Colombia: US wants paramilitary to disarm

BOGOTA, June 24 (UPI) -- U.S. officials in Bogota said Friday they hoped that Colombia's right-wing paramilitaries would lay down their arms as part of a new amnesty law.

"I hope that members of the paramilitaries turn themselves in ..." said U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Wood.


Earlier this week Colombia approved a law that provides amnesty on charges of killing and cocaine trafficking for paramilitaries who put down their weapons.

Right-wing paramilitary leaders are shielded from extradition to the United States or punishment at home on drug-related charges, El Tiempo reported Thursday. Some leaders are accused of ordering the deaths of politicians and civilians during their war with left-wing rebel groups.

The law says paramilitaries must confess to their crimes and hand over any assets acquired illegally. Paramilitaries could then still face up to eight years in prison.

The paramilitary United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, is in talks with the government to discuss its disarmament. Many of the leaders have agreed to put down their weapons in exchange for immunity from prosecution, the paper said.

The AUC uses the cocaine trade to fund its war with leftist rebels, who also use drug sales to fund the fighting.


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