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Colombian President Denies Money Link to Paramilitaries


Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is denying accusations by a fugitive drug lord that his 2002 election campaign was partially funded by far-right paramilitaries and cocaine traffickers.

Mr. Uribe said Tuesday in the coastal city of Cartegena that his campaign took measures to block contributions from crime figures. Mr. Uribe first won the presidency in 2002 and was re-elected last year.

Drug lord Fabio Ochoa Vasco told the weekly magazine "Semana" that he had contributed $150,000 to a an alleged paramilitary-drug trafficker fund that may have been used for the Uribe campaign.

Ochoa is thought to be hiding in Mexico, and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for his capture.

President Uribe has repeatedly denied allegations that he collaborated with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, in the 1990's.

Colombia's paramilitaries were formed in the 1980's by wealthy ranchers to battle leftist rebels. They evolved into powerful criminal gangs that engaged in drug trafficking, civilian massacres and other atrocities.

About 31,000 fighters have demobilized as part of a peace plan with the government aimed at ending Colombia's 43-year civil war.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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