Created: 9/2/1998

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Analytic Perspective

recent months. Colombia's paramilitarycivilians paid to protect the interests of wealthy sponsors, including business owners, cattle ranchers, anrl evencries of high-profile operational and political activities, establishing themselvesorce to he reckoned with in any effort to bring peace to the country. The paramilitaries in Mayaring attack on the river port of Barrancabermeja. leaving dozens dead or wounded.

guerrilla supporters

Also inaramilitaries entered the village of Puerto Alvira and executed more thanillagers they accused of being

he paramilitaries are seeking lo ensure they guerrillas in the event of peace negotiations

As part of an apparent two-tiered strategy to raise their profile, the parainiliiaries are moving on the political front. In late July, the groupsidely publicized agreement with civilbusiness and churchwhich they pledged to support President Pastrana's peace efforts and to adopt rules of military engagement in line with international humanitarian !aw|

with the new administration. Irjcal press reports suggest some paramilitary leaders view their recent military strikesignal to the public (hat they are independentmore effectivemilitary, which hascries of defeats lo the guerrillas in recent years. b

The growing public perception that the military is losing the war with the guerrillas and the recent wave of guerrilla violence are likely to enhance support for the paramilitaries, particularly among Colombians victimized by local insurgent groups. The growth of the paramilitaries and the possibility of increasingly violent clashes with ihc guerrillas risk undercutting the twin US goals of improving Colombia's human rightsamong the worst in theadvancing the peace process. One of the main insurgent groups recentlyeeting with civic leaders to discuss the peace process because of concern that the paramilitaries would be afforded equal status.M

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