The Colombian government rules out peace talks with leftist FARC rebels after they killed five soldiers and 14 police officers, some of them burned alive, Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said.
“There’s no possibility of dialogue with terrorists nor with anybody who thinks they can use violence and terror to get their point across,” Rivera said in an interview with Caracol radio.
He said the new administration of President Juan Manuel Santos “will never give in to this sort of blackmail.
“We’re going to defeat these terrorists, because the slogan is get tough, get tough, get tough with this narco-terrorist group,” he added echoing Santos’s words Friday when he vowed to step up a military crackdown on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Santos took office August 7 amid FARC peace overtures after eight years of setbacks under former president Alvaro Uribe’s hardline policy against insurgent groups — part of the crackdown was led by Santos himself as defense minister from 2006 to 2009.
The new president left the door open to negotiations but demanded FARC first release all its hostages, stop pressing minors into their ranks and halt its violence.
But after the 14 police officers were killed Wednesday in southern Caqueta department when their patrol vehicle went over a land mine — guerrillas shot and burned to death those injured in the blast — the government’s stance hardened.
Five soldiers were also killed in separate clashes Thursday with FARC guerrillas in the Norte de Santander and Nariño departments, on the borders with Venezuela and Ecuador respectively.
“The fight continues with bravery and determination,” said Rivera, “because we have the solidarity of the Colombian people.
“And despite the death of 19 of our country’s heroes, the armed forces will fight on with even more spirit, and that’s why (in recent combats) 18 insurgents were also killed.”
Interior Minister German Vargas has warned the FARC that the government considered Wednesday’s police massacre a “crime against humanity” and that such actions “will never benefit from an amnesty or a pardon.”
The government has offered a 500-million-peso (275,000 dollars) reward for information leading to the capture of the FARC commander suspected of masterminding the Caqueta bombing, known by his nickname Wilmer.