( Reuter )- Colombia will pay a reward to a FARC guerrilla who shot dead his commander and cut off the man's hand to prove his identity in a case that sparked debate over a program to compensate informants, authorities said on Friday.
Pablo Montoya, alias Rojas, killed Ivan Rios, one of the FARC's top seven secretariat commanders, and turned himself in to soldiers in what the government described as a serious blow to Latin America's oldest rebel insurgency.
Handing out rewards to informants has helped Colombia's government fight the FARC but the decision to pay off a confessed killer fueled criticism from foes of President Alvaro Uribe who said his government was promoting homicide.
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the government would pay up to $2.5 million in bounty to Montoya and three others because of information they provided and because he also handed over Rios's computer data containing more intelligence.
"We decided to recognize the payment of the reward for the three principal sources and also alias Rojas for the information they handed over," Santos told reporters.
Montoya, who was a bodyguard for Rios, is still under investigation by the attorney general's office for the killing. He shot Rios in the head, stole his passport and hacked off his hand before fleeing the rebel camp. He said he had feared Rios would kill him.
Rios was the second member of the leadership of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish initials FARC, killed in a week as the rebel force comes under mounting pressure from Uribe's U.S.-backed security campaign.
Days earlier, Colombian police and troops killed FARC commander Raul Reyes across the border in Ecuador in a raid that sparked a diplomatic crisis in the Andes region. Venezuela and Ecuador cut off diplomatic ties with Bogota and sent troops to reinforce their borders with Colombia.
The dispute was defused at a Santo Domingo summit with handshakes among the presidents.
Violence from Colombia's four-decade conflict has ebbed under Uribe as troops retake areas of the country once under control of armed groups. But the FARC are still potent in remote rural areas where state presence remains weak.