No talks with guerrillas while violence continues: Colombia

By Dialogo
August 18, 2010

Colombia on August 15 rejected an offer for talks with the country’s
most powerful guerrilla group, saying there could never be dialogue with rebels
engaged in “terrorism.”

“Colombia will never talk with terrorists; that is a lesson we have
already learned,” said Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera in an interview with
Bogota’s daily El Espectador.

“There is no dialogue with those who turn to terrorism,” Rivera

In a videotaped message released a week before President Juan Manuel Santos
took office on August 7, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader
Alfonso Cano offered to open peace talks with the new government.

In a separate interview with RCN radio network, Rivera said that government
forces knew where Cano is hiding. He is “fleeing from the security forces. He
has no rest… we are not going to let up,” Rivera said.

After taking office Santos said he would not close the door to talks, but
they would have to be “based on the unalterable premise that (the guerrillas)
give up arms, kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and

The FARC has an estimated 8,000 fighters. Another leftist guerrilla group,
the National Liberation Army, is believed to have some 2,000 combatants.

A car bomb exploded in Bogota on August 12, wounding seven people and
damaging hundreds of buildings. As of August 15 however the government was unwilling
to assign blame for the blast.

Colombia has been beset for years by violence involving leftist guerrillas,
right-wing paramilitary death squads, and powerful drug cartels.

Santos said on August 13 that he did not believe the conditions were ripe for
talks with the guerrillas, and ordered Rivera to press ahead with an offensive
against them.

As defense minister, Rivera is in charge of both the armed forces and the
national police.