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Colombia Prepares For More FARC Terrorism - 2002-03-01

Colombian president Andres Pastrana says his country should be prepared for more terrorist attacks by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC. Mr. Pastrana made the warning in a speech to the nation late Thursday.

With a grim expression on his face Mr. Pastrana addressed the nation to warn that what he called terrorist attacks, will escalate along the ruptured peace talks last week with the FARC. Mr. Pastrana went on to denounce the guerrillas, saying, with bombings and destruction, they want to bring Colombia to its knees.

He says "if they think through these actions they will defeat us, they are wrong, adding that an army of 40-million Colombians that want peace is invincible." Earlier Thursday Mr. Pastrana expanded the powers of the military in a wide area of the southern part of the country, in an effort to defend against the guerrilla attacks.

The measure takes effect in 19 towns and six departments and gives the army the authority to restrict the movement of people in vehicles and impose curfews.

Meanwhile rebel attacks against the country's infrastructure continued, with more transmission towers downed and sections of the country without electricity, water or phone service.

In a transcript of a radio conversation published Thursday by the El Tiempo newspaper a rebel commander urges another guerrilla to destroy bridges, electrical towers and reservoirs. "Hit them with everything", Lieutenant Commander Obanja says, and goes on to call for a tax on cities, so that, as he put it, the oligarchy feels the war.

The escalation of the 38-year Colombian conflict came as President Pastrana suspended peace talks on February 20 and order troops to reoccupy the huge demilitarized zone in the southern part of the country that had been a rebel safe haven.

The zone, about the size of Switzerland, was created in late 1998 to facilitate peace talks between the government and the FARC.

Mr. Pastrana acted after FARC guerrillas hijacked a plane and kidnapped a senator on board. It was only the latest in a series of guerrilla atrocities including kidnappings and murders that had undermined the three-year peace negotiations.