RealNews

Colombia Plans to Ease Penalties for Right-Wing Death Squads

President Álvaro Uribe, who enjoys strong public support for vowing to bring order to Colombia, is proposing a law that would effectively grant impunity to right-wing death squads that lay down their arms. Many Colombians support Mr. Uribe, whose approval rating is 65 percent, because of his reputation as an uncompromising wartime president determined to win Colombia’s 39-year conflict. But his legislation, backed by the Bush administration, faces objections from even his allies. It is Mr. Uribe’s first serious political challenge since taking office 13 months ago. The proposed law would allow militiamen from the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia to avoid jail for widespread human rights abuses that include the mass killings of thousands of villagers and the assassination of two presidential candidates. The group’s leaders, several already convicted in absentia for murder, would instead be compelled to admit their crimes and make symbolic acts of contrition, compensating victims by providing community services, turning in their land and paying fines. In exchange, the militia — a private, antiguerrilla army financed through cocaine trafficking and donations from wealthy Colombians — would make peace. Full Story

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