The Colombian government has picked up on the Bush administration’s rhetoric of terrorism as it declares a war zone in a large part of southern Colombia and expands military special powers. President Andres Pastrana warned citizens to expect more “terrorist” attacks from the rebels yesterday, in his first televised address to the nation since breaking off peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Force of Colombia last week.
Yesterday Pastrana rejected a one-year deadline to swap guerrillas in state jails for hostages held by FARC, including several members of Congress. The FARC hostages include Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate with the small Oxygen Green party, who was taken on Saturday as she tried to enter the former rebel safe haven, a Switzerland-sized chunk of territory in the south, which Pastrana ceded to the FARC as a peace gesture four years ago. But after the FARC hijacked a civilian airliner and kidnapped a high-level senator, Pastrana reclaimed the zone and called off peace talks on Colombia’s 38-year civil war.
Backed by an air force bombing campaign, the Colombian army has moved in on the former enclave to reassert control. The FARC has emerged out of the jungle to step up attacks on power lines, knocking out power to more than 50 towns, mainly in southern Colombia.
Today, activists in Bogota are will hold a demonstration to call for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the FARC, and for the safe return of the hostages. We are joined by one of the organizers, the husband of Ingrid Betancourt, Juan Lecompte.
- Juan Lecompte, husband of Senator and Oxygen Green Party presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, kidnapped by the FARC on Saturday.