September 5, 2017 / 6:48 PM / 6 months ago

Colombia's Golfo crime gang willing to surrender, president says

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s notorious Golfo Clan crime gang, one of the country’s most violent, has told the government it is willing to surrender, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Tuesday.

The group, also known the Usuga Clan, is accused of operating profitable drug trafficking routes in partnership with Mexican cartels and taking part in illegal gold mining.

“We received an expression of willingness by the head of the Golfo Clan to turn themselves in, to submit to justice,” President Juan Manuel Santos said at an event in Bogota. “I have asked the justice minister and the attorney general to evaluate it.”

The government is not going to negotiate with the gang, Santos said, because members are criminals, and not politically motivated rebels like the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups.

The group formerly known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who have kept their FARC acronym for their new political party, signed a peace deal with the government last year, while the National Liberation Army (ELN) is in peace talks.

“If they surrender to justice, the law could give them some benefits, depending on the surrender conditions,” Santos said. “What are they handing over, what is its value to society, for Colombians.”

In a video shown on local media, a Golfo member confirmed the offer of surrender.

“We respect the peace processes that have been agreed or are in progress with Juan Manuel Santos’ government,” the representative said. “We want to be part of the end of the conflict and have a complete disarming of all armed groups in the country.”

The United States has offered a reward of up to $5 million (£3.83 million) for information leading to the capture of Golfo gang leader Dario Antonio Usuga, known by his alias Otoniel.

Second-in-command Roberto Vargas, alias Gavilan, was killed by the army in a shootout last week.

The group is infamous for a series of police officer assassinations in the Andean country.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Richard Chang

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