(Bogotá) The Colombian government and gangs in the city of Medellin, one of the country’s crime hotspots, will start peace talks next week to disarm the thousands of members of these groups, it said. -we learned Friday from concordant sources.

“Today we want to announce the public commitment that armed structures have taken to take a step towards ‘total peace’,” High Commissioner for Peace Danilo Rueda told reporters while visiting the city. a nearby town of Medellin.

“Since the beginning of President (Gustavo) Petro’s government, we have seen, through various channels, the willingness of certain armed groups in Medellin and its region to be part of ‘total peace’,” Mr. Rueda explained.

“For eight months, we have endeavored to corroborate this will”, he underlined, referring to a “new step towards a phase of dialogue”.

As part of an ambitious “total peace” plan for Colombia, leftist President Gustavo Petro, elected in the summer of 2022, has been trying for several months to negotiate with guerrillas and other armed groups active in the country’s provinces. , often linked to drug trafficking: Guevarist ELN, dissidents of the ex-FARC who reject the peace agreement signed in 2016 with this Marxist guerrilla, paramilitary groups, but also criminal groups such as the Clan del Golfo.

In a letter made public on Friday, and relayed by the Commissioner for Peace, the leaders of criminal groups in Medellin and its region expressed their support for “the objective of the national government […] to build total peace”.

As a sign of peace, they declared “the suspension of all hostilities, confrontations or disputes”, according to this letter signed “Illegal armed structures of Medellin and the Valley of Abura”.

Mr. Rueda on Friday visited a prison in Itagui, near Medellin, where several leaders of these dangerous criminal gangs, most involved in drug trafficking and large-scale extortion, are imprisoned.

These mafias, like the dreaded “Oficina de Envigado”, are the heirs of the famous drug lord Pablo Escobar, killed by the police in 1993 in his stronghold of Medellin.

Mr. Rueda did not specify the exact date of the start of the negotiations or the groups involved. He did not rule out the possibility of talking to gang leaders imprisoned outside Colombia.

If it “is necessary to speak in prisons abroad, it will be done through the appropriate diplomatic procedures and with the countries to which it is appropriate to speak,” he added.

Don Berna, a former enemy of Escobar and founder of the “Oficina de Envigado”, was extradited to the United States in 2008.