The Miami Herald
May 23, 1998

Paramilitaries beef up

             Agence France-Presse

             BOGOTA -- Colombia's paramilitary umbrella group has expanded to include
             operations in three new areas of the country to step up its fight against leftist
             rebels, the daily El Tiempo reported Friday.

             At a secret weekend meeting of the United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia
             (AUC), as the paramilitaries call themselves, leaders welcomed to their ranks
             groups from northeastern Santander department, and Casanare and Cundinamarca
             departments in central Colombia, according to minutes of the meeting obtained by
             the newspaper.

             It was apparently the Santander group that staged a raid in Barrancabermeja last
             weekend that left 11 dead, the newspaper said. As many as 40 people from that
             port city's poor neighborhoods are believed to be held hostage by the right-wing

             Meanwhile, new efforts were under way to begin peace talks between leftist rebels
             and the government.