COLOMBIAN PARAMILITARY LEADER DISARMS
By DARCY CROWE, Associated Press Writer August 15, 2006
BOGOTA, Colombia - The last major paramilitary leader to enter into a peace
deal with the government handed in his weapon Tuesday, even as the future of that fragile accord was called into doubt by
other ex-milita leaders.
Freddy Rendon Herrera and
745 fighters from the Elmer Cardenas bloc handed in 447 rifles in a disarmament ceremony in Unguia, a village 370 miles northwest
The government said Herrera
was the last paramilitary leader to disarm under a 2003 peace deal that promised fighters reduced sentences and protection
from extradition to the United States
in exchange for their pledge to renounce violence.
Herrera's group controlled
an area of river-laced jungle near the Panama
border known as a major corridor for drug and arms traffickers. Before the arrival of the far-right militia, the area was
dominated by leftist rebels.
Even as Herrera renounced
violence on Tuesday, another former paramilitary commander criticized the government for not honoring its commitments.
Ernesto Baez, a leader of
the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, told The Associated Press the peace deal was "submerged in a profound
crisis" because of a May constitutional court ruling overturning key components of the law that has led to the demobilization
of more than 30,000 fighters.
President Alvaro Uribe on
Monday ordered AUC commanders to report immediately to detention centers to face questioning by investigators for their role
in some of the worst atrocities in the South American nation's four-decade-old civil war.
He said that if they did
not comply, they faced losing benefits, such as the suspension of extradition orders to the United States.
Colombia's paramilitary groups were created in the 1980s in response to marauding leftist rebels in the countryside.
But over time they became heavily involved in drug trafficking, for which several AUC leaders are wanted in the United States.