BOGOTA - The insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC), in statements made Wednesday by one of the
guerrilla group's top leaders, rejected their inclusion on the
list of international terrorist groups drawn up by the United
Rebel commander Raúl Reyes said this classification ''forms
part of the campaign the (US) government of George W. Bush has
launched to discredit'' the FARC, and may serve as a pretext for
direct US intervention in Colombia's internal armed conflict.
One cannot compare the Colombian situation, ''based either on
its origins or its characteristics, with what is occurring between
Palestine and Israel, in Afghanistan, in Northern Ireland and in
Spain,'' said Reyes.
The guerrilla leader, who also serves on the three-member panel
for peace dialogue with the Andrés Pastrana government, thus
responded to the decision in Washington to equate the leftist
FARC, which is estimated to have some 15,000 combatants, with
irregular armed groups in other countries.
His statement coincided with Pastrana's departure for the
United States to take part in the United Nations General Assembly
and to meet with Bush.
The list of 30 terrorist groups drawn up by the US State
Department also includes the National Liberation Army (ELN),
Colombia's second insurgent group (with some 5,000 guerrillas),
and the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC), believed to number around 8,000 combatants.
The list has taken on new significance since the Sep 11
terrorist attacks on the United States, particularly in light of
the US-led military strikes against Afghanistan that have been
ongoing since Oct 7.
Local analysts agree that the presence of the three irregular
armed organizations makes Colombia especially vulnerable in the
context of the global war on terrorism declared by the United
Washington's position was reaffirmed by the US ambassador to
Colombia, Anne Patterson, during two public forums held in
October, and she stated that her government will seek the
extradition of guerrillas and paramilitaries who involved with
Furthermore, the British ambassador in Bogotá, Thomas Joseph
Duggin, said Tuesday in the capital that both the FARC and the ELN
''are terrorists and have ties with similar international
organizations,'' alluding to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in
Though he has been careful not to directly characterize the
FARC as terrorists, President Pastrana said Tuesday that
organizations which cultivate terror through car bombs,
massacres, assassinations and kidnappings'' deserve to be referred
to as such.
He appealed to the FARC to take advantage of the opportunity
now in their hands to give new impetus to the peace talks with his
government, negotiations that have reached a critical moment,
according to political observers.
Pastrana added that the Colombian people hope that ''those few
who insist on the armed route... will abandon violent actions
against the civilian population, will break ties with the
insidious drug trade and that they will finally follow the path of
The peace process with the FARC has been at a standstill since
Oct 17, when the rebels announced new demands for continuing the
dialogue. They came in response to the control measures the
government implemented as a condition for extending the time
period for the demilitarized zone in the Colombian southeast where
the talks are held.
The government beefed up military presence around the
Switzerland-sized area held by the FARC. Pastrana has long been
under pressure from numerous political and civil society groups
that accuse the rebels of using the demilitarized zone to do
business with drug traffickers and hide their kidnap victims, and
of abusing area residents' human rights.
Marco Romero, professor of law and political science at the
state-run National University, said in comments to IPS that the US
declaration categorizing the FARC as a terrorist organization
could have ''very complicated repercussions for the peace
''If the United States is talking about extraditing members of
terrorist groups, it means that at any moment the (Colombian armed
forces) could try to take away a rebel leader just to have results
to show the public,'' he said.
Other experts maintain that Pastrana's appeal is intended as a
wake-up call for the guerrillas to demonstrate greater political
will to move forward with the negotiations that began in 1999.
Copyright © 2001 IPS-Inter Press Service