug Trafficking (organización delincuencial integrada al narcotráfico). The letter being signed by the "directorship" would also imply the Oficina is more a confederation, rather than having a single leader.
Moreover, negotiating with the Oficina de Envigado would present a host of legal hurdles for the Colombian government given the group's dedication to criminal (not political or social) ends. Indeed, Luis Fernando Quijano Moreno, director of the Corporation for Peace and Social Development (Corporación para la Paz y el Desarrollo Social - CORPADES) told El Tiempo the letter's proposal, in its current form, is "ambitious and seems dead-on-arrival."