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Reuters, "Paramilitaries 'Disarm' In Colombia"

"Paramilitaries 'Disarm' In Colombia"


BOGOTA, Colombia — More than 2,600
far-right Colombian paramilitaries have turned in
their guns, the biggest one-day demobilization since
the illegal groups started peace talks with the
government in 2003.

The disbanding of the Miners Block, a paramilitary
group in the northern province of Antioquia named
after nearby gold mines, brought to 16,500 the number
of militiamen who had turned in their arms so far,
government officials said Friday.

That left fewer than 4,000 in operation, according to
government figures.

The disbanding of the paramilitary groups, which were
formed in the 1980s by drug smugglers and cattle
ranchers trying to protect their property from Marxist
rebels, is key to President Alvaro Uribe's plan for
retaking Colombia from the control of various illegal
armed groups tied to the cocaine trade.Human rights groups say the paramilitaries, who are
responsible for some of the worst atrocities of
Colombia's 41-year-old guerrilla war, are being given
soft legal treatment in exchange for turning in their
guns while doing little to dismantle their criminal

Under the peace deal, paramilitary fighters guilty of
crimes such as massacre, kidnapping and drug smuggling
face reduced sentences of up to eight years in
exchange for demobilizing.

The government is in preliminary peace talks with the
country's second-biggest leftist guerrilla group, the
National Liberation Army, but the larger and stronger
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia says it cannot
deal with right-winger Uribe.