BOGOTA, COLOMBIA, JULY 27 -- Members of the Medellin drug cartel today announced the indefinite suspension of their nationwide campaign of terror, including the assassinations of police officers in Medellin, as a goodwill gesture toward President-elect Cesar Gaviria, who takes office Aug. 7.
In a communique read to local media and signed "The Extraditables," the drug traffickers also demanded the removal of Col. Oscar Pelaez, who is director of the Judicial Police and a key figure in the anti-drug war.
"Everyone wants peace, including the Extraditables," the communique said, but it did not make any concrete offers for a dialogue with the government, as a similiar communique last January did. In that communique, the traffickers offered to surrender and to initiate dialogue with the government.
Today's surprise announcement came one day after the government announced it was returning Medellin and the nearby towns of Envigado and Estrella, strongholds of the Medellin cartel, to civilian rule. The cities had been put under military control on April 10 in response to the sharp rise in violence and in an attempt to capture Pablo Escobar, the cartel's leader. No official explanation was given for the action, but a senior government official said the move was to "create a better climate" for Gaviria's inauguration.
The drug lords, who call themselves the Extraditables because they are wanted for drug trafficking in the United States, have been waging a campaign of violence against the government of President Virgilio Barco for the past year. One of their main tactics is attacking the National Police.
Since February, Escobar reportedly has been offering $2,500 for every police officer killed, and since then more than 200 have been killed in and around Medellin, the nation's second-largest city.
"The Extraditables have declared a halt to their violent actions being carried out across the country, especially in Medellin," RCN radio said. "They specifically state they will suspend the war they have declared against the National Police while the new government of Cesar Gaviria takes office."
Gaviria, whose life has been threatened by Escobar and the Extraditables, has vowed to continue extraditing suspected drug traffickers wanted in the United States and to continue battling drug traffickers.