OAS Bolsters Colombian Disarmament

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Colombian government's efforts to disarm paramilitary groups got a legitimacy boost last week, when the Organization of American States (OAS) said it would monitor the process. The move by the OAS introduces a new dynamic and momentum to an initiative that has been criticized by both human-rights groups and right-wing Colombian legislators. OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria took a personal risk by agreeing to have the OAS monitor the process, since he agreed to do so without consulting the 35 OAS member states. Mr. Gaviria should be commended for making himself, rather than the OAS, the lightning rod for controversy.

Demobilization initiatives are a valid strategy for ending bloody conflict, but invariably entail some kind of forbearance for individuals who have committed horrible acts. In Colombia, these acts have been atrocious, including the torture and massacre of villagers who allegedly sympathized (yes, sympathized) with the wrong side. The paramilitary group formally involved in the disarmament effort - United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, otherwise known as AUC - has been identified by the United States as a terrorist group, and its leaders are wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges. U.S. officials have said that they won't be dropping their claims on these individuals, regardless of developments in Colombia. …