A growing number of Colombian politicians convicted for paramilitary ties have been released from jail without paying compensation to their victims, reported El Tiempo Sunday.
The “Victims Law”, which offers payments of up to $11,000 to victims who can prove they were affected by paramilitaries, was passed in June 2011. Politicians sentenced after this date are supposed to contribute to a special fund that would ultimately compensate those who have suffered at the hands of paramilitaries since 1985. To date, no money has been collected for the fund, says the newspaper.
The amount of restitution varies according to the severity of the crime. At the higher end of the scale is former congress president, Javier Caceres who was convicted in April to nine years for collaborating with the now-defunct paramilitary group, the AUC and ordered to pay $3.4 million in compensation. Miguel Pinedo, who also served as the head of Colombia’s congress, owes approximately $3.5 million after it was determined the AUC’s Tayrona Bloc intimidated voters on his behalf.
To date, 44 politicians have been convicted of links to paramilitary groups but only 15 are required to contribute to the compensation fund, since they were sentenced after the bill was signed a little over a year ago. The government estimated that it would cost more than $33.6 million to compensate victims financially. This does not take into account the thousands of acres of land that is meant to be awarded to Colombians who were forcibly displaced by paramilitaries.
President Juan Manuel Santos said in June that up to 115,000 of an estimated 4 million victims could be compensated by the end of the year. He hoped that by 2016, 380,000 people will have received reparations.
This is the latest episode in the “parapolitics” scandal, which has seen hundreds of politicians — the majority of them having served in former President Alvaro Uribe’s administration — become implicated in illegal paramilitary activity.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, more than 11,000 politicians, officials and businessmen are suspected of having made ties with paramilitary groups.