Bogota accuses the Gulf Clan of supporting protests by illegal miners who are cutting off drinking water to communities in the northwest.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro has accused the Gulf Clan criminal group of violating a ceasefire by attacking an aqueduct during protests by illegal gold miners in the country’s northwest.
Roadblocks linked to the demonstrations affected up to 300,000 people in 12 municipalities in Colombia’s Antioquia and Cordoba provinces, resulting in shortages of fuel, food and medicine, the government said.
Police lifted most of the roadblocks last week, but a group of miners destroyed an aqueduct, a toll station and an ambulance on Sunday and authorities believe they were following orders from the Gulf Clan.
“Compromising a city’s drinking water endangers the lives of boys and girls, of all people,” Petro said on Twitter on Sunday.
“With its hostility to the populace, the Gulf Clan has broken the ceasefire.”
The group did not immediately respond to Petro’s statement.
The Gulf Clan, also known as the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces, reached a ceasefire with the government late last year as part of Petro’s “total peace” plan to end nearly 60 years of armed conflict, which has seen at least 450,000 people died.
Bogota announced on Jan. 1 that a six-month ceasefire had been reached with a handful of armed groups, including the Gulf Clan and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, the country’s largest remaining rebel organization.
But the ELN quickly denied accepting such an agreement, saying a ceasefire was “just a proposal to be considered” and forced the government to backtrack.
A second round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the ELN concluded in Mexico City last week, with both sides applauding their progress and saying efforts to negotiate a ceasefire would continue in a third round of negotiations to be held in Cuba. take place.
“We have taken the first steps to strengthen a bilateral, national and temporary ceasefire that will create better conditions for the mobilization and participation of Colombians in the peace process,” said ELN’s Pablo Beltran on Friday.
Petro hopes Congress will pass a law authorizing surrender deals for criminal gangs, including benefits such as reduced prison sentences, in exchange for dismantling operations and paying reparations to victims, among other things.
Meanwhile, miners continue to protest in the northwest of the country, with attacks on medical facilities, vandalism and roadblocks encouraged by the Gulf Clan, according to the military, police and government.
Negotiations between the government and the miners have not yet resulted in a deal.
The army has stepped up operations to secure the region. Over the weekend, soldiers blew up four excavators used in illegal gold mining in the Cauca River, bringing the number of machines destroyed in the past two weeks to 13.
The Gulf Clan is made up of former right-wing paramilitaries, broken up in a 2006 peace deal negotiated by former President Alvaro Uribe.
According to official estimates, the group is responsible for between 30 and 60 percent of the drugs exported from Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine.