Skip to comments.Far-Right Militia Starts Complaints Line
Posted on 05/05/2002 6:45:47 AM PDT by Pern
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Colombia's far-right paramilitaries, seeking to clean up their bloody image to be accepted as a legitimate political movement, have launched an Internet complaints hotline.
The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, an outlawed militia known by the Spanish initials "AUC," said on Thursday that members of the public who suffer "excesses" at the hands of its fighters can write in to a new e-mail address.
The group, which claims more than 10,000 members and targets leftist rebels fighting a 38-year-old war, killed about 1,000 civilians in 2001 alone, according to the government.
In one case, AUC members killed 27 peasants with sledgehammers and stones in the village of Chengue, accusing them of collaborating with Marxist guerrillas.
But senior AUC leader Carlos Castano, who admits to having killed many times, wants right-wing militiamen to commit fewer massacres and cut back links with drug traffickers. He aims to win the AUC -- which human rights groups say has continued to kill just as many people as ever -- a seat at any negotiating table to end Colombia's bloody conflict.
"Any accusations or complaints should be directed to Commander Adolfo Paz at the electronic address auc-inspeccion+hotmail.com," said the announcement on the AUC Web site (http://www.colombialibre.org).
The announcement, signed by the AUC's "General Staff," said it was "conscious of the difficulties and possible excesses committed by all armed groups, including our own, whose cause is just."
The paramilitary leadership has said recently it was particularly worried by extortion and robbery by some AUC groups in northern Colombia.
PARAMILITARY BOSS OFFERS HELP WITH DRUG LORDS
The AUC -- a confederation of smaller paramilitary groups -- has origins in vigilante forces set up by cattle ranchers to defend themselves against the rebels. Some paramilitaries were allied to drug traffickers, and Castano concedes that the AUC draws considerable income from "taxing" cocaine.
Castano has offered to help negotiate the surrender of top drug traffickers to U.S. authorities. But the United States will not deal with the AUC, which it brands "terrorist."
The Colombian government earlier this year broke off unsuccessful peace talks with the country's largest Marxist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and is trying to start negotiations with the smaller National Liberation Army -- known as ELN.
So far, the government has refused to deal with the AUC, although senior members of the armed forces have been investigated for cooperating with the right-wing militias. A Navy admiral is being probed for failing to prevent the Chengue massacre, and human rights groups say the government should act much more firmly against military-paramilitary links.
Increasingly, Colombian and U.S. officials say the paramilitaries' strength means they will probably have to be involved in any eventual peace settlement.
Despite a reputation for brutality, the AUC has grown faster than Colombia's still more numerous rebel groups in recent years. About 8 percent of Colombians say they sympathize with paramilitaries, compared to 1 percent for the FARC.
Public attitudes against the guerrillas -- who finance themselves not only with cocaine but also by kidnapping -- have hardened here. Hard-line anti-rebel independent Alvaro Uribe is heading to win May 26's presidential election, polls show.
I wonder if these villagers had access to the internet to file their complaint?
I am outraged at the fact that his group, which has not launched ANY attacks on American citizens or interests, has been placed on the same list of bad guys occupied by Al-Qaida, FARC, and Hezbollah.
If those morons at the State Departent had any amount of common sense, they'd be helping this guy out, and bacing Uribe if he can win this election.