Colombian rightist leader admits to ordering assassination
From Herald Wire Services
BOGOTA, Colombia -- The leader of Colombia's rightist paramilitary
admitted Tuesday to ordering the recent assassination of a leftist student leader,
but declared his conscience is clear.
In a rare radio interview, fugitive militia chief Carlos Castaño
said he would
maintain his war on suspected leftist supporters until Colombia's guerrilla
movements show they are truly interested in peace.
``You need two to make war, and two for peace,'' Castaño
said in a lengthy phone
call to Radionet radio.
Castaño, whom federal prosecutors have charged in numerous
political assassinations, admitted to ordering the Aug. 7 execution of Gustavo
Marulanda, a student leader in Medellin accused of ties to the rebels.
``I ordered that action, and for that I'll respond before history
and God,'' Castaño
said. ``My conscience is clear.''
The militia chief's comments followed a weekend paramilitary offensive
northeastern Colombia in which at least 29 villagers were shot to death.
Castaño claimed the victims in La Gabarra and Tibu, two
towns in an
oil-producing region near the border with Venezuela, were clandestine guerrilla
members. Regional human rights officials say they were innocent civilians.
Backed by wealthy landowners, some 5,000 paramilitary fighters
an estimated 20,000 leftist rebels -- members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and a splinter faction of
the demobilized People's Liberation Army (EPL).
The paramilitary group accuses the rebels of guarding illegal
crops in the Rio
Catatumbo area about 370 miles northeast of Bogota.
Castaño said that ``wherever there are guerrilla strongholds,
the economy is
drugs, generally coca and opium poppies.''
``The problem of drug trafficking in Colombia is truly serious,
and it is because the
economy is `narcotized' that the guerrillas are `narcotized,' and in some form
drugs have penetrated . . . the entire society,'' he added.
Despite the recent paramilitary strikes, Castaño said he
supports an eventual
cease-fire and wants to be included in negotiations to end the conflict.
``I've been tired of the war since I began,'' said Castaño,
who claims he fights to
avenge the kidnapping and murder of his father by rebels. ``I'd like it to end, but
not at any price.''
``I am personally ready to talk with the members of the FARC,'' he told Radionet.