Paramilitary chief in Colombia frees last of captive lawmakers
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- Colombia's top right-wing paramilitary leader
freed the last of a group of seven lawmakers he kidnapped last month to protest
peace talks between the government and leftist guerrillas.
Legislators Zulema Jattin, Antonio Guerra and Luis Felipe Villega were
late Tuesday -- ending a three-week hostage ordeal that fueled new controversy
about negotiations to end the South American country' 36-year war.
Paramilitary chief Carlos Castano freed two other lawmakers earlier Tuesday.
had released two on Monday to an official delegation including Colombia's
It was the first known meeting between a member of President Andres
Pastrana's government and Castano. However, officials insist it was for
humanitarian purposes only -- not the prelude to a political dialogue with the
Castano, commander of the rightist United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
AUC, has been highly critical of Pastrana's peace initiatives with the leftist
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Castano claims Pastrana has been too soft on the powerful guerrilla group
demands a seat at the peace table for his landowner-backed paramilitary forces.
Pastrana has refused to open negotiations with the AUC or grant them formal
political status as he has done for the rebels. The FARC vehemently opposes
including Castano in the peace talks.
A dlrs 1.3 billion U.S. anti-drug aid package for Colombia is conditioned
government progress in dismantling Castano's organization and severing AUC
ties to the Colombian military. The AUC has been accused of committing
widespread human rights abuses such as the massacres of suspected rebel
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.