Colombian paramilitaries pose a grave threat to Colombia’s democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today to Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote in reply to a letter from Uribe expressing concern over Human Rights Watch’s April 24 testimony before the US Congress on the human rights situation in Colombia.

Uribe is currently in the United States seeking congressional support for a Free Trade Agreement and extension of military assistance through Plan Colombia. His administration is embroiled in major scandals concerning the influence of drug-running paramilitaries at some of the highest levels of government.

Human Rights Watch called on Uribe to ensure that communications between imprisoned paramilitary leaders and their mafias were blocked, and to extradite to the United States those commanders who fail to turn over assets and cease their criminal activities.