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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 November 2006, 13:37 GMT
Colombia press outrage at paramilitary links
Member of United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC)
The paramilitaries were created to combat left-wing rebels

Leading newspapers in Colombia have expressed their shock and outrage at allegations that national and local politicians have been in the pay of right-wing paramilitaries and organised criminal gangs.

Commentators are angry, believing that links between politicians and criminals, including major drugs traffickers, which were exposed in the 1980s and 90s, appear to be worse than ever.

Some have classified the latest case in which the Supreme Court first ordered the arrest of three congressmen, then widened the inquiry to five of their political associates, as "the tip of the iceberg".

El Espectador speaks of "this carousel of death and corruption which has taken hold in many parts of the country".

The worst evils which eat away at our nation's democracy
El Espectador

It says the "revelations of such unholy alliances between the political class and the paramilitaries are ever more surprising".

The El Espectador editorial says one of the accused has been charged with "crimes as grave as deciding on a massacre and killing an electoral witness".

It welcomes "the valiant decision of the Supreme Court", describing it as "a breath of fresh air for a country which usually lets sleeping dogs lie".

"These unprecedented allegations could well prove to be just the tip of the iceberg... they are among the worst evils which eat away at our nation's democracy."

El Nuevo Siglo concurs: "The detention order for the three congressmen is just the tip of the iceberg which could well set off a domino effect among the political class in many regions."

The paper says paramilitary leaders admit they have been responsible for the election of 35% of congress members "and there's been no repercussions".

The macabre wedding between paramilitaries, politicians and landowners in many regions
El Tiempo

"These political-paramilitary networks include functionaries at all levels who don't only wield political, social and institutional control but bleed the public dry of millions."

El Nuevo Siglo is encouraged that some MPs are being investigated "for their participation, directly or indirectly, in massacres and selective killings", believing it could eventually herald the end of "para-politics".

'Stinking stew'

El Tiempo publishes an investigative report revealing how its journalists visited the department of Sucre and discovered a murky world of political and paramilitary links in which murder was widespread.

People were told who to vote for and threatened with death if they rebelled. The report names a number of people who were killed for refusing to accept local abuses.

An El Tiempo editorial describes the Supreme Court case as one of "unprecedented gravity".

"The stinking stew which has been uncovered in Sucre - just the tip of the iceberg of the macabre wedding between paramilitaries, politicians and landowners in many regions - at least shows that justice is being done, however late."

The laxity in judging and rejecting the ties between politics and crime is part of this country's sad history
El Pais

El Tiempo calls on the government to ensure the return of land and property stolen from tens of thousands of Colombians by the iniquitous links between politics and crime.

"The government must make this an issue of the highest priority."

An editorial in El Pais - headlined Politics and Ethics - says that hundreds of thousands have been affected by politicians and criminals in cahoots.

"And it has all been justified by the argument about the need to help the state in its fight against the guerrilla movements."

"The laxity in judging and rejecting the ties between politics and crime is part of this country's sad history."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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