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Colombia fears rebel army killing deserters, undermining government efforts

Colombia’s main rebel army may be killing deserters, threatening a major government effort to entice guerrillas to lay down their arms and rejoin society. On Sunday, rebel deserter Jenny Rocio Mendivelso was shot dead by another deserter of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as she sat in a coffee shop in southern Bogota. Jose Contreras, a commander of the Department of Administrative Security – Colombia’s secret police – told journalists the rebel army has apparently dispatched hit teams to kill its deserters. The killers pose as fellow deserters to track down their former comrades-in-arms, the respected Bogota newspaper El Tiempo reported Thursday. President Alvaro Uribe’s government has airdropped leaflets and broadcast TV ads encouraging rebels to leave the guerrilla forces, and promising them fair treatment. Almost 700 rebels have deserted so far this year in exchange for clothing, food, health care and access to education and work training, the government says. That’s upward of 40 percent higher than the same period last year. Some stay at safe houses in the capital and elsewhere. But after Sunday’s killing, Colombian Defense Minister Martha Lucia Ramirez is concerned that the FARC, as the rebel army is known by its Spanish acronym, is infiltrating the government “reinsertion program” with active-duty members. Full Story

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