A neighbor of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was killed by a gang that included demobilized paramilitary fighters, officials said Monday, raising fears that more of these former fighters are returning to crime.
The body of Hernando Cadavid, who owned a flower farm next to Uribe's ranch home in Rionegro, 215 kilometers (130 miles) northwest of Bogota, was found by police Saturday, said a statement from Uribe's office.
The kidnappers grabbed Cadavid Oct. 13 and may have killed him believing that authorities were closing in on their hideout, said Lt. Gov. Jorge Mejia of Antioquia state. The body had major cuts to the head and neck, apparently from a machete, he said.
Five of the seven people arrested in the killing are demobilized paramilitary fighters, police said.
Uribe, who knew Cadavid personally, visited the scene late Sunday after returning from a trip to Ecuador.
"What is so troublesome is that recently demobilized fighters were part of this gang," Uribe said. The extent of Uribe's relationship with Cadavid was not known.
Uribe announced monetary rewards for any former fighters who provide information about other demobilized fighters involved in crime.
About 11,000 fighters with the paramilitary umbrella group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, have disarmed in the past two years, and their numbers have threatened to overwhelm the government's capacity to return them to a normal life.
Paramilitary groups were created two decades ago as an irregular army to attack leftist rebels who have been fighting the government since the 1960s. The AUC decided to seek a peace deal two years ago to exit the war and leave the government to fight the rebels on its own.
Through a signed peace accord, nearly all of the demobilized fighters were granted a full pardon. International rights groups contend the deal has no safety nets to prevent ex-fighters from regrouping under a different name and continuing to commit crimes, AP reported. V.A.