BOGOTA – Colombia’s leftist FARC rebels called for creation of a broad front to block a prospective agreement between Bogota and Washington for the stationing of U.S. military personnel at bases in the Andean nation.
“We invite you to work for a ‘Grand National Peace Accord,’ to build a political alternative that privileges peace ... effects a bilateral truce and proceeds to immediately suspend the presence of U.S. troops,” the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in an open letter to civic groups.
The letter appeared Tuesday on the Web site of Swedish-based alternative news agency ANNCOL.
The insurgents called on “all patriots and democrats of Colombia to exchange opinions on these matters to impede the perpetual establishment of a dictatorship or a totalitarian and despotic government.”
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the FARC said, “emerged from a new, neoliberal and anti-democratic right” and is seeking “to perpetuate himself in power.”
Uribe was elected in 2002 to a four-year term and ran again in 2006 after the constitution was changed to allow immediate re-election. His party is now trying to get Colombia’s Congress to convene a referendum on amending the charter again to permit the incumbent to compete in next year’s presidential balloting.
Washington, which provides Bogota with $500 million a year in military aid and already has hundreds of military advisers and contractors on the ground in the Andean nation, says it needs basing rights in Colombia to replace the U.S. Forward Operating Location at Ecuador’s Manta airbase.
Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa, declined to renew the treaty that allowed the U.S. military to conduct counternarcotics operations from Manta for the past 10 years.
In a separate statement also published Tuesday, the FARC denied contributing to Correa’s 2006 election campaign.
The Colombian government released earlier this month a videotape on which a member of the FARC high command, Jorge Briceño Suarez, known as “Mono Jojoy,” is seen speaking of “aid in dollars to Correa’s campaign and subsequent talks with his emissaries.”
Correa, who says he can account for all the funds raised and spent during his successful 2006 campaign, said he received no money from the FARC or anyone linked to the Colombian guerrilla group.
“As a new smokescreen and seeking to hurt the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, Washington and Bogota manipulated a FARC video, taking the document out of context,” the Colombian rebel group said.
The FARC has battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s. At its peak, the rebel army numbered as many as 20,000, but it is now thought to have around 9,000 fighters.
Like Colombia’s right-wing militias, the FARC has financed its operations in part through drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. EFE