Tags: Neiva: | Case | Study | Colombian | Terrorism

Neiva: Case Study in Colombian Terrorism

Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM

But starting two years ago and with increasing frequency in the past year, Neiva has been subject to a series of mass kidnappings and routine extortions and intimidation. One of the city's residents, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newsmax.com about her eyewitness account of the FARC's terrorism.

"They came and took whole families from the housing complex," she said. "Children, everyone. Most were in their pajamas and they loaded them onto trucks. They said they were military. Some of them were returned but most of them are still there [in the distension zone]."

The FARC's terrorism is also focused in the economic sector, and on politicians. In Huila, as in many other regions of Colombia, the focus has been on cattle ranchers and coffee growers, two classes of relatively wealthy Colombians with easily accessible wealth. Payment is usually made to the FARC in the form of produce, as a percentage of cattle or coffee. Those refusing to pay are menaced and kidnapped, if necessary, until they do.

Political opposition to the FARC also entails a price. Armando Beltrán and Consuelo González de Perdomo, both critics of the FARC, are two representatives of Huila who are currently kidnapped and thought to be held in the distension zone. While Colombia has an effective anti-kidnapping unit, the "Gaulistas," it is unable to operate in the distension zone.

The Peace March Arrives in Caquetá

The Peace March continued towards Caguán on Saturday, despite a flurry of news reports that indicated that the FARC would almost surely refuse entry to the marchers. Nearly 100 buses left Neiva at 4 am on Saturday, heading due south towards Caguán. This route is probably the least used to gain entrance to the zone. Originally, plans had been made to head through Florencia, the capital of Caquetá, farther off course but with better roads.

However, news Friday had led the march's coordinators to conclude that route would be dangerous. More than 300 guerrillas had begun an incursion from the zone towards Florencia, and as would later be discovered, they conducted a series of damaging attacks on towns on the route leading to Florencia. Backup plans to fly into the zone were cancelled when the FARC drove vehicles onto the flight tarmacs in San Vicente del Caguán.

The route south actually is the most direct route into the zone, but the road is a one-lane dirt path that provides navigation difficulties for 100 buses. A series of military roadblocks greeted marchers as they headed south. At one, a series of caltrops, manufactured with nails and barbed wire, was discovered spread across the road at several points. Should one puncture the tires of a bus, it would be very difficult to return to Neiva due to the narrowness of the path. Nonetheless, marchers worked together to clear the road and proceed.

As marchers moved toward the distension zone, the change was notable. Instead of being greeted by the local farmers, people generally ran away as quickly as possible after seeing the caravan. Guerrilla posts could be seen on the hills ahead, and sporadic machine-gun fire and mortar shots were heard.

At the guerrilla checkpoint, all bets on the march finally were off. Despite a sign ahead stating "minefield," a lone marcher, against the shouts of his friends, continued toward the checkpoint.

Finally, when organizers separated the marchers from negotiators and the press, a small group went forward to speak with the guerrillas. The FARC was emphatic that there would be no entrance to the zone, stating that there was a minefield ahead. In one of the towns ahead, there were "rumors" that someone had placed a car bomb.

Marchers were indignant, denouncing President Pastrana's peace process and the distension zone and hoping that Serpa, should he become president, will end the zone, which many of them refer to as "The Republic of Caguán." Serpa, in a speech made within view of several FARC guerrillas, denounced the FARC's action but reiterated his commitment to maintaining the zone.

Following the march, Newsmax.com again asked the candidate whether we were witnessing terrorism, to which the candidate again would not answer.

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But starting two years ago and with increasing frequency in the past year, Neiva has been subject to a series of mass kidnappings and routine extortions and intimidation. One of the city's residents, who wished to remain anonymous, told Newsmax.com about her eyewitness...
Neiva:,Case,Study,Colombian,Terrorism
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2001-00-30
Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM
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