wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy Privacy
Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BOGOTA12022
2005-12-30 16:07:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bogota
Cable title:  

FARC ATTACK KILLS 29; MILITARY CONCEDES ERRORS

Tags:   PGOV  PTER  MARR  CO 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #2022/01 3641607
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301607Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0893
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 6962
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC 7552
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 3040
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 3638
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 3391
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 012022 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/29/2105
TAGS: PGOV PTER MARR CO
SUBJECT: FARC ATTACK KILLS 29; MILITARY CONCEDES ERRORS

REF: BOGOTA 11862

Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)

-------
Summary
-------



1. (C) The FARC killed 29 Colombian soldiers from the
counter-guerrilla 12th Mobile Brigade in a December 27 attack
about 105 miles south of Bogota, one of the highest casualty
figures in a single attack during President Uribe's term.
Colombian intelligence officials suggest the 12th Mobile
Brigade may have made "serious tactical errors" that caused
the high casualty figures. The Colombian military had good
intelligence on FARC movements, but apparently did not take
standard precautions. The FARC, on the other hand, also had
good intelligence and executed its attack efficiently. A
respected think tank reported that FARC attacks in 2005 are
actually down over 2004 figures, but attacks in recent months
have pushed 2005 casualty numbers to about 300, significantly
higher than 2004's 212 figure. Intelligence officials said
the FARC likely wanted to send a message to Uribe that it
would fight for what it regarded as important (its drug
growing haven) and to the Colombian people that Uribe's
democratic security approach was failing. Uribe promised
December 28 to take the fight to the FARC and to eradicate
manually every last leaf of coca that the FARC had sown in a
national park close to the area of the attack. End summary.



--------------------------


FARC Attack Kills 29


--------------------------





2. (C) A FARC attack about 105 miles south of Bogota near
the village of Vista Hermosa, Meta Department, lasted about
three hours on December 27 and resulted in the deaths of 29
of an 80-strong Colombian military counter-guerrilla unit
assigned to protect manual eradication teams. The area is a
longtime FARC stronghold that formed part of President
Pastrana's "despeje" (the zone that became a FARC "province")
and remains a key FARC narcotics growing region. According
to members of the Colombian Joint Intelligence Center,
elements of the FARC's 40th, 27th, and 7th fronts (Eastern
Bloc, at least 220 guerrillas) launched the attack on
elements of the Colombian Army 12th Mobile Brigade at about


0430. The Colombian military reported five FARC casualties.
A senior Colombian Intelligence Officer told DAO there had
been some indications prior to the attack of FARC "massing"
in the area. The commander of the armed forces said in a
December 29 radio interview that the 12th Mobile Brigade was
in the area precisely because of such reports. He said a
captain moved with elements of the 12th Mobile Brigade
towards the sound of shots on the 27th, intending to protect
the civilian population from what he thought was a FARC
attack on them. When the captain and his men arrived at the
location from where the shots came, they realized that the

shots had most likely lured them to the area and that they
were close to a minefield and severely outnumbered. Initial
accounts are that the FARC attacked with cylinder bombs and
.50 caliber machine guns. The FARC attack stopped at
approximately 0730 upon the arrival of Colombian air force
support.



3. (C) A senior Colombian army intelligence official said on
December 29 the 12th Mobile Brigade made "serious tactical
errors" that contributed to the high casualty numbers.
According to the official, the FARC had good intelligence on
the movements of the Brigade because the area is replete with
FARC militia. The official acknowledged that the military
had good intelligence on FARC intentions, but could not
explain why it was apparently not acted upon.



--------------------------


Attack Ranks with Worst in Uribe Presidency


--------------------------





4. (C) Analysts have characterized the 29 deaths as the
worst single attack on the military since Uribe assumed
office in May 2002. According to the respected think tank,
Security and Democracy Foundation, FARC attacks in 2005
totaled 342, a 12 percent decrease over 2004 figures. The
latest FARC attacks push 2005 casualties to about 300,
significantly above 2004's 212 victims. The most recent
attack prior to December 27 was on December 17, when FARC and
ELN guerrillas killed eight auxiliary police officers in San
Marino, Choco Department, and took 29 hostages, who were
later released unharmed (reftel).



--------------------------


Uribe Announces Measures


--------------------------





5. (C) Following a GOC National Security Council meeting on
December 28, Uribe said he would concentrate all 60 manual
eradication teams by January 20 in the Macarena National
Park, close to the site of the FARC massacre, to eradicate
the park's approximately 4,000 hectares of FARC coca fields.
Uribe has assigned the Colombian National Police the task of
providing security for what will be almost 2,000 manual
eradicators, while the military will be coordinating
counter-guerrilla operations. Uribe said the areas
surrounding Vista Hermosa were FARC sanctuaries and the GOC
would go after FARC militia members operating there, and
promised to accelerate the delivery of pension and other
benefits to victims' families. The president noted that the
GOC had manually eradicated 31,000 hectares of coca fields in
2005 and cleared 3,650 coca pickers from the area surrounding
Macarena. He announced a "reinforced" reward system designed
to obtain information leading to the arrest of the
perpetrators.



6. (C) Uribe said the FARC had "totally violated" Colombia's
national parks by sowing coca. He said the GOC had accepted
an international commission proposal to establish a security
zone to conduct GOC-FARC talks on a humanitarian exchange of
hostages, but the FARC's ("miserable terrorists financed by
narcotics trafficking") only response has been violence.



--------------------------


Military Reaction


--------------------------





7. (C) The military's reaction thus far has been calm, but
concerned (septel will provide a broader analysis of the
military balance at the end of 2005). Intelligence officials
told us they expect brigade commanders to be instructed to
pay closer attention to intelligence reports and to reinforce
the importance of following established counter-guerrilla
procedures in the field and not letting down the guard during
holiday breaks. Further military reaction will depend to a
large extent on how Uribe handles the matter; public
criticism of military failings would lower morale, they said.



--------------------------


Political Intentions


--------------------------





8. (C) Intelligence officials suggest the FARC wanted to
send a message to the Colombian people as they approach an
election year: we are not defeated and can still strike close
to Bogota. They also said the FARC wanted to reinforce that
it will fight hard for what it regards as important; it
believes the area of the attack is its territory, which
perhaps motivated the attack, since the GOC was recently
manually eradicating in the area.


--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





9. (C) President Uribe has chewed out all military and
police commanders. We are concerned that the augmentation of
manual eradication efforts in the Macarena will put personnel
at risk of attack and landmines, will divert already
stretched police assets to protect them, and will also divert
scarce logistics resources. We have offered to spray in the
Macarena in lieu of manual eradication and are awaiting a
response.

WOOD