Colombian Paramilitary Fighters Turn In Arms
A founder of Colombia’s anti-rebel paramilitary movement laid down his weapon Tuesday, ending nearly three decades of outlawed jungle warfare.
Ramon Isaza was joined by 990 fighters from his Medio Magdalena bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, handing over 754 weapons, 15 vehicles and abundant munitions.
The ceremony in Puerto Triunfo, 90 miles northwest of Bogota, brings to more than 22,000 the number of right-wing fighters to demobilize under a peace deal between the AUC and the government, Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said in a statement.
In exchange for promising to never again take up arms, each rank-and-file fighter will receive a monthly stipend of about $180 and amnesty from prosecution for rebellion and other crimes. AUC leaders such as Isaza will serve a maximum of eight years in jail if found guilty of any heinous crimes, including massacres.
Isaza, 65, founded one of the first right-wing militias in about 1980 to crush a leftist insurgency. By the end of that decade, however, he and much of the paramilitary leadership were allegedly working closely with drug cartels. Today, Isaza is among a number of AUC leaders on a U.S. list of suspected top Colombian drug traffickers.