Skip to comments.Right-wing Fighters lay down arms - Marxist Rebels (FARC) kill long time hostage
Posted on 11/26/2003 1:38:03 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
MEDELLIN, Colombia -- Hundreds of right-wing militia fighters surrendered their guns Tuesday in a ceremony heralded by the government as a step toward peace but denounced by critics as a show that lets killers, kidnappers and drug peddlers off the hook.
Gathered inside Medellin's convention center, the 855 members of the Cacique Nutibara bloc sang the national anthem, then laid their rifles, ammunition belts and camouflage shirts in piles on the floor.
Government peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo called the disarmament a significant move toward finally ending Colombia's four-decade war.
But Wende Gozan of Amnesty International in New York said President Alvaro Uribe was fast-tracking a paramilitary demobilization at the expense of justice.
"With this televised choreography, he is demonstrating that he is willing to trade justice for pomp, circumstance and what are perhaps illusions of achievement," she said in a telephone interview.
The Cacique Nutibara bloc operated in and around Medellin -- Colombia's second-largest city -- and is accused of murder and kidnapping.
In a speech during the nationally televised ceremony, Cacique Nutibara Commander Giovanni Marin apologized for abuses committed by the paramilitary fighters, who have been battling leftist rebels and have massacred peasants accused of helping the insurgents.
Commanders of the paramilitary umbrella group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, also expressed remorse in videotaped appearances on a large-screen TV. The AUC is blamed for some of the worst atrocities in Colombia's conflict.
But AUC Chief Carols Castano and other AUC leaders have insisted that unless provisions are made for them to avoid lengthy prison sentences, the peace process that envisions total demobilization of the 12,000-strong paramilitary forces by 2006 risks being derailed. Tuesday's ceremony was the first step in that process.
Castano is wanted by the United States on charges of drug trafficking and convicted in Colombia for several murders.
Uribe has been pursuing a twin strategy of unleashing war on the two leftist rebel groups while negotiating the demobilization of the paramilitary groups, which emerged in the 1980s to combat leftist rebels and wound up waging their own dirty war, self-financed through drug trafficking.
Several of those who handed in weapons Tuesday before dignitaries and journalists acknowledged that their neatly pressed camouflage garb was given to them for the ceremony, and that they normally dressed in civilian clothes.
After the ceremony, authorities took the disarmed fighters to a social club equipped with a swimming pool and a soccer pitch in La Ceja, outside Medellin. The fighters are to spend the next three weeks there healing their scars and learning new jobs.
But an editorial in Medellin's main daily, El Colombiano, said three weeks was not enough time to ensure the fighters have fully renounced violence.
"It is not prudent to sing victory already," the editorial said.
Muramatsu, vice president of the Colombian subsidiary of Japanese industrial group Yazaki Corporation, was kidnapped by rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
They demanded 27 million dollars for his release.
Armed Forces Commander General Carlos Alberto Ospina said late Monday that the body was found in a mountainous area near the town of San Juan de Rioseco, 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Bogota.
The body was positively identified on Tuesday, when investigators that traveled to San Juan cross checked the remains with Muramatsu's fingerprints and dental records.
Muramatsu's body was taken late Tuesday to Bogota's National Institute of Legal Medicine for an autopsy.
The deceased was dressed in an army camouflage uniform and had been shot with a rifle several times, Ospina said, adding that the guerrillas apparently murdered him when troops in the area came close to them.
Military officials blame a top FARC official, Jorge Briceno -- also known as "Mono Jojoy" -- for Muramatsu's abduction.
In Japan, a spokesman for Yazaki said Monday was Muramatsu's 55th birthday.
The Yazaki subsidiary withdrew the only other Japanese executive in Colombia, the president, after Muramatsu's kidnapping and the 1,100 workforce is now entirely composed of local staff.
On average some 3,000 people a year are kidnapped in Colombia, most of them by leftist rebels with the FARC or a smaller guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).
More than 200,000 people have been killed in Colombia's four decade-long civil war.
Some 22 foreigners have been kidnapped this year.
ELN rebels on Monday released unharmed two tourists -- a German and a Spaniard -- kidnapped 10 weeks ago along with five others, who remain in captivity. [end]
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