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Sunday, 8 September, 2002, 19:04 GMT 20:04 UK
Colombia's AUC seeks new image
An AUC gun with the acronym of the group
The AUC was born out of Colombia's drugs war

Colombia's right-wing paramilitaries have re-established their federation, the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a month after it was dissolved due to abuses by members.

But the AUC has also re-invented itself in what is seen as a clumsy attempt to clean up the group's bloody image.


The announcement is seen as a clumsy attempt to gain political recognition

Eighteen paramilitary leaders met at a ranch in the northern region of Uraba, a stronghold of the AUC's founder, right-wing warlord Carlos Castano.

In the month since the AUC was dissolved, the paramilitaries have been hard hit by Marxist guerrillas and, to a lesser extent, the state.

There is international pressure on the new hardline President, Alvaro Uribe, to crack down on the right-wing death squads.

So led by Mr Castano, who has reassured the leadership, the paramilitaries voted to re-establish the AUC and promised to sever links with the drugs trade and respect human rights.

Tall order

Analysts here say the AUC cannot survive without income from drugs.

Indeed, the paramilitaries were born from the drugs trade, as Mr Castano's elder brother Fidel - believed killed in a guerrilla ambush in the early 1990s - was once a member of the Medellin drugs cartel.

As for human rights, the paramilitaries have made the massacre and assassination of suspected guerrilla sympathisers the cornerstone of their war against the rebels and last year were responsible for some 70 % of registered human rights violations.

So the announcement has been greeted with scepticism here and is seen as a clumsy attempt to gain political recognition and deflect the growing international pressure on President Uribe to show results against them.


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05 Sep 02 | Americas
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