Colombian rebels deny involvement in drug trade

Bogota, Apr 2 (IANS/EFE): Colombia's FARC rebels criticised authorities for seeking to implicate the guerrillas in drug trafficking.

"We of the FARC are revolutionaries, not drug traffickers," the high command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia's Western Bloc said in a statement posted on the Internet.

"It has become an inveterate custom of senior military and police officers, in the face of their inability - or complicity - to put an end to the phenomenon of drug trafficking, to rush to declare without foundation or evidence that every ... cargo of coca, coca paste or marijuana belongs to the FARC," the insurgents said.

The Western Bloc specifically referred to official comments about a consignment of 1,600 kg of marijuana that was intercepted March 25 en route to Bogota from the southwestern province of Cauca.

The FARC pointed out that the seizure took place near Tolemaida military base, where a drug-dealing operation involving army personnel was uncovered last December.

On March 26, police discovered 7,726 kg aboard two trucks also bound from Cauca to Bogota and Colombia's top cop, Gen. Jose Roberto Leon Riano, said the drugs belonged to the FARC.

"We emphatically and categorically reject such unfounded accusations," the guerrillas said Monday, calling the charges part of a strategy aimed at undermining the FARC's prestige.

Peasants in the provinces of Valle del Cauca, Choco, Cauca and Narino resort to growing coca, marijuana and opium poppies as a means of survival in the face of an "unjust agrarian order" and official neglect of their plight, the FARC said.

The rebel statement went on to ask how large consignment of drugs "can cross without problems the massive and dense military and police cordon that covers this region, where more than 32,000" troops and police are deployed.

"(D)irect connivance of army and police commanders with the drug cartels" is the only explanation, the FARC said.



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