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DATE=7/20/99 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-43920 TITLE=COLOMBIA / SAN VICENTE BYLINE=MICHAEL BOWMAN DATELINE=MIAMI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: ON SUNDAY, COLOMBIAN REBELS ENDED AN EIGHT-MONTH OCCUPATION OF A REMOTE TOWN 250 KILOMETERS SOUTH OF BOGOTA. THE PULLOUT CAME ONE DAY AFTER PEACE TALKS WERE POSTPONED BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES OF COLOMBIA, OR FARC. V-O-A'S MICHAEL BOWMAN WITNESSED FARC OPERATIONS IN THE SMALL MUNICIPALITY AND HAS THIS REPORT FROM MIAMI. TEXT: SAN VICENTE DEL CAUGUAN (PRON: CAWG-WAHN') LIES WITHIN A VAST STRETCH OF RURAL TERRITORY THE ARMY ABANDONED IN LATE NOVEMBER TO SATISFY A FARC PRE-CONDITION FOR INITIATING THE PEACE PROCESS. ALTHOUGH THE REBELS PULLED OUT OF SAN VICENTE IN RECENT DAYS, THEY REMAIN IN CONTROL OF THE LARGER DEMILITARIZED ZONE, WHICH COVERS A REGION ROUGHLY THE SIZE OF SWITZERLAND. FOR EIGHT MONTHS, THE FARC HAS REIGNED SUPREME IN SAN VICENTE, TAKING CHARGE OF PUBLIC ORDER, THE LOCAL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE, AND OTHER FUNCTIONS. THE REBELS GET MIXED REVIEWS FROM RESIDENTS. ON THE POSITIVE SIDE, MOST PEOPLE PRAISE THEM FOR CLEANING UP WHAT WAS ONCE A DANGEROUS TOWN. AN ELDERLY JEWELER NAMED GONZALO PENA (PRON: PANE'-YA) SAYS NO ONE DARES COMMIT A CRIME WHEN THE GUERRILLAS ARE PRESENT. /// PENA ACT IN SPANISH - FADE UNDER TEXT /// MR. PENA SAYS, SINCE THE FARC ARRIVED, THERE HAVE BEEN NO ACTS OF CRIMINAL VIOLENCE. HE SAYS THE REBELS HAVE WATCHED THE TOWN CAREFULLY, AND THAT ROBBERY HAS DISAPPEARED. BUT IF THE GUERRILLAS HAVE ALLEVIATED FEAR OF CRIME, THEY HAVE SOWN NEW FEARS. SINCE TAKING CONTROL OF THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE, THEY HAVE SEIZED DOZENS OF SUSPECTED OPPONENTS - ELEVEN OF WHOM ARE REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN PUT TO DEATH. MANY RESIDENTS HAVE FLED. THOSE WHO REMAIN SAY THEY ARE CAREFUL NOT TO OFFEND THE FARC, AND KEEP THEIR CHILDREN AT HOME IN THE EVENINGS. AS ONE 16-YEAR-OLD BOY COMMENTED, IN HIS WORDS, 'IT'S BEEN HARDER FOR ME TO SEE MY GIRLFRIEND SINCE THE REBELS CAME TO TOWN.' FARC PATROLS - COMPRISED MOSTLY OF YOUNG, HEAVILY-ARMED RECRUITS - CONTINUE TO CIRCULATE IN THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE. /// BEGIN OPT /// SILVIA MORENO, WHO WORKS IN A COFFEE SHOP IN SAN VICENTE, SAYS THE PROFUSION OF GUNS MAKES HER EXTREMELY NERVOUS. // FIRST MORENO ACT IN SPANISH - FADE UNDER TEXT // MS. MORENO SAYS SHE IS GRIPPED WITH TERROR WHENEVER SHE SEES A WEAPON. SHE SAYS SHE BELIEVES SHE WOULD DIE OF FEAR IF A GUN WERE EVER POINTED AT HER. /// END OPT /// THE MAYOR OF SAN VICENTE, OMAR GARCIA, SAYS THE FARC HAS REPLACED ONE FORM OF TYRANNY WITH ANOTHER. // FIRST GARCIA ACT IN SPANISH - FADE UNDER TEXT // HE SAYS THE PEOPLE WANT A BETTER FORM OF JUSTICE, BUT NOT THE KIND THAT THE FARC PRACTICES. THE MAYOR SAYS THE PEOPLE WANT LIBERTY, NOT A RIFLE IN THEIR RIBS. IN ADDITION TO PATROLLING THE STREETS, THE REBELS HAVE EMBARKED ON PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS TO BUILD ROADS, IMPROVE HOUSING AND PROVIDE BASIC NUTRITION FOR THE HUNGRY. THE GUERRILLAS HAVE HELD TOWN MEETINGS WITH RESIDENTS TO UNDERSTAND THEIR NEEDS AND DESIRES. MAYOR GARCIA SAYS, ON THE WHOLE, THE CONSULTATIONS HAVE BEEN WORTHWHILE. /// SECOND GARCIA ACT IN SPANISH - FADE UNDER TEXT /// MR. GARCIA SAYS THE REBELS ARE RESPECTFUL AND OPEN TO DIALOGUE - AND THAT THEY ACCEPT MANY SUGGESTIONS THAT ARE MADE TO THEM. SOME OBSERVERS IN COLOMBIA SAY THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE HAS SERVED AS A SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LABORATORY WHERE THE FARC CAN PUT THEIR LEFTIST THEORIES INTO PRACTICE. SAN VICENTE'S ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MIGUEL ANGEL SERNA, SAYS HE HOPES THE EXPERIENCE OF GOVERNING A PORTION OF THE COUNTRY WILL ONE DAY CHANGE THE REBELS. FATHER SERNA SAYS - IF THE FARC STARTS FOCUSING MORE ON SERVING THE PEOPLE AND LESS ON ARMED CONFLICT - THEN THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE WILL HAVE BEEN A WORTHWHILE EXPERIMENT. FOR NOW, HOWEVER, THE PRIEST SAYS THE REBELS ARE CLEARLY BENEFITTING FROM THE ZONE - SOMETIMES AT THE EXPENSE OF RESIDENTS. /// SERNA ACT IN SPANISH - FADE UNDER TEXT /// FATHER SERNA SAYS THE DE-MILITARIZED ZONE HAS HELPED THE REBELS MORE THAN THE LOCAL PEOPLE. HE SAYS THE ZONE HAS SERVED AS A LABORATORY FOR THEIR POLITICAL IDEALS, AND HAS GIVEN THEM A VAST STRETCH OF TERRITORY FROM WHICH TO RECRUIT AND INDOCTRINATE NEW MEMBERS. HE SAYS MANY REBELS HAVE ALSO WIELDED THEIR AUTHORITY FOR THEIR OWN PERSONAL BENEFIT. IT IS NOT CLEAR WHY THE FARC PULLED OUT OF SAN VICENTE ON SUNDAY OR WHEN THE GUERRILLAS MIGHT RETURN. WITH PEACE TALKS POSTPONED, OBSERVERS SUGGEST THE REBELS MIGHT BE BRACING FOR A POSSIBLE ARMY INCURSION INTO THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE. ANOTHER POSSIBILITY IS THAT THE FARC IS MARSHALING ITS FORCES FOR ATTACKS ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. THE PEOPLE OF SAN VICENTE DESPERATELY WANT THE PEACE PROCESS TO SUCCEED. IF IT FAILS, AND THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE IS ERASED, MANY SAY THEY WILL ALMOST SURELY BE ACCUSED OF CONSPIRING WITH THE FARC AND SUBJECT TO RETRIBUTION BY THE ARMED FORCES AND PARAMILITARY GROUPS. /// REST OPT /// ALREADY, SOME RESIDENTS - LIKE COFFEE SHOP WORKER SILVIA MORENO - FEAR THE WORST. // SECOND MORENO ACT IN SPANISH - FADE UNDER TEXT // MS. MORENO SAYS SHE SEES NO PEACE PROCESS. SHE SAYS SHE BELIEVES COLOMBIA WILL NEVER HAVE PEACE. THE GUERRILLA VIOLENCE HAS CLAIMED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LIVES IN THE PAST FOUR DECADES. (SIGNED) NEB/MB/TVM/GM 20-Jul-99 3:38 PM EDT (1938 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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