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DATE=7/12/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-251651 TITLE=COLOMBIA FIGHTING (L) BYLINE=STEVEN DUDLEY DATELINE=BOGOTA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: COLOMBIAN REBELS ARE CLAIMING THEY HAVE KILLED 68 GOVERNMENT ARMY SOLDIERS AND LOST 32 OF THEIR OWN TROOPS IN A WEEKEND OFFENSIVE. STEVEN DUDLEY IN BOGOTA REPORTS THE NUMBERS SHARPLY CONTRADICT THE ARMY'S CLAIM IT HAS KILLED MORE THAN 200 GUERRILLAS DURING THE FIGHTING. TEXT: THE GUERRILLA OFFENSIVE HAS TARGETED POLICE STATIONS, BANKS AND BRIDGES IN 24 DIFFERENT TOWNS THROUGHOUT COLOMBIA. SINCE THE FIGHTING BEGAN ON FRIDAY, BOTH THE ARMY AND THE REBELS FROM THE COUNTRY'S LARGEST GUERRILLA GROUP, THE FARC, (THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES OF COLOMBIA), HAVE DONE THEIR BEST TO CONVINCE THE PUBLIC THAT THEY HAVE KILLED MORE THAN THE OTHER SIDE. THE COLOMBIAN ARMY IS GOING SO FAR AS TO CARRY MEMBERS OF THE LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIA TO BATTLE SITES TO SHOW THEM THE GUERRILLA CORPSES. ON SATURDAY, THE GOVERNMENT IMPOSED A CURFEW ON ONE-THIRD OF THE COUNTRY LEAVING SOME TO QUESTION THE ARMY'S CLAIM THAT THEY HAVE THE SITUATION UNDER CONTROL. THE POSTURING COMES AS THE TWO SIDES PREPARE FOR ANOTHER ROUND OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS ON JULY 20TH. THE GUERRILLAS HAVE WAGED A 40-YEAR CIVIL WAR AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT. BUT IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS THEY HAVE BECOME INCREASINGLY AGGRESSIVE AND ARE CURRENTLY HOLDING CLOSE TO 400 ARMY SOLDIERS HOSTAGE FROM PREVIOUS ATTACKS. THE TWO SIDES AGREED TO HOLD THE PEACE TALKS WITHOUT A CEASEFIRE. BUT THE INCREASINGLY BRUTAL NATURE OF THE CONFLICT SEEMS TO BE TAKING ITS TOLL ON THE GUERRILLAS' IMAGE. 70 PERCENT OF THOSE POLLED BY A LOCAL NEWSPAPER SAID THE FARC WAS A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION. 61 PERCENT OF THOSE POLLED SAID FARC'S GOALS ARE STRICTLY ECONOMIC RATHER THAN POLITICAL. HOWEVER, COLOMBIAN HISTORIAN GONZALO SANCHEZ SAYS THE GUERRILLA'S MILITARY ACTIONS ARE FORCING PEOPLE TO ACCEPT THEM AS POLITICAL ACTORS. /// BEGIN SANCHEZ ACT. /// I THINK EVERYONE IS TAKING THINGS IN REALISTIC TERMS. THEY ARE REALLY A NEW POWER IN THIS COUNTRY. THEY CANNOT BE CONTROLLED IN PURELY MILITARY TERMS. SO THE ONLY WAY IS TO ACCEPT THEM AS THEY ARE, AS A NEW POLITCAL ACTOR. /// END SANCHEZ ACT /// THE GUERRILLA OFFENSIVE CONTINUED THROUGH SUNDAY AND BY ALL INDICATIONS THE FIGHTING WILL ONLY GET WORSE AS THE TWO SIDES APPROACH THE NEGOTIATING TABLE TO TALK PEACE ON JULY 20TH. (SIGNED) NEB/SD/PLM 12-Jul-99 3:13 AM EDT (0713 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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