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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 20:32 GMT
Colombia's press warns of grim times
Colombian troops on patrol
Widespread war threatens chaos in Colombia
Leading newspapers in Colombia warn that the country faces a great deal of suffering following the decision of President Andres Pastrana to abandon peace talks with FARC rebels.

They also agree that Mr Pastrana had little option after the failure of the FARC to stop fighting despite numerous concessions by the government.


The recent wave of terrorist violence shows that the country is ill-prepared

El Tiempo

"The blowing up of bridges, dams and towers, the bombing of police and military installations, actions to sow terror in the cities, and the kidnapping of politicians and leading personalities, these are the forms of the recrudescence of violence which surely await us," the top-circulation daily El Tiempo lamented.

"The recent wave of terrorist violence shows that the country is ill-prepared to face this reality."

Human rights

El Tiempo was in no doubt the FARC was to blame for the breakdown in the peace process. But it warned against "calls to arms which exacerbate an already marked move towards the Right among substantial sectors of the population".

Society had a duty to ensure the military and the government maintained "the most scrupulous respect" for civil rights, the daily insisted.

Society's indifference allows terrorism a foothold

El Pais

It feared that the return to full-scale war would "totally overshadow issues which underlie the root causes of the conflict like unemployment, health, education and poverty".

Widespread blame

A major daily in the southern city of Cali, El Pais, blamed the population at large for the current crisis.

"To think that only the state has the obligation to combat delinquency is a great mistake. This phenomenon and its uncontrolled growth is the result of society's indifference ... This indifference allows terrorism a foothold."

"The answer lies in the need to change the individualist mentality, which has allowed the growth of violence in Colombia.

Colombians must take to the streets, denounce the terrorists and stand together with the authorities in overcoming the difficult times ahead

El Pais

"Far from hiding away in fear, Colombians must take to the streets, denounce the terrorists and stand together with the authorities in overcoming the difficult times ahead," El Pais exhorted.

Writing in another leading Bogota daily, El Espectador, Manuel Conde-Orellana says Mr Pastrana, "a dignified representative of the Colombian people, made every effort to achieve peace".

Mr Conde-Orellana expressed the hope that "this profound crisis" would bring about a change of mind among the FARC leadership "making them abandon their overwheening arrogance and adopting greater humility and a sensitivity necessary to avoid the death and pain of more people".

I call passionately and with a deeply Latin American spirit and feeling for the victims of the conflicts in this region, for the two sides to return to the dialogue

Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu in El Espectador

El Espectatdor also quoted the Guatemalan indian-rights spokeswoman and Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu as calling for a return to dialogue.

"I call passionately and with a deeply Latin American spirit and feeling for the victims of the conflicts in this region, for the two sides to return to the dialogue," Ms Menchu said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

22 Feb 02 | Americas
Colombian troops move in
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