northbogota at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 7 19:31:45 MST 2006
Hi: The AP article below is, as far as it goes, a
pretty good summary of the current mess within the
ruling class of Colombia. Waiting in the wings are the
Polo Democratica Alternativo, and the FARC. The Polo
is fractured but struggling to remain united. The FARC
is fighting a cautious military offensive, with a
recent major "success" in knocking out electrical
power to parts of Bogota and all of six provincial
capitals, and several successful attacks on police and
military outposts and units. If anyone is following
the "Simon Trindad" case in the USA, you may have
gotten a whiff of what is happening to the FARC. They
are down, but not out. They have not given any signs
of negotiating with Uribe, apparently calculating that
his government's crisis can only grow worse. A
calculation, judging fromt he article below, that
appears to be correct. Anthony
Colombian pact with militias in shambles
By TOBY MUSE, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 51
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's peace pact with
far-right militias is in shambles after the
paramilitary warlords, incensed at being transferred
to a maximum-security prison, broke off talks.
Critics had long called the deal with drug-trafficking
militia bosses responsible for some of Colombia's
worst massacres a farce, though the three-year-old
pact was credited with helping bring down the
country's sky-high murder rate.
The paramilitaries ended negotiations Wednesday after
the government forcibly moved them from a relatively
comfortable former holiday camp on Dec. 1, claiming it
had information of a possible escape plot. Uribe also
accused the warlords of ordering assassinations from
The crisis comes as Uribe faces a widening scandal
over close ties between some of his top political
allies and the paramilitary groups, which were
originally created by landowners and drug-traffickers
to wrest control of the countryside from leftist
The Supreme Court has been grilling members of
Congress this week on their alleged ties with the
murderous militias. Three members of Congress and a
former congresswoman are already in jail on charges of
creating and bankrolling paramilitary groups.
Following a stormy three-hour meeting on Wednesday in
the maximum-security Itagui prison, 200 kilometers
(125 miles) northwest of Bogota, the 59 imprisoned
paramilitary warlords confronted the government's
chief peace negotiator and a leading bishop known for
his closeness with the illegal militias.
The paramilitary bosses' main complaint was that the
government was not honoring its agreements, the head
of the Organization of American States' mission in
Colombia, who attended the meeting, told The
"We are in the worst crisis, the hardest to resolve,
of all the crises that have occurred in this peace
process," said Caramagna. "At this point, the
consequences of all of this are unknowable."
The paramilitaries were keen to stress that though
talks have ended, the peace process, which has seen
more than 30,000 fighters lay down their weapons,
"There's talk of terrorist plans or unleashing rivers
of blood, but we call on the demobilized fighters to
understand that the breaking off of talks does not
mean the end of the peace pact" said Ernesto Baez, an
incarcerated paramilitary commander who has also acted
as the spokesman for the group.
The government's peace commissioner, Luis Carlos
Restrepo, accepted the end of talks, saying that there
was nothing more to negotiate.
He said the leaders' would now appear before special
tribunals where they will be judged for their actions
in the course of the conflict and, according to terms
of the peace pact, receive no more than eight years in
Under the pact, the paramilitary bosses must confess
to their crimes and pay reparations to the thousands
of victims of their terror. They must also return land
they stole from hundreds of thousands of people they
forced to flee in a decades-long reign of terror.
So far, few have acknowledged such holdings and it
remains unclear how the reparations can proceed
without their cooperation.
The warlords are also demanding the government pass a
law that would outlaw their extradition to the United
States, where eleven are wanted on drug-trafficking
But it is unclear how much leverage the warlords now
wield, given that they are behind bars and that new
paramilitary organizations are springing up across
Colombia, many run by their former lieutenants.
One card they hold is information about who in the
political class, the security forces and the business
community worked closely with them.
"Undoubtedly, the information these leaders have they
are using as an instrument to threaten," said Claudia
Lopez, a newspaper columnist who has researched the
paramilitaries. "But this is kind of like the Cold War
where both sides were assured of mutual destruction
because while they have the information that could
reveal high-level ties, they also fear the
government's power to extradite them."
Lopez said it is in the government's best interest to
appear to be an honest broker in peace talks.
Otherwise, she said, it will lose credibility,
especially as it continues to battle Latin America's
largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
The scandal of links between politicians and the
paramilitaries, which the United States lists as a
"foreign terrorist organization," continues to grow.
Uribe has been repeatedly forced to deny allegations
he worked with the paramilitaries as a congressional
commission begins investigating the accusations.
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