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Dec 232009
Luis Francisco Cuéllar. (Photo from Semana.)

Colombian soldiers yesterday found the body of Governor Luis Francisco Cuéllar in a village outside Florencia, the capital of Caquetá department in southern Colombia. Cuéllar, the 69-year-old governor of Caquetá, was abducted from his home in Florencia late Monday by a guerrilla unit wearing army uniforms.

The brazen attack took place in a city that hosts the Army’s 6th Division and is a very short drive away from Larandia, the army base that hosts the Colombian armed forces’ Joint Task Force Omega. Larandia is one of seven Colombian bases to which U.S. personnel now have access under a new defense agreement signed in late October.

The evidence points to the FARC, which have been strong in Caquetá for decades. We condemn this crime in the strongest possible terms. Governor Cuéllar’s murder is a violation of international humanitarian law that none who value civilization can justify.

We are also concerned about what it means for the evolution of Colombia’s conflict.

The Cuéllar killing could have been a botched kidnapping. If the FARC’s intention was to hold the governor hostage, it might mean a shift back to the guerrillas’ early 2000s tactic of kidnapping prominent civilian leaders, holding them hostage to pressure for a prisoner exchange agreement. This tactic proved to be a spectacular failure for the guerrillas, who got nothing in exchange, earned near-universal international condemnation, and lost many hostages to a brilliant Colombian military ruse in July 2008. Today, the FARC hold no civilians to pressure for a prisoner exchange. (They do hold military and police personnel for that purpose, and many civilians for ransom.) It is not clear why the FARC would have sought to revive this disastrous tactic now.

It could be that the FARC meant to kill Cuéllar, whom it had already kidnapped for ransom four times since 1987. (Cuéllar is believed to have had trouble with paramilitary groups as well; the VerdadAbierta website noted in June that paramilitaries actively opposed his 2004 campaign for the Caquetá governorship.) The FARC maintains old feuds with Caquetá’s powerful families, and its intentions with Cuéllar may not have been abduction but murder, as in the killing of another prominent Caquetá politician, Diego Turbay Cote, and his mother almost exactly nine years ago. If assassination was the guerrillas’ intention, then it is urgent that Colombia’s government step up its protection of local officials throughout the country.

Above all, this and other recent actions are likely part of a FARC effort to undermine President Álvaro Uribe’s “Democratic Security” policy, five months before an election in which Uribe may be running for a third straight term. Actions like these certainly show the limits of Uribe’s reliance on military power. But by making Colombians feel insecure, the FARC are in fact helping the electoral prospects of the candidate with whom voters most associate the word “security”: Álvaro Uribe.

For his part, Uribe has promised to redouble the military effort against the FARC, ordering the armed forces once again to attempt the military rescue of all guerrilla hostages. This in turn caused the International Committee of the Red Cross to announce that it is suspending efforts to guarantee the FARC’s imminent release of two soldiers whom it has held hostage for years, including Corporal Pablo Moncayo, who just finished his 12th year in the guerrillas’ custody.

15 Responses to “Horror in Caquetá”

  1. Chris Says:

    Heard that Colombian military was closing in and the FARC slit his throat so as not to give away their position. So… perhaps it wasn’t their intention to kill him, but they had to for their own reasons.

    But none of this is confirmed… just hearsay.

    He was brazen… only walked around with 2 – 4 soldiers/police as body guards. He was an easy target.


  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Well the “evidence: does not point in any direction Adam, I think the Farc possibly did it. But there’s not such evidence as you point in your article.

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    You also know that Cuchilo and Varela’s gangs are in dispute of the terrritory and paramilitaries are all over the place (let alone guerrillas) . People should not let themselves be carried away by speeches of narco hysterical schizoid banana country prima donas.

  4. Camilo Wilson Says:

    Another repulsive act, like so many others in Colombia over the past half-century. Yet no less repulsive—in a land increasingly defined by its brutality—are the murder of civilians by Colombia’s U.S.-supported military, which then tags them as felled rebel combatants. Or the murder of legions of civilians (including Patriotic Union members) over the years by paramilitaries sympathetic to Uribe and who ply their grisly trade on behalf of members of the country’s political elite who wish to appear clean. The hatreds run deep, the memories long; and the savagery mounts…

    There are few angels among the armed combatants in Colombia, regular or irregular—and among the unarmed elements and murky interests who support those combatants from the shadows.
    The official position of the Uribe Government is that there is no armed conflict in Colombia, only “terrorism.” How long will Colombians (and non-Colombians) abide this absurd fiction? How long before Colombians question Uribe’s hard-line “democratic security” policies and strategies, and cease to believe that only he and those policies can bring security to Colombia? How long before those who defend human rights, or advocate for dialogue that could lead to a lasting peace, cease to be portrayed in official Colombian circles as insurgents, or “soft” on terrorism? How long before saner minds prevail and push earnestly and openly for some sort of real dialogue with the insurgents?

    How long, how long, how long…?

  5. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Pasadas las tres de la tarde del martes, un habitante de la zona reportó que había visto un cadáver en la vereda Sebastópol, pero la posición del cuerpo (no se le veía el rostro) y el hecho de que no se oyeron disparos en la zona desconcertaron a los responsables de la búsqueda. Para ese momento, el grueso de la persecución iba por otra ruta, la que marcaban los uniformes abandonados por los guerrilleros.

    Estos, de acuerdo con los primeros análisis, eran orginales de la IX Brigada , y ahora se investigará si de esa unidad se perdió algún material de intendencia.

  6. Hasan Says:

    I repeat that there is no evidence to confirm that it was carried out by the FARC. The armed men arrived dressed in military fatigue from the anti-kidnapping unit in one of the most militarised towns in Colombia: not easy. And these difficulties should not be ignored. They must be discussed.

    Undermining this very informative blog with unproven facts that only act to strengthen the Uribe government is very dangerous. As you say in the article, for the FARC to have carried out this act has many negative consequences for them. Would they not realise this themselves? By repeating Colombian government propaganda (and until there are definite facts that is exactly what it is) one is only acting as a tool for Uribe.

    As you correctly complain, in an earlier post, about the article by Mary O Grady, it is important to maintain the same control in not repeating propaganda from interested parties.

  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Once again Uribe is the most notorious John Doe amongst Semana’s Readers

  9. Jaime Bustos Says:

    It’s “insulting” not to receive any feedback from Adam :mrgreen:

  10. Kelly Says:

    Hang on everyone. I understand that this guy was being investigated for links to paramilitaries by the Fiscalia 11 in Bogota. If there were such links no wonder the FARC killed him – if indeed it was them. Perhaps the paras did it to prevent him from spilling the beans.

  11. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Kelly maybe we’ll never know. The dynamics of the colombian conflict are jaw dropping to say the least, and a dirty war has been going on for years, so nothing is what it seems though I agree with what you posted.

  12. Fandango Says:

    Well, the FARC took responsibility … or do you all you FARC apologists think Uribe et al secretly control ANNCOL as well?

    A través de Anncol, medio que usualmente reproduce las posiciones de las Farc, el bloque Sur de esa guerrilla aseguró que el objetivo del secuestro era realizar un juicio político contra Cuéllar por supuesta corrupción. El mandatario regional fue degollado por sus plagiarios apenas una hora después del secuestro.

  13. Haryy Says:

    Fandango, a link to El Tiempo doesn’t tell us anything (except perhaps that you think it is a serious news outlet!) other than that the newspaper is taking Uribe’s line as usual. You’ll need to do better than that. Have you seen the statement on ANNCOL as I’ve looked and couldn’t see anything. If you find it please supply a link.

  14. Jaime Bustso Says:

    Harvy, it’s true, here

  15. Javier Says:

    Well, sorry to ruin your american party here, acts like this are the aftermath of Colombian – us agreement on military bases, The ‘’security” laws dictated by Alvaro Uribe and his pals from AUC, and of course let’s not forget our governor basically stealing a percentage of his employees’ (cabinet) salary, i dont agree on killing people nor justify FARC’S behavior, im just throwing some statements you guys dont come out of this one clean. Now thanks for the military bases, i feel much UNSAFER to know that now we are gonna be harrassed by fucking jarheads, more blood spilled of course from farmers that has nothing to do with the conflict. Really thanks a lot, great help!!!!
    NOT EVERYTHING IS LIKE IT APPEARS IN CNN, come on people give us a break.

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