- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 9, 2002

A country in America's back yard is steadily imploding with escalating terrorist attacks. Colombia has come under the siege of the FARC guerrilla group, despite a highly-publicized cease-fire agreement the group recently struck with the government. Alarmingly, the FARC has taken its terrorist, guerrilla tactics into the country's capital, Bogota, which adds a new dimension to the country's four-decade-old conflict that has claimed about 200,000 lives. The FARC has also started aggressively targeting the infrastructure that the country depends on economically and has been aiming directly at the police, one of the more competent defenders of civil order and stability.

The troubles in Colombia are a problem for Americans; the country provides the United States with 80 percent of its cocaine and an increasing share of heroine. The FARC and other Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups have become increasingly involved in narco-trafficking, and their agendas therefore collide with U.S. counter-narcotics interests. Given the terrorist tactics favored by these groups, the White House should be ever-vigilant of where this collision will lead. Another threat is the FARC's predilection for spreading its sphere of influence and wealth, and its interest in exporting instability. The Peruvian government has already voiced concern over Colombian narco-terrorists' efforts to reinvigorate once-dreaded guerrilla groups in their country and provide these groups with poppy for heroine production.

And the FARC has ensured that they will continue to be a problem for Colombia and America. On the very day the group signed a cease-fire with the Colombian government, Jan. 15, the FARC launched a bloody offensive. On Jan. 25, Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus blamed the FARC for a bomb put in a downtown restaurant frequented by police officers. Police successfully deactivated bombs found in Bogota, one on a parked bicycle near a police station in northern Bogota and another in a fruit cart in a residential neighborhood on Friday. One day later and about half-a-mile away, eight people were wounded in a grenade attack on a shop. Police said they are sure the FARC was responsible. The next day, rebels killed seven people in the town of Colombia, about 90 miles south of Bogota. The FARC is believed to have been responsible.

The FARC has also targeted Colombia's main water and electricity sources. On Jan. 23, the FARC attacked a major valve at a reservoir 30 minutes from Bogota which, according to Mr. Mockus, jeopardized the capital's water supply. The strike was the first on a major source of water supply. According to reports in the Colombian press, the FARC has dynamited 38 electricity towers in the past three weeks, and 28 municipalities have suffered power outages and electricity rationing as a result of the attacks.

Given this scourge of violence, the White House must press Colombian President Andres Pastrana to acknowledge the narco-trafficking of guerrilla and paramilitary groups. Surely, President Bush doesn't want to see the FARC's blight to spread in the region.

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