Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting away with murder

The big news out of Colombia is the havoc caused by some of the heaviest rainfall in decades (and to a lesser extent reports that the FARC rebels will free five hostages). This post, however, will focus on a miscarriage of justice that occurred last week.

Jorge Ivan Laverde, a former paramilitary commander, had his sentenced reduced significantly after authorities deemed that he cooperated in a demobilization program. Laverde confessed to ordering the murders of over 4000 people and having their bodies incinerated in an oven. Furthermore he claimed to have personally executed 98 people during his time as the head of one of the blocs of the right-wing United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC, in Spanish). Yet under he statutes of the 2005 Peace and Justice Law, Laverde’s original punishment of forty years in prison was sliced to a scant eight years.

The Laverde case is symbolic of the problems behind the paramilitary amnesty program championed by the government. Last June two paramilitary leaders were sentenced to eight years in jail after confessing to participating in a number of massacres. Additionally, as was written in a Latin American Herald Tribune article:
The AUC’s more than 31,000 fighters demobilized between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of a peace process with then-President Alvaro Uribe, although successor groups have since emerged that comprise between 4,000 and 10,000 members, depending on the source.
The Laverde incident wasn’t the only recent injustice regarding the paramilitaries; last month, an Israeli mercenary accused of training AUC troops was allowed to leave a Russian prison and return home free.

In the meantime, current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said that he would continue the demobilizing program though a recent Constitutional Court ruling knocked out a key component of the Peace and Justice Law.

Image- Radio Santa Fe (Carlos CastaƱo was the founder and head of the AUC until 2004 when he was murdered under mysterious circumstances).
Online Sources- Herald Sun, Reuters, Xinhua, BBC News, LAHT, AP, Colombia Reports

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