US embassy cable - 91BOGOTA2069

COLOMBIA'S FARC, ELN GUERRILLAS FLEX - THEIR MUSCLES TO START THE NEW YEAR

Identifier: 91BOGOTA2069
Wikileaks: View 91BOGOTA2069 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Bogota
Created: 1991-02-07 22:29:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PINS PGOV PINR PHUM CO
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 072229Z FEB 91
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2664
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
AMEMBASSY LIMA
AMEMBASSY QUITO
USCINCSO QUARRY HTS PM
CIA WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 02069 
 
 
SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12356:  N/A 
TAGS:  PINS, PGOV, PINR, PHUM, CO 
SUBJECT:  COLOMBIA'S FARC, ELN GUERRILLAS FLEX 
-         THEIR MUSCLES TO START THE NEW YEAR 
 
REF:  A) BOGOTA 50,  B) 90 BOGOTA 20269, 
-     C) 90 BOGOTA 19695 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  THE NEW YEAR HAS SEEN A TREMENDOUS 
ESCALATION IN GUERRILLA VIOLENCE BY COLOMBIA'S TWO MAIN 
FORCES, THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES OF COLOMBIA 
(FARC) AND THE NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY (ELN). 
PREFERRED TARGETS HAVE BEEN THE SECURITY FORCES AND THE 
COUNTRY'S ECONOMIC INFRASTRUCTURE.  THE ATTACKS HAVE 
OCCURRED IN MOST OF COLOMBIA'S 23 ADMINISTRATIVE 
DEPARTMENTS, AS WELL AS IN THE CAPITAL.  THE OFFENSIVE 
SHOWS THAT THE MILITARY STRENGTH OF THE FARC AND ELN 
REMAINS UNCHECKED BY THE GOVERNMENT.  END SUMMARY. 
 
INSURGENTS TURN THEIR TERROR UP SEVERAL NOTCHES 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
2. (U) BEGINNING NEW YEAR'S EVE, COLOMBIA'S LEFTIST 
INSURGENCY GROUPS, THE FARC AND THE ELN SIGNIFICANTLY 
ESCALATED THEIR STRIKES.  THESE ACTIONS APPARENTLY ARE A 
RESPONSE TO THE MILITARY'S DECEMBER 9 ASSAULT ON THE 
FARC'S RURAL HEADQUARTERS, THE CASA VERDE (REFTELS). 
 
GUERRILLA FRONTS ON THE OFFENSIVE IN MOST OF COUNTRY 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
3. (U) THE VIOLENCE HAS BEEN ON A NATIONAL SCALE. 
FOLLOWING THE CASA VERDE ATTACK, THE FARC AND ELN 
ACTIVATED PRACTICALLY ALL OF THEIR FRONTS FOR 
SIMULTANEOUS ATTACKS OVER A WIDE GEOGRAPHIC AREA.  THERE 
HAS BEEN NO SINGLE FOCAL POINT OR AREA FOR THE VIOLENCE; 
FEW OF THE COUNTRY'S 23 DEPARTMENTS HAVE BEEN SPARED. 
 
THE CITIES AREN'T SPARED, NOT EVEN THE CAPITAL 
--------------------------------------------- - 
4. (C) GUERRILLAS HAVE INDICATED LIMITED URBAN GUERRILLA 
CAPABILITY.  ATTACKS HAVE OCCURRED IN OR NEAR BOGOTA, 
MEDELLIN, CARTAGENA, SANTA MARTA AND OTHER CITIES. 
WITHIN A THE SPACE OF ONE-HALF HOUR LATE JANUARY 3, 
TERRORISTS STRUCK THREE NEIGHORHOOD POLICE POSTS IN THE 
SOUTHERN PART OF BOGOTA, KILLING ONE OFFICER AND 
WOUNDING ANOTHER.  POLICE ATTRIBUTED THE ATTACKS TO THE 
FARC. 
 
THE NATIONAL POLICE ARE HIT HARD... 
----------------------------------- 
5. (C) A FAVORITE GUERRILLA TARGET HAS BEEN THE NATIONAL 
POLICE.  IN THE WORST SUCH ATTACK, ABOUT 50 GUERRILLAS 
AMBUSHED A POLICE TRUCK JANUARY 3 ON A HIGHWAY NEAR THE 
TOWN OF CIENAGA IN NORMALLY PEACEFUL MAGDALENA 
DEPARTMENT ON THE ATLANTIC COAST, KILLING A DOZEN POLICE 
AND WOUNDING FOUR.  THE GUERRILLAS HAVE TARGETED THE 
POLICE, ACCORDING TO MID-LEVEL ARMY OFFICIALS, BECAUSE 
THEY ARE SOFT TARGETS BECAUSE OF THEIR SMALL UNIT SIZES, 
LACK OF HEAVY ARMAMENTS, INSUFFICIENT ANTI-TERRORIST 
TRAINING, ISOLATED TOWN GARRISONS AND POOR COMMUNICATIONS. 
 
...BUT SO IS THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMY 
---------------------------------- 
6. (C) THE GUERRILLAS ALSO APPEAR INTENT ON DAMAGING THE 
COUNTRY'S ECONOMY.  GUERRILLAS HAVE DYNAMITED ROAD AND 
RAILROAD BRIDGES, BURNED TRUCKS, BUSES AND AIRPLANES, 
DESTROYED RIVER CRAFT, AND BLOWN UP ELECTRICITY, 
TELEPHONE, RADIO AND TELEVISION SUBSTATIONS, TOWERS AND 
LINES. 
 
ECOPETROL OIL PIPELINES SABOTAGED... 
------------------------------------ 
7. (U) THE PETROLEUM SECTOR, HOWEVER, HAS SUFFERED THE 
GREATEST DAMAGE.  GUERRILLAS, PRINCIPALLY THE ELN, 
SEVERAL TIMES IN JANUARY HIT AN OLD ENEMY, PIPELINES OF 
THE STATE-OWNED COLOMBIAN PETROLEUM COMPANY 
(ECOPETROL).  ECOPETROL RELEASED A REPORT IN EARLY 
JANUARY SHOWING THAT THE ELN SABOTAGED THEIR 
800-KILOMETER CANO LIMON-COVENAS PIPELINE 134 TIMES 
SINCE THE ATTACKS BEGAN IN 1986 THROUGH 1990.  IN THE 
FIRST MONTH OF 1991, HOWEVER, ECOPETROL AVERAGED A 
GUERRILLA SABOTAGE-ATTACK PER DAY.  THE COMPANY 
ANNOUNCED JANUARY 28 (BOGOTA 1500) THAT ITS OIL 
PIPELINES AND OTHER FACILITIES HAD SUFFERED 28 GUERRILLA 
ATTACKS SINCE JANUARY 1.  TOTAL MONETARY LOSSES WERE 
ESTIMATED AT WELL OVER USDOL 100 MILLION, INCLUDING 
DAMAGE TO EQUIPMENT, SPILLED CRUDE AND PRODUCTION DELAYS. 
 
...AT A COST TO THE ENVIRONMENT 
------------------------------- 
8. (U) ASIDE FROM THE ECONOMIC LOSSES, THE PIPELINE 
ATTACKS HAVE DAMAGED THE ENVIRONMENT.  ACCORDING TO 
ECOPETROL, THE SPILLAGE OF CRUDE DUE TO GUERRILLA 
SABOTAGE ADVERSELY HAS AFFECTED THE COUNTRY'S FLORA AND 
FAUNA.  ACCORDING TO ECOPETROL STATISTICS, OVER THE 
YEARS TERRORISM HAS BATHED THE COUNTRY'S ECOLOGICAL 
RESERVES IN 650,000 BARRELS OF CRUDE.  TWO GUERRILLA 
ATTACKS JANUARY 23 AGAINST THE CANO-LIMON PIPELINE IN 
NORTE DE SANTANDER DEPARTMENT SPILLED 15,000 BARRELS OF 
CRUDE, POLLUTING TWO RIVERS THAT PROVIDE WATER FOR 
IRRIGATION IN THE REGION (BOGOTA 1229).  THE ELN, WHO 
HISTORICALLY HAS BEEN THE GROUP TARGETING PIPELINES, HAS 
A RECORD OF ECOLOGICAL TERRORISM, HAVING RESORTED TO 
POISONING CREEKS TO KILL FISH AND TORCHING FORESTS. 
 
FARC AND ELN -- PARTNERS IN CRIME 
--------------------------------- 
9. (C) THERE IS CONSIDERABLE EVIDENCE OF INCREASED 
FARC/ELN COOPERATION.  THOUGH THE TWO HAVE LONG BEEN 
SUPPOSEDLY UNITED UNDER THE SIMON BOLIVAR GUERRILLA 
COORDINATOR UMBRELLA, THERE WAS LITTLE REAL COORDINATED 
FIELD ACTIVITY.  THAT IS NOW CHANGING, THOUGH THE ELN 
MAY HAVE CREDITED THE FARC WITH SOME OF ITS OWN 
ASSAULTS, IN AN ATTEMPT TO CREATE THE APPEARANCE OF A 
POTENT FARC PRESENCE IN AREAS WHERE THE FARC HAD BEEN 
UNABLE TO MOUNT ATTACKS.  SOME ELN ASSAULTS ON THE 
CANO-LIMON PIPELINE WERE CLAIMED ON BEHALF OF THE FARC. 
 
ATTACKS FOLLOW A PATTERN 
------------------------ 
10. (C) THERE HAS BEEN A PATTERN TO THE TACTICS USED BY 
THE GUERRILLAS.  GENERALLY, ATTACKS HAVE BEEN 
PERPETRATED BY SMALL GROUPS -- SOMETIMES AS SMALL AS 
FOUR GUERRILLAS.  THE GUERRILLAS HAVE STAGED LOW-RISK, 
HIT-AND-RUN ATTACKS, MAKING MAXIMUM USE OF SURPRISE, 
AMBUSHING POLICE OR ARMY PATROLS OR SABOTAGING THE 
ECONOMIC INFRASTRUCTURE.  THE TERRORIST ATTACKS, 
ALTHOUGH AT TIMES AIMED AT PRE-DETERMINED OBJECTIVES, 
BECAME INCREASINGLY INDISCRIMINATE. 
 
COMMENT: 
-------- 
11. (C) THE GUERRILLAS' STRATEGY HAS BEEN TO DEMONSTRATE 
THAT THEY ARE NOT DEFEATED MILITARILY.  THERE IS 
CONSIDERABLE SPECULATION THAT THE FARC WANTS TO LAY DOWN 
ITS ARMS AND IS TRYING TO BETTER ITS NEGOTIATING 
POSITION BY HITTING THE GOVERNMENT WHERE IT HURTS--IN 
THE POCKETBOOKS OF THOSE WHO EARN FOREIGN EXCHANGE.  THE 
OFFENSIVE INDICATES THAT THE FARC AND ELN, UNLIKE THE 
M-19 WHEN IT LAID DOWN ARMS, ARE NOT YET BEATEN.  THE 
FARC MAY NOT BE ABLE TO HIT THE HARD MILITARY TARGETS IT 
HIT A FEW YEARS AGO OR IT MAY BE THAT IT DOES NOT WANT 
TO.  IT DOES, HOWEVER, PACK A MILITARY PUNCH THAT THE 
COLOMBIAN SECURITY FORCES ARE INCAPABLE OF CHECKING.  IF 
THE INSURGENTS CAN SUSTAIN THEIR JANUARY LEVEL OF 
VIOLENCE OVER THE COMING MONTHS, THE COUNTRY MAY FIND 
ITSELF IN SERIOUS ECONOMIC STRAITS.  END COMMENT. 
 
 
MCNAMARA 

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