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Colombia Makes Progress Toward Greater Security

Colombia Makes Progress Toward Greater Security

Even though Colombia still suffers from too much armed conflict and drug trafficking, analysts agree the country's security situation generally is improving.

Arturo Carrillo, a George Washington University law professor and senior adviser to the U.S. Agency for International Development regarding human rights in Colombia, told USINFO that most people in the Andean nation agree security is better in both cities and rural areas.

Crime is down and the economy is up, said Carrillo, a native of Colombia. He said Colombia's president, Álvaro Uribe, is providing leadership for a country where leadership had been sorely lacking. Uribe is popular with the Colombian people because of the improving security and economic upswing, said Carrillo.

Carrillo said demobilization of many ex-paramilitaries in Colombia has given "some hope for increased peace" in the country. But removing those right-wing military forces, which occupied large swaths of Colombia, has created a vacuum that has been filled by drug traffickers and common criminals. Those groups operate without the "political motives" of the paramilitaries, which are enemies of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other left-wing groups in the country's long-running civil war, said Carrillo.

Another problem, he said, is that extrajudicial killings go "unrecognized."

U.S. and Colombian human rights groups released a report October 18 that said from 2002 to 2007, the number of extrajudicial executions by state security forces reached 955, compared to 577 in the previous five-year period. Extrajudicial executions involve state security forces detaining people who are later found dead.

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Carrillo offered a more nuanced assessment of Colombia than the State Department's R. Nicholas Burns, who said in an October 22 speech that someone who had been out of the country for years "would not recognize the Colombia of today."

Carrillo said Burns' portrayal was "partly right and partly wrong. It's definitely an overstatement" about Colombia's situation, he said. The professor said the hurdles Colombia still must overcome are "complicated and dangerous" and "we can't create any illusions about that."

In his mostly upbeat portrayal, Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, said the "picture of Colombia today is one


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