Bogotà bomb blast: who is to blame?

A bomb targeting an unbending former interior minister killed 2 and injured at least 54 people in Bogotá. Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are being accused by many. The guerrilla group recently manifested interest in ending the country’s civil war, so why murder Fernando Londoño? Just how likely are negotiations with the government and the announcement by the FARC to reopen peace talks a possibility?

A bomb targeting an unbending former interior minister killed 2 and injured at least 54 people in Bogotá. Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are being accused by many. The guerrilla group recently manifested interest in ending the country’s civil war, why murder Fernando Londoño? Just how likely are negotiations with the government and the announcement by the FARC to reopen peace talks a possibility?

In the heart of Bogota’s commercial district a bomb blasted just before midday on the 15th of May. Police said an unidentified attacker attached an explosive device to the SUV of the former interior minister. His driver and a bodyguard were killed but the target, Fernando Londoño, 68, was not seriously injured.

“The city was eerily calm last night. The usually busy rush hour traffic dissipated quickly with Bogotanos getting home early and avoiding busy spaces. After the explosion people avoided walking the streets and office workers had little else on their minds except looking at the continuing news coverage on local television channels,” Richard Emblin editor of The City Paper monthly publication told MO*.

A bomb explodes, old memories echoing on the streets of Bogotà; distant times during which bombings were almost part of everyday life. But if in the 1990s there were no doubts on the identity of the perpetrators, this time the faces behind the attack are still unidentified.

Suspects

The head of Bogotà’s police General Luis Eduardo Martinez points the finger against the FARC. Former Interior Minister Fernando Londoño highly critical of the rebels and against peace talks, has been subject to several threats from Colombia’s guerrilla group, and the link may seem obvious. The terrorists however remain nameless with Juan Carlon Pinzòn and President Juan Manuel Santos condemning the deliberate fatal action but not blaming the FARC. “We do not know who is behind the attacks”, President Santos affirmed.

The mechanism used in the attack against Londoño put back on the table the alleged links between the Spanish ETA and the FARC. The lapa bomb detonated on Tuesday has traditionally been used by the ETA terrorist group which on the 16th of May was seeking a political solution with President Mariano Rajoy. Spain’s government has rejected calls to negotiate with the leadership of the Basque terrorist group saying the group must disarm and disband before official talks can proceed.

Details about the suspected relationship between ETA and FARC appeared in 2010, when judge Eloy Velasco of the National Court of Spain, presented an indictment against both ETA and FARC members. Evidences found in computers of captured members of the Basque terrorist group revealed that there have been contacts between the guerrilla and terrorist group since 1993.

According to Maria Isabel Ruedo of the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo another possible scenario is that the terrorist attack has been carried out by the extreme-right to blame the FARC, producing a political domino effect that would sabotage negotiations between the guerrilla group and the government and that would discredit the management of public order by President Santos.

Under former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and current President Santos, the FARC has been depleted in numbers and resources. Colombian military operations such as ‘Operation Jaque’ (Operación Jaque) resulted in the freedom of 15 hostages held by the FARC, including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Last year the Colombian military ‘Operation Odysseus’ killed FARC leader Alfonso Cano. Peace talks between the rebel group and the government remain shadowed by difficulties, but recent improvements gave hope to Colombians.

If the FARC are blameworthy for the explosion will peace talks downgrade? Is this an ulterior provocation or a way to shut the mouth to those who are against negotiating? Does this mean that fringes of the revolutionary guerrilla are out of control, indomitable even by its own leaders?

United Stated-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Hours before the deadly incident an explosive device in a parked car near Bogotà’s police headquarters was defused while the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) (Tratado de Libre Comercio entre Colombia y Estados Unidos (TLC) went into effect, six years after the signing.

The initial feelings that related the bomb blast to the CTPA have been almost immediately refuted. The bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia will eliminate tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods and services between the two countries but it nevertheless created discontent among a slice of the population who fears a potential invasion by US goods.

The feeling is that the agreement is unbalanced and that it favours the United States rather than Colombia, some arguing that this is a way to payback the US for their military aid to fight against terrorism, Narcos and rebel groups.

While the US-Colombia free trade agreement is already effective, the EU is still in the process of ratification. If some firmly push for it, others such as MEP Willy Meyer member of the Delegation for relations with the countries of the Andean Community affirm “the EU-Colombia free trade agreement cannot go ahead if basic human rights standards are not being met”. In contrast, Colombian Vice-President Angelino Garzòn advocates for the Free Trade Agreement with Europe as the best way forward in protecting human rights.

Now more than ever, human rights and security are burning issues in Colombia. Are trade agreements an ulterior instrument for the Colombian government to improve the situation in terms of human rights, or a ‘prize’ accorded only if human rights standards are being met?

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