Colombia: Santos Celebrates First Year In Office With New Strategy To Fight FARC
August 8, 2011 By Andrew OReilly
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos celebrated his first full year in office Sunday by vowing to set new strategies in the government’s decades-long war with left-wing guerrillas.
Speaking in Bogotá, Santos said that the government needs to improve its intelligence sharing operations and set-up smaller, more mobile groups to fight guerrillas and organized crime.
“I’ve ordered the defense ministry to revise the way the (army) controls territory, including our borders, to use our forces more efficiently and effectively,” Santos said. “We have to adjust our doctrine, our operations and our procedures to the way (the rebels) are operating.”
The Colombian military has been fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other guerrilla movements since the 1960s. Due to stepped-up military efforts and millions of dollars in funding from the United States, the Colombian government under former President Álvaro Uribe was able to successfully force the rebels into remote pockets of the country.
However in the lead-up to Colombia’s regional elections later this year, the FARC have been more active, recently kidnapping a mayoral candidate in the department of Meta. Also in June, the FARC kidnapped three Chinese oil workers in the southern Caqueta region and later in the month hit a checkpoint in the west, wounding two soldiers.
Santos said that because of the pressure from the Colombian military, the FARC are more likely to carry out small-scale attacks with big media impact and that civilians are more likely to be hurt.
“As the government we’ve got to be humble and fix whatever needs fixing, and that’s precisely what we’re doing.” Santos said of his new strategy.
In his first year as president, Santos has ridden a wave of popularity thanks in part to the continuing efforts to fight the guerrillas as well as economic advances that have won Colombia investment grade status from the three leading rating agencies. A recent poll showed that Santos enjoyed an 85 percent approval rating.
The country that was once one of the most violent nations on earth is now also seeing a slight dip in its overall homicide rate.
Colombia recorded a total of 17,459 homicides in 2010, which is a slight decrease from 2009, when the country’s primary forensic science institute, Medicina Legal, counted 17,717 murders. The statistics do show however that homicide rates in Colombia’s urban areas have risen, while they have declined in the countryside.
Photo: Globovisión @ Flickr.