Right-wing chief emerges in Colombia
BOGOTA, Colombia -- (AP) -- A hard-liner from northern Colombia's
cattle country is emerging as the likely new leader of the
country's brutal right-wing paramilitary forces.
Although he has not yet accepted the position, Salvatore Mancuso
is already considered the new boss of the United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia, or AUC. That word came from former AUC commander Carlos Castaño, in an editorial posted Thursday on the
group's Internet site.
``We in the AUC are already addressing him as Commander General,''
wrote Castaño, the group's longtime leader who stepped
down in May to manage its political affairs.
The change could herald an even more combative posture by the
AUC -- a group that has committed hundreds of massacres and
was recently mentioned for the first time on a U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations.
Castaño is a former army scout whose father was kidnapped
and killed by guerrillas. His resignation was seen as a move to
distance himself from some of group's atrocities and as a concession to harder-line sectors inside the AUC represented by
At the time, some skeptics speculated that Castaño would
remain in control of the organization even though he was stepping out
of the limelight. The group's secretive nature makes it difficult to know how much power he still wields.
The 8,000-strong nationwide militia has generally not turned its guns on government forces.
But following a recent government raid on his wife's residence
and those of dozens of suspected AUC financiers, Mancuso was
reportedly urging retaliation.