Todayâ€™s El Tiempo features a very in-depth series of articles about â€œPlan Patriota,â€ the U.S.-supported military offensive in southern Colombia, involving nearly 20,000 troops, that began in early 2004. If you read Spanish, the articles are definitely worth a look. They offer much new information.
On El Tiempoâ€™s â€œConflicto Armadoâ€ page today, right next to the Plan Patriota series, is a link to coverage of yesterdayâ€™s FARC attack on â€œLa LÃnea,â€ the pass through the Andes in Tolima that links BogotÃ¡ to Cali. Three policemen and a civilian were killed.
Tolima, of course, is not in the Plan Patriota zone of operations. Nor is northern Cauca, where the FARC have carried out a string of attacks on indigenous towns since mid-April. Nor are NariÃ±o and Arauca, where the FARC have hit military targets several times in recent months.
While combat is no doubt constant in the Plan Patriota zone, little information about these FARC-military confrontations is being made public. What we do know is that the dramatic escalation in guerrilla attacks of the past few months is being felt, strongly, outside the area where Plan Patriota is taking place.
Here is a rough map, based on press coverage, sketching out some of the more significant incidents of combat between the FARC and the Colombian security forces so far this year. Though schematic, it shows that while the FARC is being pressured within their longtime southern stronghold, they are emerging from their two-year â€œtactical retreatâ€ by launching attacks throughout the length and breadth of Colombiaâ€™s national territory.
This is very bad news, both for the Uribe governmentâ€™s security strategy and for anyone who wants to see the killing come to an end. It also casts strong doubt on one of the El Tiempo seriesâ€™ too-optimistic claims, that â€œboth the government and the FARC recognize that the current moment is the beginning of the end of the war.â€ Thatâ€™s far from certain, though the war is certainly entering a new phase.
(The map includes only confrontations between guerrillas and security forces. It doesnâ€™t include confrontations between guerrillas and paramilitaries, such as the ongoing violence in southern BolÃvar and the Atrato River region of ChocÃ³. It doesnâ€™t include guerrilla attacks on civilians, such as the bombing of RCN studios in Cali, the murders of councilmembers in CaquetÃ¡ and Huila, and many others. Some dates are approximate.)
Quote of the week:
“We’re not interested in anything like that. The dividing line is clear: between those who are democratic and those who are anti-democratic, between those of us who defend the Constitution and those who would do away with it. In this second group are – with varying interests – Uribe, the paramilitaries and the FARC.” – Representative (and former M-19 guerrilla) Gustavo Petro, responding to the FARC’s call to join forces against President Uribe’s re-election.