Agreement between Government & Paramilitary Calls for the Church's Presence

Demobilization of Some 10,000 Men Gets Underway

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BOGOTA, JULY 27, 2003 (ZENIT.org).- The July 15 agreement between the Colombian government and the paramilitary forces of the “Self-Defense Units of Colombia” (AUC), calls for the Church’s “constant presence in this process as a guarantee of peace.”

The agreement calls for an end to hostilities, complete disarmament of some 10,000 men of the AUC by 2005, and full support of the process of democratization of the country, thanks to the re-establishment of State monopoly of the forces of public security.

The AUC will begin to demobilize at the end of this year. For its part, the executive will facilitate the reinsertion in the social fabric of former extreme right combatants.

The paramilitary squadrons are illegal armed organizations funded by businessmen, ranchers, and landowners persecuted by the guerrilla, which they combat and have expelled from several areas of the country.

They have been accused of having the support of some sectors of the Armed Forces and of committing violations of human rights in the armed conflict which, for almost four decades, has oppressed this country of more than 40 million inhabitants.

Seven months of conversations between the government and AUC representatives were necessary to achieve this agreement, which also states that the “paras” troops must meet in previously agreed areas.

“The concentration of its members will include all the ranks of command, enjoying the guarantees to this end agreed by the parties,” states the document endorsed by “paras” chiefs Carlos Castano, Salvatore Mancuso, Adolfo Paz, Vicente Castano, “Hernan Hernandez,” Luis Cifuentes, Ramiro Vanoy, Francisco Tabares, and “Jorge Pirata,” who say they represent close to 90% of the self-defense groups operating in Colombia.

The agreement also points out that the AUC confirm their commitment to respect the end to hostilities that they “decreed” in December of 2002, when they began their rapprochement with the government, the Colombian newspaper “El Tiempo” reported.

The AUC said that the mechanisms will be improved so that the end of hostilities will be complied with, as the “para” truce was interrupted on several occasions, risking the rapprochement with the government.

The document also mentions the commitment of the commanders of the irregular group — some of them candidates for extradition to the United States, accused of having links with drug trafficking –, to back State policy against the sale of drugs.

Not only does the agreement request that the Catholic Church continue to support the process but it also appeals to the international community to do likewise.

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ZENIT Staff

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