The following editorial appeared in Thursday's Los Angeles Times:
This is Colombia, in all its maniacal tragedy. In the town of Chiquinquira, northeast of Bogota, leftist terrorists clamped a bomb with a timer around the neck of a woman dairy farmer and demanded $7,500. The family could not come up with the money. For hours an army demolition expert worked to remove the bomb; at midafternoon it exploded, blowing off the woman's head and mortally wounding the soldier as well. This is what the war in Colombia is largely about -- violence, intimidation and power. It is a monster.
President Andres Pastrana blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the killings and suspended the next round of peace talks with the Marxist guerrillas. A FARC spokesman denied responsibility, but that's hard to believe. It is the same outfit that recently blew up a passenger-filled bus because some policemen were aboard. It is also demanding a ''peace tax'' from people and businesses with assets of $1 million or more, and it provides protection to drug traffickers.
According to U.S. intelligence estimates, the 15,000-strong FARC army makes more than $1 million a day from its criminal enter prises. ''It is the only self-sustaining insurgency I have ever seen,'' said Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command.
For two years Pastrana has been trying to negotiate peace with the guerrillas, and every time they slapped him in the face he turns the other cheek. The Times has supported his efforts to resolve the national crisis and backs bills in the U.S. Congress that would give the Colombian army the weapons and training to carry the fight.
No more turning the other cheek, President Pastrana. If Colombia, one of the few Latin nations with a history of democracy, means to maintain that tradition, it will have to fight for it. If the United States wants peace in Colombia, it will have to send arms and other equipment.
Bogota will have to restore the state's authority in territories now controlled by guerrilla regimes built by extortion and drugs. To field a credible military presence Pastrana needs the $1.7 billion in emergency U.S. aid that passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. If ever there was a time of desperate need for U.S. aid, this is it.
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