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Colombia Declares 'State of Internal Commotion' - 2002-08-12

Just days after taking office, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez has declared a "state of internal commotion." The emergency declaration allows him to raise new funds for fighting Marxist rebels at a critical time in his country's 38-year civil conflict.

Government ministers made the announcement midnight Sunday, saying they would levy a new tax on businesses and wealthy individuals. The tax will be worth 1.2 percent of their liquid assets, and will only be collected once.

The money raised will pay for 10,000 new policemen and two new army brigades.

The emergency declaration also gives President Uribe 90 days to sidestep Congress and make further decrees. He is expected to introduce travel restrictions, especially in the war-torn countryside.

The president won a landslide victory in May on promises to boost military spending and confront leftist rebels.

In particular, he will try to crack down on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which has been chasing elected officials from rural areas.

Most Colombians feel the rebel army has degenerated into a band of authoritarian outlaws.

The president's decree comes just four days after he took office. During his inaugural ceremony, suspected rebels launched a round of homemade mortars at the presidential palace. One bomb caused superficial damage to the building. Another killed 20 civilians in a poor neighborhood nearby.