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Germany

Chancellor Merkel Promises Help With Colombia Crimes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, May 17, pledged to support Colombia in its attempt to prosecute and come to terms with its history of right-wing paramilitary death squadrons.

Angela Merkel with Alvaro Uribe

Chancellor Merkel with Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe

In the first visit ever by a German head of state to the violence-plagued country, Merkel supported Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in his efforts to buttress the authority of the state over the broiling conflicts that have put many sections of the country in a state of civil war.

After meeting with Uribe, Merkel said that consequential pursuit of the crimes of the past by the paramilitary troops was essential to re-establishing the trust of the people in the state.

Uribe defended his policies against charges that he has not prosecuted the right-wing paramilitary leaders harshly enough.

Earlier this week, Colombia extradited 14 top right wing paramilitary leaders and drug dealers to the United States, where they are wanted on drug charges.

Under Uribe's amnesty process, rank and file troops were allowed to turn in their guns and return to civilian life while leaders were kept in jail.

Parliamentarians come under scrutiny

Meanwhile, the left wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) holds sway over large parts of the country, where they are holding hostages -- some of them for more than seven years, and many of them top elected officials and security officers.

Merkel greeted the massive investigation of 60 legislators -- more than half of the Colombian Parliament -- suspected of being closely tied to the right wing paramilitary forces. Merkel said the probe showed that the justice system was working.

The German chancellor indicated that she would like to meet with the State's Attorney for a briefing about the investigations.

Merkel's stop in Colombia followed the EU-Latin America-Caribbean summit in Lima, which concluded Saturday.

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