Colombia's FARC admits role in civilian deaths

Aug. 21, 2013 at 3:09 PM
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BOGOTA, Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Colombia's FARC is the Western Hemisphere's longest running insurgency.

Founded in 1964, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia are a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization that has battled Colombian authorities for the past 49 years, with neither side gaining the upper decisive hand in the conflict.

Now FARC has partially accepted responsibility for the thousands of deaths as a result of its struggle with the authorities in Bogota.

FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo stated on the sidelines of peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, "Without a doubt, there has also been cruelty and pain provoked by our forces. Still, we must recognize the need to approach the issue of victims, their identification and reparations with complete loyalty to the cause of peace and reconciliation," El Tiempo newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Catatumbo is the third highest FARC commander and the second most important FARC representative in the peace delegation in Havana.

Catatumbo renewed FARC calls for the creation of an international "truth" commission, similar to the one in South Africa that followed the downfall of the apartheid regime there, to investigate nearly five decades of "fratricidal conflict" in Colombia. Catatumbo told reporters, "This commission in our opinion should be formed immediately," he said, calling on "the entire country to hold a day of reflection and contrition." In July a Colombian government commission last month reported that roughly 220,000 people have lost their lives in Latin America's oldest guerrilla armed conflict, while other estimates put the number of casualties as high as 600,000.

FARC is believed to have about 8,000 armed fighters. Colombia has Latin America's fourth largest economy, but the distribution of wealth is highly unequal, with a report by the National University of Colombia noting that only 13.8 percent of total national income is allocated to the poorest 50 percent of the population, while the wealthiest 10 percent of the population benefits from 46.5 percent, providing a rich environment for progressive guerrilla movements to attempt to overturn social inequities.

Accordingly, FARC has focused many of its attacks on the country's infrastructure. FARC specializes in oil infrastructure attacks, particularly the 500 mile-long 80,000 barrel per day Cano Limon-Coveñas pipeline, the world's most heavily attacked oil infrastructure. In 2001, the pipeline was attacked 170 times. A decade later, by the first half of 2012, Colombia's state-owned oil company Ecopetrol pipelines and production facilities were attacked 67 times, with Cano Limon-Coveñas pipeline having been attacked so frequently that locals call it "la flauta" (the flute) because of the perforations punched in it by guerrillas.

Last month, on July 28, an explosion occurred on the Cano Limon-Coveñas pipeline, the third attack on the pipeline that month. The first explosion on the pipeline took place on July 4 near El Tarra in Santander province, while the second blast occurred on July 5 near Saravena in Arauca province.

Despite the peace overtures, worse may be coming for Colombia, as in March FARC announced its intention to join forces with the leftist Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), with a press announcement posted on FARC's website on March 31 stating that the unity was necessary "to resolutely confront the big oligopolies, transnational capital and imperialism... which forces us all to consider the economic and social situation created by the presence of multinational companies and the unbridled ambitions and voracious appetites of the mining and energy sectors, which have caused the current massive militarization, which impacts the environment and disrupts the region's tranquility."

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