Gustavo Petro
Colombia Protests In Photos: Violence And Unrest Photo by: AFP/Daniel Munoz

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro requested the suspension of arrest orders against some of the country’s crime lords. The arrests, which were part of an ambitious plan to get armed groups that dominate the countryside to lay down their arms, included one suspect wanted by the U.S. government on narcotics charges. Petro’s request was made by the president’s peace commissioner in a letter on Jan 11 to Colombia’s chief prosecutor. It would suspend the arrest order of eight members of the infamous Gulf Clan, which included Jobanis Villadiego and Dairo Antonio Úsuga.

Sources from the Associated Press, which received a copy of the letter from someone close to U.S. law enforcement, provided the copy on condition of anonymity. The letter appears to revolve around the core matters deeply seated in two decades of anti-narcotics operations between the U.S. and Colombia. On Friday, Colombia’s chief prosecutor’s office, which is the top law enforcement authority in the country said in a seven-page-long rebuttal that Petro’s request had no legal basis.

Such a request could only be granted to politically motivated armed groups. Though the Gulf Clan emerged from a Colombian right-wing paramilitary group, it later deviated from its ideals and evolved into a criminal enterprise. The Clan is accused of being the country’s drug trafficking cartel and is responsible for smuggling nearly 20 metric tons of cocaine into the U.S. and many countries throughout Europe.

Colombia’s former conservative President Iván Duque extradited Úsuga, the former leader of the armed group, to the U.S. last year. Usuga was labeled the “most dangerous drug trafficker in the world” and was even likened to Pablo Escobar who terrorized Colombia as well during his hay days. Upon Úsuga’s arrival to the U.S., he pleaded not guilty and currently awaits trial.

Petro, a former leftist guerilla, made history by winning Colombia’s election last year and has since deviated from the methods of his predecessor. His grand plan for his term was total peace by negotiating with not only the National Liberation Army but with armed gangs like the Gulf Clan, which continued to impend the development of Colombia’s countryside with its iron grip of the regions. The National Liberation Army is the country’s last remaining rebel faction,

Colombia's government and ELN delegation hold peace talks
Colombia's government and a delegation for the National Liberation Army (ELN) hold talks in Caracas. Photo by: Reuters/Leonardo Fernandez Viloria

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