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Cablegate: Farc Putumayo Attack Kills 21 Soldiers

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

id: 35687
date: 6/30/2005 22:35
refid: 05BOGOTA6237
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: SECRET
destination: 05BOGOTA5802
header:
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


----------------- header ends ----------------

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BOGOTA 006237

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/01/2015
TAGS: PTER PGOV MOPS EC CO FARC
SUBJECT: FARC PUTUMAYO ATTACK KILLS 21 SOLDIERS

REF: BOGOTA 5802

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood; reasons 1.4
(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: On June 25, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) carried out their deadliest one-day attack
since President Uribe took office. The twelve simultaneous
strikes killed 21 and wounded 11 soldiers in southeastern
Putumayo Department. President Uribe, disturbed by the
high-profile FARC success, the intelligence failures, and the
COLMIL's inability to respond with adequate helicopter
support, traveled to Putumayo to personally oversee the
COLMIL's response. Saturday's attack was more politically
troubling than militarily significant, but is the most
successful offensive to date intended to decrease Uribe's
public support before next year's elections. The GOC is
working to reach out to the Ecuadorians to establish some
constructive cooperation mechanisms. End summary.

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FARC Coordinated Attack Successful
----------------------------------

2. (S) The FARC's 32nd and 48th Fronts attacked Colombian
Military (COLMIL) forces on June 25 in the deadliest
single-day attack since President Alvaro Uribe took office.
An estimated 250 to 300 FARC insurgents launched a
simultaneous twelve-point attack against Colombian Army
platoon-sized groups, police stations and petroleum
infrastructures in Putumayo Department killing 21 soldiers.
Guerrilla sources indicate that at least five FARC were
killed in the attack; COLMIL sources over 61 FARC killed. In
addition to hitting Teteye, Cohembi, San Miguel, Puerto Asis,
and Curiti military bases, the guerrillas hit the Curiquinga,
Pinuna, Quillacina, and Pola oil wells near the Caqueta
River.

3. (C) Uribe criticized the COLMIL for local and national
intelligence failures. He also complained that the COLMIL
was unable to respond quickly with helicopter response
because their air assets are limited (reftel). The Army's
6th Division postponed "Operation Jaguar," aimed at the
FARC,s 3rd Front in the Plan Patriota area of operation, to
reinforce the Putumayo outposts, and Colombian Air Force's
CACOM-6 provided air support over the weekend. A Special
Forces Battalion was also sent to pursue FARC forces in the
area.

Chilly Relations with Ecuador Grow Colder
-----------------------------------------

4. (C) After the attacks, the mayor of Puerto Asis, Putumayo
Department, Jorge Eliecer Coral, told influential daily El
Tiempo that the FARC had found safe haven in Ecuador and
mounted operations from there. President Uribe reportedly
authorized the COLMIL to conduct cross-border operations if
they could identify specific targets. While Ecuador has been
recognized as a rest and relaxation spot for FARC members,
this is the first time during Uribe's Administration that the
guerrillas have coordinated a cross-border offensive of this
scale.

5. (C) Ecuador's announcement of considering imposing visa
requirements against Colombians reinforced fears that the GOE
would passively accept the FARC presence on the border. In a
private meeting with the Ambassador on June 28, FM Carolina
Barco expressed her frustration with her Ecuadorian
counterpart, who had canceled bilateral meetings three times.
She emphasized that the GOC and GOE need to meet both to
avoid "media diplomacy" and to stabilize the bilateral
relationship. The Ambassador suggested that a MOD-to-MOD
meeting would be a good starting point. Barco replied that
she had been in contact with Colombian MOD Uribe (who is in
the U.S.) and encouraged him to reach out to his Ecuadorian
counterpart.

6. (C) On June 30, Colombian Commander of the Armed Forces
General Ospina met with Ecuadorian Viceadmiral Manuel Zapater
in Ecuador to discuss the military implications of the attack
and formulate strategies to respond to the ongoing guerrilla
presence in the area. President Uribe announced that he
might raise the attacks with President Palacio at the Banana
Summit, scheduled to take place on July 7 in Costa Rica. The
Ambassador also recommended to FM Barco that the GOC consider
raising this tension with President Zapatero during the
upcoming Colombian state visit since the GOS could be a
useful interlocutor with Ecuador.
Political Ramifications
-----------------------
7. (C) President Uribe and the military leaders traveled to
Putumayo on June 26 to review the damage and formulate the
COLMIL response. Uribe and the high command are planning to
dismiss several commanders in the affected area. Uribe also
claimed in a public statement that the attack was an attempt
to draw resources away from the Patriot Plan (Plan Patriota)
offensive. (Note: Plan Patriota, the largest offensive in
Colombian history, currently targets FARC across Caqueta,
Meta, and Guaviare departments.) While the offensive has
been successful, the concentration of forces in those
departments leaves several remote outposts with smaller
contingents of COLMIL forces.

8. (C) Comment: President Uribe is furious about the attacks
and has the COLMIL high commanders visiting attack sites and
scrambling to formulate the GOC response. In fact, so many
commanders have traveled to Putumayo that other COLMIL
operations have been without leadership since last weekend.
While military officials are chagrined by the public success
of the attack, Ecuador's cooperation will be necessary for
the GOC to be able to stem future border incursions. End
comment.
WOOD

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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