Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has declared a limited state of emergency and decreed a new tax to raise close to $800 million for new military spending.
The declaration follows a wave of violence that has left 115 people dead since his inauguration five days ago.
During Uribe’s inauguration, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia launched an unprecedented urban attack. They used remote-controlled mortars, and hit the nearby presidential palace. One mortar misfired into a slum and killed 20 people.
Critics charge Uribe has links to paramilitary groups.
Uribe also plans to create a million-strong civilian force of "supporters" to help inform police and the army of rebel and paramilitary activity.
This, as the Bush administration has authorized Colombia to use nearly $1.7 billion in US military aid directly against the rebels. This is a major intensification of US intervention in Colombia. It was slipped into the anti-terrorism legislation Bush signed last week.
- Steven Dudley, freelance journalist in Bogota. He wrote a piece in the Nation magazine this week, "War in Colombia’s Oilfields." He is currently finishing a book on Colombia to be published by Routledge.