Tuesday December 11 8:13 AM ET
[b]Merry Christmas From Your Death Squad[/b]
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - A unit of Colombia's ultra-right death squads, blamed for some of the worst massacres in a 37-year war, has sent Christmas cards to its fighters wishing them peace and a prosperous New Year.
The e-mail letter, signed by a regional block of the outlawed United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, features a blonde girl donning a white angel costume with wings standing in front of a richly decorated Christmas tree.
``It is the month in which we sow our hopes to achieve a peace that is so craved for by all Colombians. And with Christmas come our new projects and hopes for the next year,'' the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said.
Funded by business leaders and ranchers fed up with attacks and blackmail by left-wing guerrillas, the 8,000-member paramilitaries are blamed for horrific human rights abuses -- such as using chain saws and sledgehammers in the past to torture and kill rebels and suspected rebel sympathizers.
The ``paras,'' as they are known locally, are branded a terrorist organization by Washington.
Colombia is gripped by a war that has killed 40,000 people in the past decade. The three-way conflict pits leftist rebels against the armed forces and paramilitaries.