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Colombian Paramilitaries Plead Guilty to US Drug Charges


Two Colombian paramilitary members have pled guilty in a U.S. court to drug trafficking charges, after being extradited from Colombia. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report from Miami.

The two right-wing paramilitaries entered guilty pleas in a Miami courtroom to helping to smuggle tons of cocaine from Colombia into the United States in the late 1990s. Ramiro Vanoy Murillo and Javier Lindo face maximum prison terms of 17 years in the case.

The two were among a group of 14 leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, who were extradited from Colombia in May. The 12 others, including former leader Salvatore Mancuso, are facing similar charges in other U.S. courts.

Colombia decided to extradite the men after accusing them of failing to fulfill the terms of a government-backed peace agreement and of continuing to commit crimes while in prison.

The government of President Alvaro Uribe says the peace plan has demobilized tens of thousands of paramilitary fighters and sharply reduced violence in the nation.

University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley says scores of paramilitary members continue to operate across Colombia. "Many of them have not demobilized, others are re-forming. They continue to operate in drug trafficking. The fact that he [Uribe] extradited these top capos is an indication of just how concerned the Colombian government is," he said.

Paramilitary leaders had opposed extradition to the United States where they face added charges and tougher prison terms than in Colombia. Bagley says the extradition shows the Uribe government is continuing to pressure the paramilitary groups in an effort to further advance peace efforts.

Mr. Uribe is expected to rely on his tough stance on the paramilitaries and other security issues as his supporters prepare to seek a constitutional amendment allowing him to run for a third term in office.


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