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Cablegate: Farc Threats Cause Entire Town to Flee

O 021917Z AUG 02
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0127
INFO AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
AMEMBASSY CARACAS
AMEMBASSY LIMA
AMEMBASSY PANAMA
AMEMBASSY QUITO
JOINT STAFF WASHDC
NSC WASHDC
SECDEF WASHDC
USCINCSO MIAMI FL
ONDCP WASHDC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 006886

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER PHUM PREF CO
SUBJECT: FARC THREATS CAUSE ENTIRE TOWN TO FLEE

1. VIRTUALLY ALL OF THE INHABITANTS OF PUERTO ALVIRA, META
DEPARTMENT, HAVE FLED BECAUSE OF THREATENED GUERRILLA
ACTIONS. PUERTO ALVIRA IS ON THE BORDER BETWEEN META AND
GUAVIARE DEPARTMENTS, IN SOUTHEASTERN COLOMBIA, NEAR THE
EASTERN BORDER OF THE FORMER DEMILITARIZED ZONE. IN
MID-JULY, AND AGAIN AT THE END OF LAST WEEK, THE 44TH FRONT
OF THE FARC TOLD PUERTO ALVIRA RESIDENTS THAT PARAMILITARIES
WERE MOVING INTO THE AREA, AND THAT FIGHTING IN PUERTO ALVIRA
BETWEEN THE FARC AND PARAMILITARIES WAS IMMINENT. THE FARC
THEN ORDERED THE INHABITANTS TO LEAVE OR BE KILLED, ACCORDING
TO A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED
CROSS (ICRC), WHICH IS SENDING PERSONNEL TO THE AREA TO
INVESTIGATE. WHEN COLOMBIAN ARMY TROOPS ARRIVED ON MONDAY,
THEY DISCOVERED THAT ALL BUT FIVE FAMILIES HAD ABANDONED
PUERTO ALVIRA. BOTH THE 39TH AND 44TH FRONTS OF THE FARC
OPERATE IN THE AREA.

2. MEDIA REPORTS VARY WIDELY AS TO THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
AFFECTED, FROM A LOW OF 500 TO A HIGH OF 5,000. THE ICRC
REPRESENTATIVE TOLD POLOFF THAT 5,000 IS DEFINITELY AN
EXAGGERATION. BASED ON INFORMATION FROM CHURCH AND LOCAL
OFFICIALS, THE REPRESENTIVE ESTIMATES THAT ROUGHLY 2,000
PEOPLE FLED. THE LOCAL OFFICE OF COLOMBIA'S HUMAN RIGHTS
OMBUDSMAN AGREED, TELLING POLOFF THE NUMBER CANNOT BE HIGHER
THAN 2,500 AT MOST. APPROXIMATELY HALF WENT TO
VILLAVICENCIO, CAPITAL OF META DEPARTMENT, WHILE ANOTHER 500
OR SO FLED EAST TO MOCUARE, A NEIGHBORING TOWN THAT -- LIKE
PUERTO ALVIRA -- HAS NO POLICE PRESENCE. THE WHEREABOUTS OF
THE OTHER 500 OR SO PEOPLE IS A MYSTERY. NEWSPAPER EL TIEMPO
REPORTS THAT THE FARC KIDNAPPED AT LEAST 35 YOUTH, STATING
THE YOUTH ARE NOW GUERRILLAS. AN INFORMED GOVERNMENT
OFFICIAL TOLD POLOFF THAT HE BELIEVES THE FARC ARE HOLDING
CAPTIVE MANY MORE PEOPLE. AID AGENCIES ARE RUSHING TO
PROVIDE FOOD AND WARM CLOTHING TO THE DISPLACED.

3. PUERTO ALVIRA LIES ALONG A KEY DRUG TRANSIT ROUTE, IN A
REGION WITH A LONG HISTORY OF FARC-PARAMILITARY CONFLICT. ON
MAY 4, 1998, PARAMILITARIES MASSACRED 19 PEOPLE IN PUERTO
ALVIRA. SIMILARLY, NEARBY MAPIRIPAN WAS THE SITE OF AN AUC
MASSACRE IN 1997. ALSO, IN APRIL OF THIS YEAR, THE FARC
DEMANDED THAT THE PEOPLE OF MAPIRIPAN ABANDON THE TOWN. WITH
THE HELP OF GOVERNMENT AND CHURCH OFFICIALS, THE CITIZENS OF
MAPIRIPAN TOOK SHELTER FOR FOUR DAYS ON NEARBY RANCHES, UNTIL
ARMY TROOPS ARRIVED IN MAPIRIPAN.


PATTERSON

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