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Colombian soldiers go crazy

Colombian soldiers go crazy

Over-stressed government troops increasingly go insane and kill each other or themselves. The fighting spirit and morale of Bogota’s soldiers seem at an all-time low after a series of defeats against the guerrillas.

[Maria Engqvist, ANNCOL] On a December night in Bogota, an officer of the special unit assigned to protect President Uribe threw an acid liquid over the faces of two sleeping soldiers under his command. When interrogated about the reason for the attack, the officer of the Presidential Guard was unable to explain, but said it was all a mistake.

Only last week a soldier of the Boyaca Batallion based in the city of Pasto took an assault rifle and gunned down a group of his fellow soldiers, killing five and wounding five more. Also in recent days, a colonel from one of the regime’s most strategic important units in the oil-rich and rebel dominated department of Arauca.

Government-friendly weekly magazine Semana asks if these acts are part of an “epidemia” of mental sickness among the government troops who have suffered significant losses against guerilla forces since the Army last year in a campaign led by US military advisors launched a campaign to take the war to the guerillas’ turf.

The campaign known as the “Patriot Plan” consists of deploying tens of thousands of troops in traditionally rebel held territory, mainly in the southern and eastern departments of Meta, Caqueta and Guaviare. Operating with the US and regular government troops are large number of death squads, targeting civilians in the area.

The latest set-back for the government troops came on January 12 and 13, when a guerrilla force consisting of 12 companies of fighters from the FARC’s Eastern Bloc attacked units of the government’s paramilitaries based in and around the villages of Puerto Lleras and Puerto Rico in Caqueta department. 70 paramilitaries were killed and 42 were wounded, rebel sources say. Five guerrillas were also killed during the fighting.

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