Washington, D.C., July 1, 2005 - During a live appearance on the Voice of America (VOA) today, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe defended Colombia's new "peace and justice law," despite criticism from activists and international groups that it is too lenient.
The Colombian Congress passed the controversial bill on Wednesday. It provides for reducing punishments while disarming paramilitary fighters. Under the new law, paramilitary members convicted of atrocities would serve only five to eight years in prison, in exchange for confessions of crimes, compensation of victims, and the return of stolen goods.
Appearing live via satellite from the Presidential Palace in Bogotá, President Uribe said, "For the sake of peace, the law cannot lead to impunity, but for the sake of justice, it cannot be a law of submission." Uribe also said that through the new law, the first of its kind in Colombia, he expects demobilization of paramilitary forces in the coming weeks.
The Colombian president has been trying to bring peace to his country by engaging in talks with leaders of the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces (AUC), and expressed confidence in the process. "I have made a great commitment in exercising my authority," Mr. Uribe said. "However, when it is time to engage in peace talks, I have found that if the parties engage in such talks in good faith, peace efforts must be facilitated."
Uribe appeared on Foro Interamericano (Inter-American Forum), VOA's live Spanish-language weekly television public affairs program. The broadcast was aired live throughout Colombia on VOA affiliate stations, the country's state TV and radio, and many other stations. The interview was also excerpted on VOA's weekday Spanish television news program Desde Washington (From Washington).
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in Spanish and 43 other languages, including English.
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