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Colombian forces kill 33 FARC guerrillas

The Americas Post - Latest score in Arauca stands at FARC 11, Colombian Army 33

A Colombian army attack against a FARC camp has left 33 guerrillas dead in an oil region bordering Venezuela, the sharpest blow struck by security forces against the rebel group in the last year, that government said Wednesday.

The offensive against a column of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took place  in the northeast department of Arauca, the same region where guerrillas killed 11 army troops on Saturday.

“Great blow against the FARC in Arauca. Congratulations to our forces,” the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, said in his Twitter account.

The operation was performed by Chiron Task Force as part of the redesigned war strategy targeting the main military and economic branches of the FARC, without neglecting the capture or death of the main rebel leaders.

“This operation is part of this new approach we have been developing for several weeks as part of what is known as War Plan Sword of Honor, which is looking for units that have caused the most damage to the country, specific areas of Colombia”, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón stated.

In the same operation the army, with support from the Air Force, captured five rebels including Vicente Juan Carvajal, sought for extradition to the United States on drug charges, he said.

General Ernesto Maldonado, commander of the Eighth Army Division, added that “This is the biggest blow we have given to the FARC this year.”

Considered a terrorist organization by U.S. and European Union, FARC has stepped up attacks in recent weeks, as part of a strategy to demonstrate its military power, according to analysts.

Although the rebel group has been weakened by a military offensive supported by the United States, where major commanders have been killed while thousands of soldiers have deserted, it still has the ability to carry out high-impact attacks in regions such as Arauca.

The Colombian government has ruled out the possibility of peace talks to end the internal conflict of almost five decades until the rebels release all hostages, suspend their attacks and declare their willingness to disarm.

But the guerrilla group, which in late February announced the suspension of economic kidnapping, has rejected those demands as a surrender, dashing hopes for a prompt negotiated solution to the war.

However, Santos reiterated that he is interested in pursuing peace by either path, implementing a policy of “carrot and stick”.

“I am determined to get to that much needed peace, we need in our country, and as I said by hook or by crook, whatever way we need effective action by our forces,” the president stated.

“So the orders were very clear. Go ahead, persevere, persevere and persevere, remain vigilant, move forward with a rifle in one hand and the Constitution on the other hand,” he said.

The blow to the FARC came as the rebel group was expected to release 10 members of the Army and Police held hostage for over a decade.

Former Senator Piedad Cordoba had said that the release process would begin next Monday with diplomatic facilitation by Brazil.  Whether that will still occur remains in doubt.