Forwarded from Anthony (Colombia news, Feb.21)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Feb 21 13:37:10 MST 2001

News from Colombia February 21

1. Another Ministerial crisis has exploded: the Ministers of Interior and
Labor resigned yesterday. In addition, the Minister of Mines and Energy,
the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of
Health and the Secretary General of the Casa Narino are all leaving their
posts, some to be reassigned to other lesser jobs. The official causes of
the crisis lie in two separate - but now apparently related corruption
scandals, and to the impasse in the Bavaria strike.

2. Yesterday a military school in Northwest Bogotá was attacked with
missiles made from LPG cylinders packed with explosives. Only a week ago
the FARC announced they would no longer use this type of weapon.
Speculation on the street is that 1) the attack was carried out by the
paramilitaries - which would be an unprecedented first time they have
attacked a military post. Or 2) the attack was the work of a hitherto
unknown dissident faction of the FARC opposed tot he peace process.

3. A fierce battle between the FARC and the AUC is going on in Paramillo.
The FARC has apparently attacked the headquarter of Carlos Castaño, the
commander of the  paramilitary AUC. The army has said it will not intervene.

4. The roadblock on the major highway north to the coast from Bogotá was
lifted yesterday. The 10,000 protestors left after their organizations, "No
al despeje" and "ASOCIOPAZ" (both controlled by growers organizations
connected with the AUC.) negotiated an agreement with the government.
According to El Tiempo, the government promised not to decree a despeje for
the ELN without "including the citizens in the process of dialogue." No
mention was made of the protestors other demands, such as an end to
fumigation of coca crops in the area.

5. The AUC has issued death threats against the most important journalists
in the city of Popayan, including the correspondents of RCN and Caracol,
the two major television and radio networks in this country. Popayan is the
closest sizeable city to the war zone of Putumayo.

6. The former Superintendent of Public Services (government agency which
enforces regulation of public utilities), a close friend of President
Pastrana, was arrested yesterday for his role in the TermoRio scandal.

7. Commander of the US Southern Command, General Peter Peace (what a name)
and several US Senators and Congressman are in Colombia at the fortified US
airbase of Tres Esquinas. The Senators included John McCain who announced
that he now believes the Plan Colombia is providing insufficient military
aid, and that more will have to be approved. The visitors were here to
marvel over the expansion of the military sweep from Putumayo into Guainia
- a sparsely populated area along the border of Brazil where coca
cultivation has been increasing. The Colombian army claims to heave
destroyed 10,000 hectares of coca there in recent days.

Louis Proyect
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