A day after traffickers killed two employees of a crusading anti-drug newspaper, Colombia's cocaine "godfather" reportedly sought a truce in the country's 2-month-old drug war and asked the press to mediate.
Pablo Escobar, the reputed head of the Medellin cartel, was quoted as saying in a letter Wednesday that "Colombian peace is more important than the considerations and conceptions of the other governments of the world."Also Wednesday, the government announced the arrest of two Colombians wanted on U.S. drug charges and said they face extradition.
The letter asked the director of La Prensa, a Bogota daily, to intercede with the government on the cartel's behalf to end its all-out war on drug gangs, who have responded with a terror campaign of bombings and murders. The text of the letter was read by the Caracol radio network.
The letter, reportedly signed by Escobar, said La Prensa and other papers should act "for the sake of peace" as go-betweens in negotiations between traffickers and the government of President Virgilio Barco.
It said Escobar also wants leaders from the Roman Catholic Church, the country's judiciary and its political realm to help begin the dialogue.
Barco has said repeatedly that he will never negotiate with the traffickers responsible for killing scores of the country's judges, journalists, political leaders and security forces.
Escobar, whose nickname is "The Godfather," heads the list of 12 Colombian drug suspects wanted for extradition to the United States, none of whom have been apprehended. Escobar has been listed by Forbes magazine as one of the world's 20 richest people with a fortune exceeding $2 billion.
The letter indicated that the country could achieve peace only if the Barco administration abandons its harsh crackdown.
Security forces have seized Escobar's sprawling ranch outside Medellin and offerwed a $250,000 reward for information leading to his capture. Millions of dollars in property allegedly belonging to him and other traffickers has been confiscated.
The main weapon in the government crackdown has been a promise to extradite those wanted on drug charges in the United States. Traffickers have said they would prefer to die in Colombia than face U.S. courts.