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Re-demobilized Colombian paramilitaries to sign Free Trade Agreement with U.S.

(Photo: EFRAIN PATINO/AFP/Getty Images)

Two years ago, my friend Amelia and I hitchhiked from Ecuador through Colombia to Venezuela and back over a period of four months. The Colombian portions of the excursion acquainted us with various complaints regarding the behavior of the country’s paramilitary formations, which had allegedly demobilized in accordance with then-President Álvaro Uribe’s Justice and Peace Law of 2005 but had in fact simply been reincarnated under different labels. The Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, AUC)—formerly the dominant paramilitary umbrella group—has, for example, been justly and peacefully superseded by organizations like the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles), which perform similar functions with an enhanced focus on controlling the drug trade. Human Rights Watch notes in its 2008 report on Colombia:

While more than 30,000 [paramilitaries] supposedly demobilized, Colombian prosecutors have turned up evidence that many of them were not paramilitaries at all, but rather, civilians recruited to pose as paramilitaries. Law enforcement authorities never investigated most of them.”

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