Guerrillas from the FARC attacked a radar installation in the southwest province of Cauca, suggesting a concerted effort by the rebels to attack Colombia’s infrastructure.
The attack began on Friday night and lasted 15 hours with roughly 100 rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) using homemade explosives and gas cylinders to damage the installation, reported El Colombiano.
The radar, which covers an area of 300 kilometers, served as a crucial tool for the Colombian air force in the monitoring of drug trafficking in the area. Repairs are expected to take several months to have the installation working again at full capacity.
The Caño Limon oil pipeline which runs from the department of Arauca to the department of Sucre in Colombia’s northeast was also bombed on Friday, with the attack being carried out by presumed FARC guerrillas.
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The assertion by President Juan Manuel Santos that attacks affecting the civilian population represent the group’s “weakness and desperation,” appear off the mark. The radar attack is the boldest move made yet by the FARC since its leader, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias “Timochenko,” announced earlier this year that the group was willing to sit down to peace talks with the government.
It is also one of the group’s more significant moves against Colombian infrastructure in some time, as they have focused over the past year primarily on small-scale attacks on the security forces.
The temporary dismantling of the radar station is likely to benefit the FARC economically as well as embolden them. Cauca is one the rebel group’s strongholds and an area from which they traffic both cocaine and coca base. The elimination of a key monitoring instrument for the government will open the window for the group to traffic with comparative ease, knowing that government efforts will be hindered for some months while they get the radar working again.
Cali airport has also been a key point for drug trafficking, as evidenced with the break-up of a trafficking ring last July that was sending between 700 kilograms and 2 tons to Central America and the US each month. With government resources held back, trafficking out of Cauca department from not only the FARC could be on the rise in the coming months.