The New York Times
July 13, 2004

Colombia Purges Over 500 Troops


BOGOTÁ, Colombia, July 12 - More than 500 Colombian soldiers have been discharged so far this year for poor performance, corruption or human rights abuses in the biggest purge of military ranks since 2000, the army said Monday.

President Álvaro Uribe is pressing the military to crush Marxist rebels who are fighting a four-decade-old war that leaves thousands of people dead each year.

Some of the discharged soldiers, who include 67 officers, were ousted for having links with the rebels or far-right paramilitary outlaws, an army spokesman said.

Both the rebels and the paramilitary groups draw funds from the cocaine industry, the authorities say.

Human-rights groups accuse the government of not doing enough to break links between parts of the armed forces and the paramilitary groups, which have been fighting the Marxist rebels. The government is now negotiating for the demobilization of the paramilitary forces.

The government says that the armed forces' performance has improved since Mr. Uribe took power two years ago, that the rebels have been pushed back and that civilian deaths have been reduced.