[IWAR] POLWAR Colombian popular support for cartels

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Wed Mar 11 1998 - 12:28:15 PST

  • Next message: Dan S: "[IWAR] News, Intelligence & Science links"

    Colombian rebels owe power to demoralized army,
    scandalized regime
    Copyright  1998 Nando.net
    Copyright  1998 The Associated Press 
    FLORENCIA, Colombia (March 11, 1998 2:30 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -- When
    a peasant falls ill in the heart of
    Colombia's coca territory, leftist guerrillas order his bosses to pay his
    doctor bills. Health insurance, revolutionary style.
    Rebels divvy up property when marriages break up, run child-care centers and
    impose swift gun-barrel justice on those
    accused of collaborating with the military, as well as on common criminals.
    After the guerrillas killed scores of elite soldiers in a dense southern jungle
    last week, President Ernesto Samper swore to
    never allow "independent republics" within the nation's borders. But in the
    southwestern state of Caqueta and other states
    where rebels hold sway, it may be too late.
    "Guerrillas are the authority and the law," said Olga Arenas, director of
    Caqueta's land reform program. "They have taken the
    place of the state."
    Drug scandals at the highest levels of government -- and the military's lack of
    a coherent counterinsurgency strategy -- have
    left the rebels stronger than ever and the army demoralized.
    Four years after Samper's presidential campaign accepted millions of dollars
    from the Cali cocaine cartel, last week's military
    debacle illustrated just how much ground Colombia's scandalized government has
    lost to the rebels.
    Outwitted, outnumbered and surrounded, between 60 and 80 soldiers died at the
    hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
    of Colombia, the FARC, in Caqueta along the Caguan River -- the army's worst
    defeat since it began fighting rebels 35 years
    The armed forces have been roundly criticized for a major intelligence failure.
    Samper, too, has been blamed for demilitarizing
    5,000 square miles of Caqueta last June in exchange for the freedom of 70
    captured soldiers. If the army had a foothold
    beforehand, it now is clinging by its toes.
    An army colonel who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity
    conceded that high-level drug corruption
    has played havoc with soldiers' morale.
    In Caqueta, people have long been caught in the crossfire of drug traffickers,
    rebels and the army. In the area of last week's
    fighting, there are no hospitals, schools or courts; officials' much touted
    crop substitution program -- their attempt to provide
    alternatives to coca growing -- is widely considered a failure.
    The guerrillas are more than happy to fill the vacuum left by an absent and
    discredited state.
    Along the Caguan River, coca is the only game in town. There are no roads to
    bring legal crops to market. And only coca
    growers can afford to buy gasoline, which authorities heavily tax because
    traffickers use it to turn coca into cocaine.
    The Samper scandal, combined with a police campaign to fumigate coca crops with
    the herbicide glyphosate, has spurred
    resentment against the government and support for the rebels.
    "The president ate 6 million dollars from the Cali cartel and who do they throw
    in jail? The tiny coca growers here in
    Caqueta," laments Carlos Alberto Guzman, 30, a peasant who abandoned his land
    after government planes sprayed
    glyphosate on his coca, yucca, and corn crops last year.
    Much of the cocaine consumed in the United States and Europe originates in
    Caqueta, where U.S. drug agents in 1984
    discovered Tranquilandia, a huge network of jungle laboratories belonging to
    slain Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar --
    history's most famous drug bust.
    Today, the jungle is a lawless frontier where FARC rebels guard cocaine labs,
    all the while slamming Samper for his alleged
    drug links. The rebels gloss over the contradiction, insisting the government
    is in bed with big drug dealers while their mission
    is merely to protect small coca farmers.
    Like many residents of the southern jungles, Guzman speaks fondly of the
    guerrillas. But the people of Caqueta are growing
    weary of the armed conflict, which is expanding rapidly throughout Colombia.
    In one remarkable incident two days after last week's fighting began, 27
    soldiers -- their food and ammunition exhausted --
    staggered into Penas Coloradas, a FARC jungle stronghold.
    Villagers invited the men into their homes and tended to the wounded. When the
    FARC arrived, local leaders insisted on
    humane treatment, persuading the guerrillas to allow each captured soldier to
    sign his name to a document they then passed
    along to federal officials.
    Explained 68-year-old farmer Jose German Diaz: "It hurts me when a guerrilla
    dies. And it hurts me just as much when a
    soldier dies. We're all Colombians."
    By STEVEN GUTKIN, The Associated Press

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Apr 13 2001 - 13:06:24 PDT