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Ambassador wanted for alleged paramilitary ties

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) – Colombia’s ambassador to Peru resigned Wednesday after prosecutors ordered his arrest for alleged criminal association with far-right militias.

Jorge Visbal is wanted for criminal conspiracy for activities from 1998-2004, when he was president of Colombia’s National Ranchers Federation, the chief prosecutor’s office said in a communique.

Visbal, 59, assumed the ambassadorship in February 2011, named by President Juan Manuel Santos, who did not immediately comment.

Visbal’s lawyer, Abelardo de la Espriella, said his client would return to Bogota on Friday to face the charges.

A demobilized former far-right militiaman testified two years ago that Visbal met with paramilitary warlord Rodrigo Tovar years earlier to solicit support of the illegal groups for the 2006 re-election of then-President Alvaro Uribe, prosecutors say.

Colombia’s so-called paramilitaries were created in the 1980s by drug traffickers and wealthy ranchers to counter leftist rebel kidnapping and extortion but evolved into drug-trafficking criminal gangs that killed suspected rebel sympathizers and stole land.

De la Espriella said Visbal doesn’t deny having contact with paramilitary leaders but says none of the meetings were “illegal or clandestine” but rather authorized by the Uribe’s conservative government as it entered into a peace pact with the armed groups.

Since 2006, more than 60 congressmen have been imprisoned for entering into alliances with paramilitaries.

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