Colombian president warns FARC against violence
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has warned the country's leftist rebels against resuming violent guerrilla operations, saying the army and police were ready to respond to their attacks.
The warning came as a unilateral ceasefire announced by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November to facilitate peace talks with the government was set to expire on Sunday.
"We have to tell the Colombian people that we are ready for this," Santos declared Saturday, speaking in the town of Padilla, in the southeast of the country.
"Terrorist acts are cowardly acts because they don't fight against soldiers or members of the police force," he continued. "They inflict damage on civil society."
The president said Colombian security forces had already detected what he described as "some attempts to perpetrate acts of terrorism."
And he urged the FARC to refrain from new operations, saying "they know perfectly well what they need to do after Sunday."
On Friday, the police announced they had foiled a plot by the FARC to bomb police and military facilities in the capital Bogota after the end of the truce.
Officials said a raid in the town of La Palma, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Bogota, had uncovered 250 kilograms of explosives, a detonating cord and six grenades, National Police Director Jose Leon said.
Police also found blueprints of two police academies and an army-training facility in Bogota they believe were the intended targets.
Leon said the FARC was behind these preparations.
"According to intelligence reports, they have been strengthening their capabilities during this truce they declared," he said.
The FARC has said it is willing to extend the truce past Sunday if the Colombian government enters into a mutual ceasefire accord, but Bogota has until now refused, fearing the rebels will use the calm to prepare for more fighting.
President Santos said last Monday that the guerrilla group had only partially fulfilled its ceasefire pledge.
According to the military, it has registered at least 52 violations of the truce by the rebels over the past two months. At the same time, New Rainbow Corporation, a Colombian think tank dedicated to studying the guerrilla conflict, reported at least nine battles initiated by the rebels since the beginning of the truce.
Both government and private specialist noted, however, a significant decrease in the overall levels of violence compared to the same period a year ago.
The negotiations between government and FARC officials resumed in Havana earlier this month after a three-week holiday break with both sides vowing to quicken the pace of the talks in hopes of ending Latin America's last remaining armed conflict.
The head of the Marxist guerrilla group's delegation, Ivan Marquez, has called on the government to "cease the warmongering rhetoric that accompanies false promises to resolve social problems."
The government, meanwhile, has continued to target the rebels, accusing the guerrillas of continuing to attack civilians and soldiers.
The FARC took up arms in 1964 to protest the concentration of land ownership in the country, but a string of military defeats in recent years has cut its ranks to 8,000 -- half of what it was in the late 1990s.
The conflict has left 600,000 dead and displaced four million since 1964.