Colombian Militia Ties Not Severed

KDean75206 at KDean75206 at
Thu Nov 4 18:30:24 MST 1999

Colombian Militia Ties Not Severed
.c The Associated Press


BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Colombian President Andres Pastrana has failed to
sever the army's ties to right-wing militias who have massacred thousands of
civilians, Amnesty International said Thursday.

The president's ``expressed will to combat paramilitary groups is not
functioning and is not being respected at the local level,'' Amnesty's chief
Latin America representative, Javier Zuniga, told a news conference.

Zuniga, who was ending a three-week fact-finding visit, said local military
commanders were defying orders to rein in rightist militias, who have said
their victims were not civilians but guerrilla collaborators. Zuniga did not
name the officers, but said Amnesty would issue a report later.

The delegation visited the northeastern state of Norte de Santander, where a
rash of paramilitary killings in August prompted Pastrana to fire the
regional military commander, Gen. Alberto Silva.

Since taking office in August 1998, Pastrana has sacked three generals for
allegedly having paramilitary ties.

Zuniga called the firings a ``good, first step.''

But the army's tolerance for militias has continued, Amnesty official Susan
Lee said. In one town in Norte de Santander, the paramilitary had set up a
roadblock just ``100 meters away from an army roadblock,'' she said.

In another region, Lee said, militia groups, police and soldiers were holding
friendly soccer matches against one another.

Efforts to reach Colombia's defense ministry for comment Thursday were

Separately, Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based organization, accused Colombia's
government this week of failing to enforce the arrest warrants against two
army officers currently on trial for the 1994 assassination of a leftist

In a letter sent to Pastrana on Wednesday, the group said Sgt. Hernando
Medina and Sgt. Justo Gil ``remain on active duty and move freely about
Colombia'' - flaunting the orders confining them to a military base.
Prosecutors have charged that the two arranged the killing of communist Sen. M
anuel Cepeda in cooperation with the country's top paramilitary boss, Carlos

Meanwhile, the Clinton Administration and the U.S. Congress have considered
substantially increasing military aid to Colombia. This year nearly $300
million in aid went largely to the country's anti-narcotics police.

AP-NY-11-04-99 2028EST

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