|SLUG: 2-270172 cq-Colombia Rebels (L-only)||DATE:||NOTE NUMBER:|
TITLE=COLOMBIA REBELS (L-only)
/// EDS: RE-ISSUING TO FIX INTRO - REBELS
LEFT NEGOTIATIONS THREE WEEKS AGO (3 NOT 6) ///
INTRO: In Colombia, the government has chosen to keep open a huge demilitarized zone for another two-months to give left-wing guerrillas time to return to peace talks. Since the rebels walked away from negotiations three-weeks ago, many critics argue the demilitarized zone is simply giving the rebels a safe zone for holding kidnap victims and processing drugs. Rhoda Metcalfe reports from Bogota.
TEXT: The government's chief peace negotiator, Camilo Gomez, announced the decision that the government would keep the demilitarized zone open until January 31st. But he stressed there would be new measures to avoid abuse of the zone.
/// GOMEZ ACT IN SPANISH ///
Mr. Gomez said there will be extra controls on materials that come into the zone that could be used to process cocaine or other drugs. He said there would be increased surveillance of airplanes flying over the area.
The government also announced it would limit access to the zone for both foreigners and Colombians. The government pulled troops out of the demilitarized area two-years ago to create a safe area for peace negotiations with the guerrilla group known as - the FARC.
The rebels have full control of the region and critics they are using it as a safe zone and transportation corridor for moving troops, and holding kidnap victims and drug-processing materials.
The Colombian public is also losing patience with the peace process, especially since the guerrillas froze negotiations in October. Rebel leaders said they were protesting meetings between government officials and right-wing paramilitary leaders responsible for wide-spread massacres.
But many Colombians, including business leaders like Eduardo Jaramillo, believe the guerrillas have no interest in peace and the government should send troops back into the zone.
/// JARAMILLO ACT IN SPANISH. ///
Mr. Jaramillo told local journalists that up until now the zone has been used as nothing but a refuge from which the guerillas can commit crimes. Adding, there is no reason to keep it open.
But other local leaders applaud the government's decision. They argue this tight new deadline may force the FARC's hand - either to return to negotiations or face all-out war and the loss of any international sympathy they have gained for their cause. (SIGNED)