BOGOTA — The killing this week of a provincial governor by suspected leftist rebels suggests that a seven-year effort to rein in the violence that has plagued Colombia for decades could be in peril.
The bold rebel raid -- about 250 miles south of the capital -- indicates that the effectiveness of President Alvaro Uribe's campaign to crush the rebel attacks with the use of government-paid informants, military air strikes and calls for desertion is waning.
``The FARC seem to be bouncing back,'' said León Valencia, director of the Nuevo Arco Iris (New Rainbow) think tank. ``The decline of the democratic security policy has begun.''
Striking at night, the rebels stormed the home of Gov. Luis Francisco Cuéllar, of Caqueta state, and snatched him from his bedroom in his pajamas this week. Hours later, the Colombian military found the 69-year-old governor facedown with his throat slit, surrounded by explosives on a rural hillside. Cuéllar's killers are suspected members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
SUCCESS SINCE 2002
For the first time since Uribe took power in 2002, there are signs of an uptick in homicides, rebel attacks and paramilitary activity, according to the year-end report on the state of Colombia's four-decade-old conflict with guerrillas done by the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris -- a left-leaning research center.
The policy, launched in 2002, earned domestic and international kudos for routing guerrillas from the most populated areas, getting paramilitary forces to stand down and restoring security to highways that served as traps for rebels who made a profitable business of kidnapping for ransom.
Once dubbed the kidnapping capital of the world, Colombia logged 172 abductions in the first 10 months of this year, compared with 3,029 in 2000.
But now FARC activities are on the rise. Valencia says his researchers have tallied 1,429 FARC actions through the end of October, a 30 percent increase from 2008.
Another think tank, the Foundation for Security and Democracy, which is considered close to the government, reported in its own year-end summary a 108 percent increase in FARC attacks in the first 10 months of 2009, with a 36 percent rise in deaths of government troops.
``Underestimating the capacity of the FARC to plan and carry out the kidnapping of high-level officials and other military operations is a crass error that the society cannot have the luxury to commit,'' Colombia's largest daily newspaper, El Tiempo, warned in its editorial Wednesday.
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