Colombian Rebels Freeze Peace Process with Government
Colombia's largest leftist guerrilla group has declared a "freeze" on the peace process with the government amid new clashes between the rebels and security forces.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said Tuesday there will be no more peace talks until Bogota clamps down on right-wing paramilitaries, the guerrillas' long-time foes.
The freeze on moving toward a negotiated peace after almost 40 years of civil war will continue "until such time as the government explains to the country and the world its position with regard to paramilitary terrorism, and develops policies to end it," FARC spokesman Andres Paris said Tuesday in a statement.
Negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC had been set to resume Tuesday, based on an October 26 agreement between the two sides.
However, the talks were postponed from last week, with some commentators here saying the FARC leadership had been antagonized by a November 6 meeting between Interior Minister Humberto de la Calle and the leader of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Units of Colombia (AUC) Carlos Castano.
Colombia's armed forces chief called FARC's announcement "hypocritical."
"FARC's attitude is disloyal towards the peace process and the Colombian people," said General Fernando Tapias. "It's a hypocritical attitude because publicly they say they move towards peace, but the reality is quite different."
Tapias told journalists the Marxist group "is not sympathetic towards the government's efforts" aimed at bringing peace to the troubled nation.
And he emphasized that the government had not, in fact, carried out "political negotiations" with Castano and his paramilitaries in last week's meeting.
To prove the army's contention that the FARC has never seriously considered a cease-fire, military intelligence released an alleged recording of a telephone conversation in which FARC commander Jorge Briceno says he never intended signing a peace accord.
"We will not sign any peace treaty because peace does not exist," a man presented as Briceno is heard saying on the tape. "This is a lie. Even if we take power, we are facing a war against the Yankees and other powers."
The authenticity of the tape could not be independently confirmed.
Meanwhile, one person was killed and one wounded late Tuesday after some 200 FARC rebels attacked a police station in Mongua, a town in central Boyaca province, local authorities said.
However, they could not say whether the victims were civilians, guerrillas or police officers.
And at least two people were killed and 10 were wounded in southwestern Cali in two separate bomb blasts that apparently targeted a commercial district and a police station, officials said.
It was not immediately clear who planted the bombs.
President Pastrana meanwhile was to begin an international tour later this week to rally support for the peace process under his 7.5 billion-dollar Plan Colombia.
He is expected to first attend a summit in Panama, then to visit Germany, Norway and Sweden.
Colombia will contribute four billion dollars to the program and the United States has authorized 1.3 billion dollars in aid, with the remaining 2.2 billion dollars expected to come from Asia and Europe.
Pastrana's government accuses FARC rebels of involvement in the drug trade as a way of financing their insurgency.
Efforts to end the conflict have made little headway since talks with the FARC got under way in January 1999.
The government suspended the talks in September after the FARC refused to hand over one of its members who escaped from prison and hijacked a plane to a "demilitarized" zone in the south of the country controlled by the rebel group.
But the authorities backed down last month and agreed to resume the dialogue.
The oldest active guerrilla group in the Americas, the FARC has been fighting the government and right-wing paramilitaries in a conflict that has left an estimated 130,000 people dead and another two million displaced -- BOGOTA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)