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Wednesday, 20 September, 2000, 21:21 GMT 22:21 UK
Colombia peace process in crisis
Colombian soldiers attend Farc casualty
Soldiers attend a Farc casualty
By Jeremy McDermott in Bogota

Colombia's fragile peace process is threatening to unravel.

The attorney-general, Alfonso Gomez Mendez, is demanding that troops be sent into the safe haven of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) to arrest a fugitive from justice, Arnobio Ramos Erbus.

Ramos Erbus, a Farc member, was a prisoner until he escaped earlier this month by hijacking a plane transferring him between prisons.

He forced the pilot to land in the government-granted Farc safe haven.

The Farc are refusing to hand him over to serve the remainder of his prison sentence for murdering a policeman.

Peace talks suspended

The Farc insist there is no agreement to hand over people from within their 42,000-sqare-kilometre demilitarized zone granted to them at the end of 1998.

They also say it is the duty of every guerrilla in captivity to try and escape.

The government has suspended peace talks until the matter is resolved.

Dialogue had begun with the second guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), aimed at beginning a second peace process.

Colombian president Andres Pastrana on inauguration day, August 1998
President Pastrana - failing to deliver peace
But there have been calls from powerful industrialists and regional governors to not only break off the dialogue but deny the group political recognition.

This follows the kidnapping by ELN guerrillas of over 50 people last weekend.

President Andres Pastrana was elected on the strength of his plan to negotiate peace.

But despite overwhelming concessions to the Farc, the rebels have responded only with record levels of kidnapping, extortion and violence.

It seems the Ramos Erbus case may be the straw that broke the camel's back as the government's patience finally runs out.

Opinion polls have shown the Colombian public's patience ran out long ago.

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See also:

09 Sep 00 | Americas
Hijacked Colombian plane released
18 Sep 00 | Americas
Mass abduction from Cali restaurants
29 Aug 00 | Americas
US commits to Colombia
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