Colombia's Capitulation.

Colombia has just passed a law to demobilize paramilitary fighters that the government calls the "Justice and Peace Law." It should be called the "Impunity for Mass Murderers, Terrorists and Major Cocaine Traffickers Law."

Colombia's right-wing paramilitary armies, one party in a 40-year civil war, have massacred thousands of people. They control 40 percent of Colombia's cocaine exports, and many paramilitary leaders are wanted for extradition to the United States. The State Department considers the paramilitaries terrorists.

The new law, which reflects the paramilitaries' considerable political power, will block the extradition of paramilitary leaders wanted for trafficking to the United States and allow them to continue their drug dealing, extortion, land theft and other criminal activities undisturbed. Even those responsible for the most heinous crimes against humanity may go free because of strict time limits for prosecutions. The few who are convicted will likely serve sentences of only 22 months.

Several members of Colombia's Congress proposed a good law that would have given reduced jail time to paramilitaries who confessed in full, paid reparations, turned over their illegal assets and provided authorities with the information necessary to take apart their criminal gangs. The government opposed the bill; it didn't pass.

The current law will bring neither justice nor peace. No confession is required to get the shortened sentences offered by the law. Paramilitary leaders are supposed to disclose their illegal assets and describe their criminal organizations. But there is no credible penalty for lying or hiding their wealth.

The Bush administration could have pushed President Álvaro Uribe to pass a good bill. Instead, Ambassador William Wood enthusiastically backed the new law, giving Washington's endorsement to Colombia's capitulation to a terrorist mafia.

[Source: The New York Times, Editorial, Usa, 04Jul05]

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