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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of proposals for demobilisation of paramilitaries and guerrillas in Colombia. (75044)

The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions of October 2005 made it clear that we and other EU member states consider that the effective and transparent implementation of the Law on Justice and Peace will have a positive impact on peace-building in Colombia.

On 18 April, the Government announced the completion under this law of the formal process of paramilitary demobilisation which saw over 30,000 paramilitaries demobilise. The challenge now for the Government of Colombia is to reintegrate the ex-combatants successfully into society, while addressing the rights of the victims of the internal armed conflict to truth, justice and reparation.

The Colombian Government is also actively involved in talks with the National Liberation Army, a left-wing guerrilla group. The latest round of talks took place in Cuba in April. The Colombian Government’s recent efforts to begin preliminary talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s biggest illegal guerrilla group, have been consistently rejected by the guerrillas. We continue to monitor the situation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations she has made to the Government of Colombia on the impact on political stability of reductions in the international drugs trade. (75045)

We have regular discussions with the Colombian Government at official level over our counter-narcotics co-operation. This co-operation is ongoing and is part of our commitment, together with international partners, to help the Government of Colombia tackle the scourge of drug production and drug trafficking which have such a devastating impact on many thousands of innocent Colombians. Clearly, we also have a strong interest in helping Colombia fight the illegal drugs trade, not least because an estimated 80 per cent. of the cocaine coming into Britain originates from Colombia. All the three major illegal armed groups in Colombia have been proven to be actively involved in the illegal drugs trade which fuels the internal armed conflict in the country, undermines political stability and contributes to human rights abuses. Furthermore, the vast international income from cocaine leads to extensive money laundering. Corruption and intimidation backed up by violence is rife in Colombia.

With international assistance, Colombia is taking great steps towards tackling the international trade in drugs and other associated crimes. The counter-narcotics strategy adopted by the current Government seeks to reinforce existing judicial measures to hit drug traffickers and confiscate assets, and tackles the interconnected problems of violence, social and economic inequality, and abuse of human rights.