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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 15:38 GMT
Colombia land-for-peace deal extended
pastrana
Andres Pastrana: Under pressure to scrap safe haven
By Jeremy McDermott in Colombia

Colombian President Andres Pastrana has renewed the grant of a huge safe haven to Marxist guerrillas in an attempt to put his battered peace process back on track.

There has been pressure on him to deny the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the 42,000 sq km safe haven in the south of the country.

FARC guerrilla
Guerrillas have responded with more killings
Critics said that after two years there had been no concrete progress in negotiations and the guerrillas have responded to government concessions with record levels of violence and kidnapping.

But there was never really any doubt that Mr Pastrana, who has staked his presidency on a negotiated solution to Colombia's 37-year civil conflict, would extend the deal.

He did, however, set 31 January as the next date for renewal, instead of the usual six months, in an attempt to pressure the rebels to return to the negotiating table.

Drug exports

They left last month saying they would not continue talking until the government had stepped up its fight against their sworn enemy, the right-wing paramilitary death squads.

Mr Pastrana has attempted to put some controls on the use of the zone, which has been subject to guerrilla abuses - like the recruitment of minors, export of drugs, import of arms and the holding of kidnap victims.

These measures include the control of foreigners entering the zone, the monitoring of chemicals used in the processing of drugs and that of planes entering and leaving the area.

But critics say Mr Pastrana has again backed down in the face of FARC intransigence and that the new controls of the zone are worthless.

They see Mr Pastrana as a lame duck president with little chance for progress in the quest for peace.

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See also:

06 Dec 00 | Americas
More Colombians flee violence
16 Nov 00 | Americas
Colombia's peace laboratory
31 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
03 Dec 00 | Americas
Colombia anti-drugs victory
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