Colombian President Santos vows firm assault on FARC
BOGOTA - The Associated Press
Colombia’s President Santos (C) vows full-bore assault after FARC kills 19. REUTERS photoPresident Juan Manuel Santos promised decisive retaliation on July 21 after Colombia’s main militant band killed 19 soldiers in a single day in the biggest blow to the military since peace talks began in November.
Santos traveled to Arauca state on the Venezuelan border, where 15 members of an army battalion that guards oil facilities were killed in an ambush a day before. The other four soldiers killed in combat July 20 died in the town of Doncello in the southern state of Caqueta, a traditional stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The attacks fell on Colombia’s independence day. The militants had sought a cease-fire when peace talks launched in Havana in November but Santos refused. From 1999 to 2002, the government granted the FARC a Switzerland-sized safe haven in the country’s south for peace talks that failed.
Santos on July 21 ordered the military high command to put “the entire machinery’” of war into motion against the FARC. “Just as we have extended our hand and are in negotiations, so do we have a big stick. We have decisive military force and will apply it,” he said. Both sides say they have reached a preliminary agreement on land reform. But they also say nothing is settled until everything on the six-point agenda is agreed upon.