Security around Uribe tightened over murder plot

FARC rebels accused of planning to kill ex-Colombian leader

AFP-JIJI

Colombia’s government said Tuesday it was tightening security after details emerged of a FARC rebel plot to murder ex-President Alvaro Uribe.

The accusation comes as the present Colombian government is engaged in delicate peace talks with the rebels, and it was not immediately clear what effect it would have on negotiations.

Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said he met with Uribe “to inform him of the detection of a plan by the FARC’s Teofilo Forero Mobile Column to make an attempt on his life.”

Pinzon said President Juan Manuel Santos ordered authorities “to guarantee the security and integrity of the former head of state and protect him, as well as to get those responsible for these threats.”

The defense chief also said Uribe — a vehement critic of peace talks with the rebels, and likely presidential re-election hopeful next year — would get whatever security he and his family need — in addition to their normal 300-person detail. He did not offer further details.

Uribe told reporters in Bogota he would be more careful about his movements in the future, but added: “You have to stay in the fight.”

Uribe, now 61, waged a fierce war against the FARC during his presidency from 2002 to 2010, reducing Colombia’s largest leftist rebel group by half and confining it to remote areas of the country.

After leaving office, he split bitterly with Santos, his former defense minister and successor, for trying to make peace with the rebel group and for mending relations with neighboring Venezuela.

Details of the plot against Uribe were not disclosed. It was not immediately apparent what impact they might have on the peace talks, which mark their first anniversary on Nov. 19.

The president of the Congress, Juan Fernando Cristo, said the news was “very serious” but reserved judgment on the fallout.

“We have to await the details, what kind of attack or plot was involved. But if it is confirmed, we have to demand that the (FARC) negotiators in Havana explain it to the country,” he said.

The Teofilo Forero Column is considered one of the FARC’s most active units.

The Colombian Army created a special task force Nov. 1 to go after it and capture its leader, a guerrilla known as “El Paisa” who has a $700,000 bounty on his head.

In May, a judge in Argentina disclosed that a bomb meant for Uribe was found and deactivated in Buenos Aires’ Gran Rex theater before he was to give a speech there. The explosives used in that incident apparently were not very powerful and Uribe gave his speech at the theater the next day.