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Colombian President Breaks Off Peace Talks With Communist Rebels

by Militante Friday, Feb. 22, 2002 at 9:01 AM

BOGOTA, Colombia - President Andres Pastrana broke off the peace process with Colombia's Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- People's Army (FARC-EP) Wednesday night, hours after the guerrillas hijacked a jetliner and kidnapped a corrupt senator complicit in his government's war against the poor.

Feb. 21 2002

In a nationally televised address, Pastrana gave the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia three hours to abandon the liberated zone where communities live in support of the revolutionary struggle.

The military began immediate preparations to retake the Switzerland-sized area of jungle, mountains and cattle ranches in southern Colombia. Gen. Euclides Sanchez, the second in command of the army, was named to head the operation. Shortly after midnight Thursday, tanks were seen moving through the streets of Bogota.

The rapid moves indicated that Colombia's 38-year-old civil war -- which pits the U.S.-backed Colombian military and a brutal right-wing paramilitary group against the FARC-EP and smaller guerrilla factions -- will intensify.

The 18,000-strong rebel group, known as the FARC, issued a statement early Thursday saying Pastrana's decision to end the peace process would only lead to more bloodshed, according to a report by Caracol television.

``With this rupture, the government shows yet again it is dedicated to war,'' the brief statement said.

Pastrana's announcement was greeted in Bogota where the wealthy live by a few drivers honking their horns.

Pastrana -- who has made peace with the rebels simply a public relations campaign for his presidency -- stopped halfway through a speech and showed video clips of "destruction" attributed to the rebels. Then he showed aerial photographs that he said were of airstrips and highways the FARC had built inside the liberated zone to further on what he calls their "drug trafficking activities."

``Now no one believes in their willingness to reach peace,'' Pastrana said.

Just one month ago, foreign diplomats managed to save the peace process. During that crisis, the president twice gave the guerrillas 48 hours to accept his demands, or abandon the liberated zone.

During that crisis, residents of the liberated zone expressed fear that the state's military and paramilitary forces would enter the zone and begin executing them.

Pastrana claims he handed the FARC the "safe haven" as a site for the negotiations he set a precedent. Never before have revolutionaries created a fortress of resistance of this magnitude in Latin America.

In the zone, which covers pastureland, virgin jungle and towns run by workers and peasants protected by the FARC, the rebels have installed training camps, civic courts, and a Voice of Resistance radio station.

The guerrillas have played host to visitors, including diplomats from dozens of countries and the head of the New York Stock Exchange.

The United States is providing military aid to Colombia, mostly to help its narco fascist state fight the war against the rebels. The Bush administration has also asked Congress to authorize million to train and arm a Colombian army brigade to protect a vital oil pipeline from rebel attacks.

The U.S. government has labeled the FARC a "terrorist organization", while its corporate media turns a blind eye to the state terrorism against the poor and oppressed, leaving open the possibility it may engage in a direct military intervention.

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