Colombia urgently crafting law to allow crime gangs to surrender

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s government is urgently working with Congress on a law that would lay out terms of surrender for crime gangs such as the Gulf Clan, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday, after the gang declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The Gulf Clan, also known as the Usuga Clan and the Autodefensas Gaitanistas, has been accused of operating drug trafficking routes in partnership with Mexican cartels and taking part in illegal gold mining. It announced a ceasefire on Wednesday and has said its members were willing to turn themselves in.

Santos, speaking at a event about the eradication of coca crops in Antioquia province, hailed the ceasefire and said a surrender of the group would be welcome, but added that security forces will not halt actions against the group.

“If this organisation wants to surrender to justice it’s very welcome and we’re working with the justice minister to put together some decrees and there’s a law in Congress to facilitate the collective surrender of the Gulf Clan that we are classing as urgent,” Santos said.

The president has said the government will not negotiate with the group because members are criminals and not politically motivated rebels like the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or National Liberation Army (ELN).

Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, speaking at the same event, said operations against the Clan will continue.

“The fact that they won’t shoot is good news but if they continue to commit crimes they will be targeted,” he said. “We are not going to suspend operations or lower our guard.”

(Reporting by Bogota newsroom; Editing by Bill Trott)

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