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A leading destination for games and one of the largest game communities on the Internet, Yahoo! Games offers more than 50 free, Java-based games to a worldwide audience of players. Games offers single-player and multi-player games and downloadable games and demos. This state of internal commotion was subsequently extended for three further day periods and was only lifted in late July During the first 9 months ofcredible sources have alleged that members of paramilitary groups committed 69 percent of all politically motivated extrajudicial killings.

Allegations of links between the military and paramilitary groups continued. Land reform is seen to be central to Colombia's problems, with left and right factions battling for control of farmland and roads to market. Many peasants are suspected of association with the opposing side and fall victim to 'tit-for-tat' attacks.

Guerrillas began to form 'Bolivarian militias' in order to establish roots in the urban slum districts. The military made little progress in countering guerrilla activity, partly because of its lack of manpower, resources and tactical errors.

The offensive also affected Meta, Guaviare and Caqueta departments. More than troops were supported by air force aircraft and helicopter gunships. The wide-scale operations caused serious casualties to guerrillas and affected the indigenous population of Llanos. Samper announced that representatives from both of these groups would be invited to attend peace talks [13a]. In December Samper announced new measures to counter paramilitary activities and outlined plans to fight all armed groups.

In February it was reported that a right-wing death squad had killed at least 48 people in Puerto Assis in Putumayo province. The victims were alleged guerrilla sympathisers.

President Samper issued a communique on 10 March in which he announced the victory of democracy over violence. The communique stated that absenteeism had dropped considerably compared with the parliamentary elections of and that incidents disrupting public order only adversely affected 0. The new Senate comprised of 51 Liberals, 15 official Conservatives, 7 from new Conservative groups and 28 from independent movements.

The preliminary peace agreement was later suspended by the ELN. Samper expressed hope that FARC Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would join the process and abandon its links with drug trafficking and its practice of kidnapping. Introduction vii Peace Talks 3.

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On 26 April the campaign offices of the Liberal Party presidential candidate, Horacio Serpa were bombed, killing one person. Guerrilla rebels were suspected of being behind what was thought to be the start of a wave of pre-electoral violence. Andres Pastrana, standing as an independent, though previously a Conservative still backed by the main opposition Conservative Party; Horacio Serpa Uribe, a member of the then ruling Liberal Party and Samper's chosen successor; Noemi Sanin Posada, a former foreign minister who presented an independent alternative to Colombia's traditional two-party system dominated by the Conservative and Liberal parties; Harold Bedoya Pizarro, former head of the armed forces.

On the election day there were reports of rebels burning ballot papers, downing power lines and blocking votes in a handful of rural townships. A guerrilla bomb in the northeast oil-refining town of Barrancabermeja exploded just before the polls opened, killing three civilians and wounding two soldiers. In another incident, a wounded soldier was shot dead in an ambulance at a rural guerrilla roadblock.

Despite this the Interior Minister, Alfonso Lopez declared the day a total success. Pastrana won the election with Pastrana promised both before and after the election to make the implementation of a peace policy his first responsibility [14aa,14ab] The election day was once again marred by violence. The coalition, which ended 12 years of control by the Liberal Party, was formed by Conservatives, dissident and pro-government Liberals and independents.

A group of Liberals who continued to be loyal to Horacio Serpa Uribe, the former presidential candidate and leader of the Liberal Party, were left as the opposition minority. The new Congress was elected for a four-year term. However, he insisted that he knew nothing about it at the time. The admission came during his speech to inaugurate a new Congress. All the killings allegedly took place before he took office in In his inaugural speech Pastrana pledged to make his administration "the cleanest of all Colombian governments" and affirmed that peace was his most urgent task in the country's agenda.

The talks were apparently set up by the Red Cross and were said to have taken place at an undisclosed location in eastern Meta province. During the meeting Pastrana was said to have agreed to a demilitarisation of five municipalities in the south — one of the guerrillas' conditions for participation in a peace process.

The senior leader of the paramilitaries, Carlos Castano, publicly stated that he was prepared to engage in talks with the new administration but warned that the demobilisation of his men could take place only when the guerrillas laid down their weapons.

It was reported that a seven-point agreement was signed, endorsed by the national government. The paramilitaries promised peace talks at the same time as the guerrillas and not to involve civilians in their clashes with the guerrillas. FARC leaders remained adamant that they would not engage in negotiations until the government ordered the final soldiers out of the demoralised zone. In the opinion of FARC, the president's reasons for maintaining the unarmed recruits in the region were not acceptable because, as president-elect, he had agreed to a total withdrawal from the towns of Uribe, Vistahermosa, Macarena, Mesetas and San Vicente de Caguan.

At least people accused of being left-wing sympathisers were reported to have been murdered by hooded vigilantes calling themselves the Self-Defence Force of Colombia. The group blamed the violence as its response to being "left out" of the peace negotiations under way between FARC and the Government.

The attacks began on 7 January, the day the left-wing rebels initiated peace talks with the government to end the country's year civil war. Nevertheless, a preliminary meeting was held on 7 Januaryfollowed by a second meeting on 14 January. A 10 point policy of peace for change was proposed by the government to the guerrillas.

There was a further meeting on 26 January. It pledged to undertake the necessary actions to promote the recommendations emanating from Commissionwhich held a meeting on 8 Januaryso that the various government institutions will establish concrete plans for the defence and protection of international humanitarian law.

The government ordered the creation of a technical committee for intelligence planning which will aim to compile information that will ultimately lead to the capture of the principal members and the disintegration of the self-defence groups.

The security forces were reported to have been ordered to redouble its actions against the groups. After the earthquake the region experienced looting and the security forces had some difficulty in re-establishing order.

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Four human rights workers were abducted in Medellin and two others were killed. The start of official peace talks were postponed indefinitely in July after negotiators failed to agree on the creation of a team of international observers.

October 24 was finally agreed upon. Notably, the talks were the first with a defined agenda and without international mediation. FARC expressed concern about rebel participants' safety. The government proposed a 30 day Christmas truce, starting on the 15 December. It was a further stage in an on-going effort to persuade guerrillas to desert, with the promise of lenient jail sentences or complete pardons and cash payments for decommissioning of arms.

In Sweden, both sides agreed that peace was their common goal.


In many cases, the presence of a group is not known until they commit an atrocity. This aspect opened up in June the question of whether regional dialogues might again be permitted by the government — whereby regional governors talk to regional fronts of guerrillas — after the governors of Cundinamarca and Valle del Cauca Departments talked with "Alfonso Cano" of the FARC Bolivarian Party.

After the public and international attention on the "necklace bomb" incident of 15 MayFARC was indignant that it was held to be responsible, and the major international 29 May talks looked as though they would not proceed, dropped by the government responding to the public outcry. The peace talks were back on track by the 23 May. The cease-fire had been a prime topic of discussion since 3 July.

FARC threatened to "burn alive" any populace of Putumayo who flees the Department, and on several occasions shot at refugees. Refugees talk of FARC coertion to join "the cause". FARC have established a total blockade around Putumayo. The Venezuelan authorities blamed tension over Plan Colombia. The government was insistent that it "would not beg" FARC back to the negotiating table, [18o] saying FARC must show "signs of peace" and unfreeze the talks.

On the 27 January, "thousands" of Colombians demonstrated in events organised by Paz Colombia in Bogota, Medellin, Bucaramanga, and Pasto for the continuation of peace talks with the guerrillas. Current Political Situation 3. The presidency has been rocked by the announcement by FARC of its "peace tax" and the resultant slide of the economy, and Pastrana's calling for a referendum to dismiss Congress.

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The opposition Liberal Party, the dominant party in the legislature, has said it would sponsor a referendum in which Pastrana's own mandate is put to a popular vote. The situation was diffused by a power-sharing accord reached in May Two men were arrested on 24 Septemberand identified as having links with the AUC. The calls came after a particularly violent car-bomb attack in Medellin.

New powers included the military's right to perform autopsies and other forms of forensic investigations; and to be able to take control of civilian functions in times of war. Clauses on "preventative arrests" were however dropped from the bill. Outside Congress, workers in the health and education sectors had protested vigorously against the finance bill, as they felt that their sectors were going to suffer from the new arrangements. The Conservative Party returned only 21 of its members to the member House of Representatives and secured just 13 seats in the 99 member Senate.

In the House of Representative it lost 31 seats. Overall in the new Congress, the Liberal Party is represented by only 53 members as opposed to the 84 members it had before this election. The FARC and the rightwing paramilitaries are reported to have sought to influence the vote in key areas by allowing only loyal supporters to cast vote.

In addition three congressional candidates have been killed during the campaign and five incumbents ran despite being held captive by the FARC. According to one Colombian newspaper, his candidacy totally changed the political map.

During a press conference, Mr Restrepo said that his running for president "is not accompanied nor supported by all of the party. The Colombian people certainly did not support Restrepo's candidacy.

The main beneficiary of the rise to prominence of the independents has been Alvaro Uribe Velez, a dissident from the Liberal Party. His popularity has soared since President Pastrana called off the peace process and recaptured the DMZ on 20 February In response to such criticisms, Uribe has dropped the idea of arming one million civilians and has picked the influential defender of human rights Francisco Santos as his running mate.

He also proposes to hike import tariffs to protect Colombian farmers and to subsidize utilities for the poor majority of his country.

Press Release

Fighting corruption and spurring the economy would raise enough cash to hire teachers and construction workers. On 23 Februarythree days after the end of the peace talks, the presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped as she travelled by land to San Vicente del Caguan in the heart of the DMZ. According to the FARC, Betancourt was an addition to the group of kidnapped politicians to be exchanged for the release of jailed rebels.

Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Congress, consisting of the Senate members elected for four years and the House of Representatives members elected for four years. The country is divided into 32 departments and one Capital District. It is the only Colombian security agency which is directly responsible to the civilian authorities and is therefore independent from the armed forces.

The army is organised in eighteen brigade-level units, and works closely with the National Police, using intelligence gathered by both DAS and its own intelligence units. Since Septemberthey have regained areas of control.

There has been pressure and promises from the United States to improve the Army in its actions against drugs growers and traffickers. The monies are to assist anti-drug programmes, but such a move has been criticised by NGOs as being partial to the military, and thus by implication the paramilitaries.

Such an implication is prohibited by the operation of the Leahy law within the agreement, a legal aspect that expressly insists that all groups receiving US military assistance be vetted for human rights abuses.

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However, the US now views the police as needing further assistance in tackling the drugs trade, and will now be concentrating aid in Army based projects for increased strategic effectiveness. The US government has noted an improvement in human rights awareness over the years and Two new anti-narcotics battalions are being created with US aid, equipped with 30 Blackhawk and 33 Huey helicopters. A major reform of July was to drop the conscription of minors.

Prior to July4, minors were conscripted into the army at any given time. He resigned his post in the Pastrana government in May in protest at the institution of the FARC demilitarised zone. Casualties of 91 soldiers killed, off-duty and unarmed, "over the past few months" were quoted.

Likewise, 55 soldiers were kidnapped while on vacation. The departments in which uniformed officers run the greatest risk were given as Antioquia, Santander, Arauca, and Huila. The army says it has implemented the Ottawa Treaty, and since last year has not used anti-personnel mines. Inover people were killed by land mines, 55 of who were soldiers.

Military service is compulsory for males between the ages of If a male Colombian citizen is the "only child" of his parents i. Forcible discharge retiro forzoso occurs as the result of disciplinary proceedings. The discretionary power of the President occurs when the head of state decides that an officer must retire from service. It does not constitute a punishment, and is normally exercised due to operational requirements. It can only be effected on officers of over 15 years' service. An officer at any point of his or her military career can request a voluntary discharge.

For up to the rank of colonel, the request is reviewed by an advisory board junta asesora whose decision in turn is approved by the Minister of Defence. For higher ranks, discharge is dependent upon a request directly to the President. The deputy defence minister, Bernardo Ortiz Bravo, stated that the extra troops were needed for the strengthening and modernising of the armed forces.