Colombian paramilitary unit gives up arms
A right-wing paramilitary unit surrendered its weapons in northeast Colombia on Sunday, the latest demobilization ahead of an international conference on the much-criticized peace process.
A 126-member unit of the United Self-Defense Forces, or AUC, disbanded in Ciudad Bolivar, 155 miles northeast of Bogota, bringing to at least 4,700 the number of fighters who have demobilized in the past two years.
"We have moved forward, but a lot still needs to be done. This year will be decisive ... there is a total and authentic will to make peace," government Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said.
President Alvaro Uribe has been pursuing peace talks for more than two years with the paramilitaries, who emerged in the 1980s to combat Marxist rebels but wound up waging their own war of killings and massacres. The AUC, labeled a terrorist organization by the United States, funds itself mainly through cocaine trafficking.
Uribe is looking to win international support for the the peace process at a donors meeting Thursday and Friday in the coastal city of Cartagena. The meeting will bring together U.S., European, Latin American and Japanese officials along with representatives of international organizations. The money pledged would fund social programs for paramilitaries who disarm.
The international community has refused to participate in peace talks between the government and paramilitaries amid concern that warlords accused of atrocities and drug smuggling could be let off the hook.