Forwarded from Anthony (Colombia)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Nov 10 09:57:52 MST 2000

I have been meaning to post something about Colombia, but events here have
been pretty unclear to me. What follows are my observations without fully
drawn conclusions, and even without sufficient information in  every case.

The FARC has immobilized the Department of Putumayo (If you look at a map
Putumayo is just north of the border between Colombia and Ecuador and Peru,
and inland from Narino)  with an armed paro - which basically means they
set up random roadblocks around the countrysied - and burn or blow up any
cars, trucks or buses found moving along the roads.

This is in response to the aborted offensive of the military in Putumayo,
and to death squad activities of the paramilitaries there - but it seems to
be something more.

I think that this may be the FARC's way of controlling the territory in
advance of the real major offensive by the military.

Towns there have gone without any substantial deliveries of food or
anything for almost two months.

The town populations are demanding action by the government to relieve
their situation - but in terms making it unclear whether they are led by
the paramilitaries or by the FARC or by civic leaders unconnected with
either. The indegenous people in the region, who clearly are not led by the
paras, have raised similar demands on the government.

Last night President Pastrana made a speech promising to aid them, and to
launch a major program of government investment in roads, schools,
hospitals, and  crop substitution in the area.

The area is a major coca growing region by all accounts.

Also The area is very sparesely populated, but still has maybe 150,000
people living in an area the size of Vermont (I will find out the
population figures later.)

Narino, to the West of Putumayo, has also been the seen  of armed clashes
involving the FARC, the ELN, paras, and the army - but so far these appear
to be very small skirmishes and/or para assinations.

The coca route to the Pacific from Putumayo goes through Narino.

The ELN suffered a mjor reverse in Valle, near the city of Cali (party down
salsa city, home of Grupo Niche). They had kidnapped a lot of people and
had holed up with them in the hills waiting for ransoms to be paid.

The army was very aggressive in chasing them down. Put a lot of soldiers in
the effort. The army surrounded the ELN camp, and moved the perimeter
closer day by day. No food, no water. The ELN made a deal - they gave up
all of the hostages in exchange for 100 hours to split.

The general who commanded the operation resigned the day after the deal for
"personal reasons". The personal reasons are widely believed to be that he
wanted to kill offf the ELN force, hostages be damned. He is now a hero to
the right wing types.

Immediately after the ELN force evacuated the area near Cali, an ELN force
(maybe the same one) started setting up armed roadblocks in Cauca, the
province just to the South of Valle, and just north of Narino.

It seems to me that all of this activity is in one way or another the
preparation for escalation in the southern part of Colombia.


Louis Proyect
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