Leer en Español
AN EMOTIONAL Álvaro Uribe, the former Colombian President, asked those gathered to love and support Colombia’s police officers. Colombian Senator Paola Holguín was also present. There were more than 200 people gathered in La Alpujarra square — the seat of the Medellin Mayor’s Office (Colombia’s second city). Most of them were dressed in white, in support of the police. In the center of the square, there were photographs of all the policemen killed this year. Dozens of white candles illuminated their faces.
Since the beginning of 2022, 62 policemen (32 on duty) have been killed in different regions of Colombia. The perpetrator of most of the murders is the drug cartel Clan del Golfo, the largest in Colombia, and one of the most dangerous in the world. The Clan is carrying out one of the bloodiest and cruelest crusade in Colombian history: the so-called “Pistol Plan”.
The latest officer to be killed was Leidy Sanchez, 25, who had only been a patrolwoman for 52 days. The criminal group shot at the vehicle in which she was traveling on July 27, 2022.
Colombian Police Director Jorge Luis Vargas told local media that the Clan del Golfo drug cartel “is subcontracting hitmen to attack police officers”.
According to the police director, the Clan del Golfo‘s campaign is largely motivated by revenge. Almost a year ago (October 2021), Dairo Usuga, a.k.a. “Otoniel,” the Clan’s leader and Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, was captured by police in an extraordinary operation. Then, in May of this year, Otoniel was extradited to the United States. Both the capture and the extradition provoked angry reactions from the drug trafficking group. However, there is another reason why the clan is carrying out the massacre of the police.
Colombian newspaper El Tiempo revealed that the Clan del Golfo is executing a plan to subdue the government of far-left President-elect Gustavo Petro, which will be sworn in on Sunday, August 7.
According to the newspaper, the criminal group plans to impose an “express subjugation” under the bloody “Pistol Plan”, to make Petro begin his government by negotiating with the cartel. The criminals seek to “stop extraditions” and receive “political status”.
To execute their plan, the cartel is hiring hitmen across the country. For each policeman killed, it is offering 2.5 million Colombian pesos (about $600) and free cocaine shipments. Criminal groups across the country, including the far-left guerrilla group FARC, have joined the hunt for police because of this offer.
Colombian police sources also confirmed to El American that, although the Clan is motivated by revenge for the capture of its leader, its main purpose is to conclude a negotiation with Gustavo Petro’s government, similar to the one with the FARC under the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the one the president-elect is proposing with the ELN terrorist group.
On July 21, the Clan del Golfo published an open letter to the President-elect. In it, the group proposes “to coordinate a ceasefire against the institutions as of August 7”. According to the cartel, Petro’s victory gives them a great opportunity, a “historic moment,” since “for the first time a leftist president will come to lead the country.
In the letter, the criminal group puts itself at the disposal of President-elect Gustavo Petro, assuring that it hopes “to be an active part of this project to achieve the long-awaited peace with social justice”.
The Clan also states that, in order to stop the massacre in Colombia, arrests and extraditions must be suspended.
It is noteworthy that the group says that Petro’s triumph and his presidency gives it an opportunity. This assertion reinforces concerns that the President-elect was allegedly supported by the Clan del Golfo during the campaign: there were allegations that the drug trafficking group’s leaders demanded for residents of some Colombian areas vote for Petro.
The President-elect has been criticized for his handling of the police massacre. His silence for several months, while uniformed officers were being murdered every week in Colombia, earned him strong complaints.
“They murdered patrolwoman Luisa Fernanda Zuleta. The cowards had shot her in the back. I have lost count of the number of policemen killed this year. The citizenry anesthetized and Petro and his team in absolute silence,” politician and former vice minister Rafael Nieto wrote in a Spanish-language tweet on July 25.
“No one has told Petro that they vilely murdered two policemen, heroes of the homeland, in the last hours. For Petro the welfare of the policemen is landscape,” said renowned economist Alberto Bernal.
Finally, on July 29, the President-elect broke the silence. “I hope it ends now. That is not the way,” he said from an event in Santa Marta, nearly 600 miles north of Bogotá, the capital.
His weak words do not allay concerns about his docility to the Clan del Golfo. Many critics argue that the drug trafficking group is preparing the ground to legitimize itself on the basis of the “social pardon” that Gustavo Petro’s team released when he was campaigning and visited a prison in Bogota to ask for support from criminals in exchange for handouts.
“The Clan del Golfo is negotiating with the blood of our policemen because of the promise of social pardon that Petro offered,” politician Enrique Gomez said on Twitter.
“The Clan del Golfo is not only using the lives of our policemen as a bargaining chip. It is calling for an armed strike because it knows that it has to arrive in anger to collect the social pardon that Petro offered them in La Picota,” added Gómez.
Rally in support of the Colombian police in Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city (El American)
The massacre of dozens of police officers has moved Colombians. Social networks are flooded with messages of support for the public force. At the event in Medellin, organized by numerous civilians, Colombians carried white balloons. The director of Fenalco (the most important business association in Medellín) María José Bernal, visibly moved and tearful, read a letter to the policemen present.
“You are heroes. You inspire us and give us confidence. Thanks to you, all of us who are here can safely get up to work to move this country forward,” Bernal told them.
“It is an honor to be a police officer. And it is an honor to count on you. You are not alone,” she stressed.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.