Colombia: paras call for “truth commission”

From Reuters, Nov. 23:

BOGOTA – Colombia’s right-wing militia leaders on Thursday called for the establishment of a truth commission that would allow them to reveal who collaborated in their illegal war against left-wing rebels.

More than 30,000 paramilitary fighters have given up their guns in exchange for benefits including reduced jail terms for crimes such as massacre and drug smuggling.

Their leaders, jailed on a work farm near the city of Medellin, sent an open letter to President Alvaro Uribe, saying “the truth will set us free.”

“We ask that those who were our sponsors, collaborators and direct beneficiaries, business people, politicians, regional and local leaders, members of the state security forces among others, go along with this project without fear or hesitation,” the letter said.

The call coincides with a scandal that threatens Uribe’s congressional coalition as three lawmakers from parties that make up Uribe’s coalition have been arrested for suspected links with the paramilitaries. The scandal could spread as state investigators probe other officials as well.

“With this letter, the paramilitaries are sending the message that they still have a lot of information that can do a lot of damage to politicians and other important people,” said Bogota-based political analyst Mauricio Romero.

“They are applying pressure to ensure they will not be extradited to the United States on drug charges,” he added.

The former head of Colombia’s intelligence agency, Jorge Noguera, is also being investigated for collaborating with the paramilitaries, who are notorious for murdering labor union leaders and others suspected of sympathizing with the rebels.

See our last posts on Colombia and the paramilitary scandal.