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Colombian government assassinates Raúl Reyes

Extermination campaign against FARC grows

The Colombian military brutally bombarded an encampment of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) inside Ecuador on March 1. The attack took the lives of the FARC’s number two commander, Raúl Reyes, and 16 other guerrillas.

Raul Reyes, FARC leader

FARC-EP leader Raúl Reyes,
assassinated by the U.S.-backed
Uribe government on Mar. 1.

Noted FARC leader Julián Conrado, member of the insurgent army’s general command, was also killed in the attack. The U.S. Department of State had recently posted a $2.5 million bounty on Conrado, 53, whose actual name was Guillermo Enrique Torres.

Reyes, 60, was the FARC’s actual ground commander and chief negotiator in the talks with the Andrés Pastrana government between 1998 and 2002. Reyes’ real name was Luis Edgar Devia Silva.

The encampment was one mile inside Ecuador’s border, just south of the Putumayo River near Santa Rosa. To justify its invasion of that country, Colombia’s right-wing president Álvaro Uribe claims that its military bombarded from within Colombia’s airspace.

But in a contrary statement, Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s defense minister, stated that the planes bombed the camp from a position two kilometers—over 1.2 miles—inside Ecuador. He also admitted that Colombian troops entered Ecuador to sequester the bodies of Reyes and Conrado and take them to Colombia to prevent their recovery by the FARC.

According to Santos, the massive mobilization of Colombian troops in that area began on Feb. 28, after an informant betrayed the FARC’s location. Santos boasted that U.S. satellite surveillance was instrumental in finding the exact location of the FARC encampment through its interception of a telephone call.

Uribe notified Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa only after the attack. Correa has ordered an investigation into the bombardment, and reiterated the call for peace negotiations.

Despite numerous offers by Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez and other international leaders to help negotiate a peace settlement of the 60-year-old Colombian conflict, the right-wing, pro-U.S. Uribe has responded by calling for the FARC’s extermination.

The assassination of the FARC combatants came only days after the FARC’s second unilateral release of prisoners of war facilitated by Chávez’s government . The four high-profile prisoners immediately joined international calls for a political solution to the conflict, just days before the bombardment.

Washington, Bogotá reject political solution

The blatant aggression has even elicited criticism from Colombia’s allies. Referring to the FARC’s prisoner releases, France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy said Colombia’s military action took place "at a crucial moment in which everything should be done to support the positive dynamic that was activated with the unilateral liberation of several hostages."

Uribe has refused any meaningful proposals by the insurgent army to carry out a humanitarian exchange of prisoners held by both sides. In particular, he rejects the call for demilitarizing two territories—Pradera and La Florida—for a period of 45 days, in order to facilitate the exchange of prisoners.

"I publicly challenge President Álvaro Uribe to demonstrate the success of his policy of democratic security and clear the military from the municipalities of Pradera and Florida," said Luis Eladio Pérez, one of the four former Colombian legislators just released by the FARC. "The solution is political, Mr. President Uribe," Pérez added.

There is good reason for the FARC’s demilitarization demand: During the previous FARC’s unilateral liberation of former members of Congress—among them Clara Rojas—the Colombian military bombarded the route of the FARC release, almost killing the hostages as well as FARC soldiers.

It is clear that the U.S. government’s intent is to continue hunting down FARC combatants using Colombia’s military as a proxy. Colombia’s efforts to exterminate the guerrilla army are fully under Washington’s direction, aided by Plan Colombia’s multi-billion-dollar counter-insurgency program funded by the United States.

A political solution that might require any compromise on their part is not in the interest of the Colombian and U.S. governments. The assassination of the FARC leaders was unambiguously intended to decisively derail the mediation efforts led by Venezuela once and for all.

In an interview to completed just two days before his death, Commander Reyes said, "In Latin America we see a positive turn towards the revolutionary left with the leadership of governments that are anti-imperialist, progressive, independent, Bolivarian, moving towards socialism, and whose commitment is to fulfill the mandate of the Liberator (Simón Bolivar), that of attaining the greatest happiness for their peoples.

"Colombia will not be the exception. As Bolivarians who are in the midst of conflict with an ultra-right, fascist and paramilitary government, we are proceeding along the same road. Nothing and nobody will impede that."

Raúl Reyes, presente!

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