BOGOTA – A total of 112 members of a paramilitary group created by a drug trafficker who was killed a year ago turned themselves over to army troops in the jungles of western Colombia, authorities said.
The mass surrender occurred in a spot near the Pacific coast, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said during a visit to Tolemaida army base in central Colombia.
The paramilitaries surrendered after coming under pressure from armed forces operations in the area, said Santos, who added that they were taken into custody by units of the army’s 17th Brigade in Niqui, a town in Choco province.
“It’s a very hard blow against that Los Rastrojos criminal band,” said the minister, who added that the gunmen surrendered in three groups, one of 55 fighters, another of 40 and the last of 17.
The first contingent turned themselves in “with 57 rifles, 23,000 rounds (of ammunition), submachineguns and intelligence materiel,” the minister added.
Peace Commissioner Frank Pearl said that the paramilitaries who surrendered will be included in the Justice and Peace Law, which provides benefits to irregular forces, if and when they voluntarily surrender to authorities along with their weapons and who cooperate by providing information that helps to dismantle their organizations.
The Los Rastrojos band was created by Wilber “Jabon” Varela, a drug kingpin who was killed at the beginning of 2008 in neighboring Venezuela.
Varela formed the group to function as the armed wing of his drug trafficking organization, which split off from the Norte del Valle cartel. EFE