January 29, 2001
volume 12, no. 29

Colombian Bishop Demands Government Recover Region from Rebels

    BOGOTA, Jan. 26, 01 ( - Bishop Nel Beltran of Sincelejo, has strongly demanded the government of Colombian President Andres Pastrana recover the "demilitarized zone" placed under the administration of a Marxist rebel group since 1999 as part of a peace deal.

    Bishop Beltran said the so-called "demilitarized zone" controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) "was created as a means to secure lively and steady peace negotiations." He added, "Instead, Colombians have not gotten any peace and FARC have obtained a dangerous strategic advantage."

    Parts of Bishop Beltran's diocese are located in the territory of 42,000 square kilometers (about 46,000 square miles) placed under the complete administration of FARC forces.

    "All means to achieve piece by dialogue must be tried, but if FARC does not shows a clear will to start a peace process, the government must recover that area," the bishop said.

    Bishop Beltran held a press conference in Bogota where he attended a security council investigating the mass murder of peasants in Montes de Maria, another area of his diocese. The crime has been attributed to right-wing paramilitary groups.

    "The main victims of these confrontations are innocent civilians who are caught between the fire," Bishop Beltran said. "Therefore, if no fruit (on the peace talks) is achieved, the state must recover control of the demilitarized area."

    "Otherwise, it would be sending a dangerous signal of weakness," he concluded.

January 29, 2001
volume 12, no. 29
News from the Universal Church
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