BOGOTA – Colombia’s two largest guerrilla groups will join forces in the fight against the government of President Alvaro Uribe, leaders of the FARC and ELN said in a communique posted Wednesday on the Internet.
“We aim to work for unity to confront the current regime with firmness and belligerency,” said the message from the respective high commands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army.
“Only the unity and decisive action of patriotic Colombians, of democrats, of revolutionaries and of all of us who harbor hopes of a political solution will be able to stop the war, find peace and make possible the construction of a New Colombia,” the insurgents said.
The statement “from the mountains of Colombia” bore a date of November 2009 and appeared on the site of Stockholm-based leftist news agency ANNCOL.
The outline of the plan for cooperation was drawn up after extensive talks in an “atmosphere of fraternity and camaraderie,” the communique said.
“We also addressed the difficulties that have occurred between the two organizations,” the rebel groups said, proclaiming an end to ongoing internecine strife “from the publication of this document.”
The FARC and ELN chiefs said they would determine the “real causes that have led us to this absurd confrontation in some regions of the country, overcome them and work to repair the damage caused.”
Looking forward, the two organizations vowed to concentrate on their common enemy: “U.S. imperialism and its lackey (Colombian) oligarchy.”
Bogota receives about $500 million a year in mainly military aid from Washington and recently signed a pact giving U.S. forces access to seven bases in Colombia.
The FARC, which at its peak had an estimated 20,000 fighters, is now thought to number around 9,000, while the ELN is about half that size. Both guerrilla armies have battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s and both are labeled as terrorists by the Uribe government and the United States.
Like Colombia’s now – ostensibly – demobilized rightist militias, the FARC and ELN have supported their military efforts through criminal activities such as drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.
The FARC has suffered significant reverses over the past two years, including the deaths of two senior figures and the Colombian army’s rescue of the rebel group’s most-valuable prisoners, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors. EFE