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Colombia war data 'unbelievable'

By Jeremy McDermott
BBC News, Colombia

Colombian soldier
The army's success has boosted the president's popularity

Colombian government figures on the number of guerrillas killed, captured or surrendered are vastly exaggerated, a human rights group says.

Codhes, a respected Colombian NGO, analysed the statistics of recent successes claimed by the armed forces in the 44-year civil conflict.

About 114,000 members of the warring factions were said to have been dealt with by the army in the last six years.

However, other estimates say there are only 30,000 in the warring factions.

Even allowing for recruiting to replenish depleted ranks, the government figures suggest that eight members of the warring factions are killed every single day in Colombia, something not substantiated by any other sources.

Popular president

President Alvaro Uribe owes his phenomenal popularity to his tough "democratic security" policy, but Codhes suggests that while there have been great advances, government claims are vastly exaggerated.

Mr Uribe after six years in power still has 70% approval ratings, and this is due to his success in pushing back the warring factions from the cities where most Colombians live and dealing a series of crushing blows to the Marxist rebels.

But the Codhes study, entitled "The numbers do not add up", attacks the very foundation of the Uribe administration, suggesting the government statistics are simply unbelievable.

Mr Uribe is finding himself and his security policy under assault on many fronts.

Many Colombians now believe the time has come to talk peace, something the hard-line president whose father was murdered by Marxist guerrillas, has refused to seriously consider.

Also there is mounting evidence that members of the security forces have killed hundreds of unarmed civilians and presented them as members of the illegal armies shot in combat.

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