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Colombia senator accused of paramilitary links

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Reports: Caceres allegedly involved with paramilitary chief "Juancho Dique"
  • Caceres denies any meetings with paramilitaries were for purposes of wrongdoing
  • Other Congress members, officials appear before court to face similar charges
  • Colombia started program to disband paramilitary groups in 2003

(CNN) -- Colombian Sen. Javier Caceres, a former president of Congress, was arrested Tuesday for alleged links to right-wing paramilitary groups.

The country's Supreme Court of Justice issued the arrest warrant.

According to local reports, Caceres was allegedly involved with the paramilitary chief Uber Banquez, known as "Juancho Dique."

Banquez claims that Caceres asked him for money to finance his campaign.

In an interview with Caracol Radio after his arrest, Caceres denied that any meetings with paramilitaries were for the purposes of wrongdoing.

He did admit that in 2000 he met with Carlos Castano, then-head of the now demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary organization, but did not divulge any details about it.

"I have never met with any illegal group, in any part of the country, to do wrongdoing," he told the radio station.

I have never met with any illegal group, in any part of the country, to do wrongdoing
--Colombian Sen. Javier Caceres to Caracol Radio
  • Colombia
  • Colombian Politics
  • FARC

Caceres is the latest politician to be investigated for what is known in Colombia as "parapolitics."

Other members of Congress and officials have also appeared before the court to face charges of links to the paramilitary groups.

Right-wing paramilitary organizations were formed in reaction to a longstanding insurgency against the government by the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, and the National Liberation Army, commonly called ELN. Each paramilitary group fought to protect local areas against the guerrillas. The AUC came into being in 1997 as the paramilitary groups' national umbrella organization.

Colombia's National Police said the AUC was responsible for more than 1,000 assassinations and hundreds of kidnappings and incidences of torture. The AUC said most of the victims were guerrillas or their supporters.

The United States classified the paramilitary group as a foreign terrorist organization in 2001.

Colombia started a program to disband the paramilitary groups in 2003, offering legal and financial concessions to members who quit.