INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Farc Blamed for Attack On U.S.-Funded Justice House

Published: Tue 1 Sep 2009 01:52 PM
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SUBJECT: FARC BLAMED FOR ATTACK ON U.S.-FUNDED JUSTICE HOUSE
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Colombian national police blamed the
FARC for an August 19 attack on a U.S.-funded justice center
in Cauca department. There were no reported injuries, but
approximately 80% of the structure was destroyed by the
blast. USAID had invested $150,000 in the new justice house,
which was designed to provide basic legal and social services
to the community. There are no indications that the project
was targeted due to the U.S. connection. Security at the
site was minimal; there are fifty other U.S.-funded justice
houses throughout Colombia. In Narino, the FARC recently
released a communique threatening to treat all projects
developed under Colombia's "Strategic Leap" plan as
legitimate military targets. End Summary.
JUSTICE HOUSE ATTACKED
----------------------
2. (SBU) Colombian police reported that the FARC attacked a
municipal justice house in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca, on
August 19. The town is approximately halfway between the
departmental capitals of Cali and Popayan. The attackers
placed a 40-pound gas-cylinder bomb inside the building and
detonated it with a time fuse in the early morning hours of
August 19. There were no injuries, but approximately 80% of
the structure was destroyed by the blast, and several nearby
properties were also damaged.
3. (SBU) Justice houses are centers where basic legal and
social services are provided to the local community. The
projects are developed jointly by local authorities, the GOC
Interior and Justice Ministries, and USAID. The centers
constitute an important part of USAID's democracy program.
Local courts, prosecutors and other public officials are
typically co-located at these centers.
SOFT TARGETS
------------
4. (SBU) There are 54 justice houses located in urban areas
throughout Colombia--50 of which receive USAID funding--and
most are protected by only minimal security. The municipal
security guard on duty on August 19 was not specifically
assigned to the Santander de Quilichao Justice House, and was
doing rounds at the time of the bombing. In recent months,
the FARC have continued to favor attacks on soft targets.
FARC BLAMED FOR ATTACK
----------------------
5. (SBU) The Colombian police blamed the FARC's Jacobo Arenas
Column for the August 19 attack. Indigenous members of the
FARC were expected to demobilize at the location later that
day in a discreet ceremony, and one theory is that the FARC
wanted to disrupt the event. A second theory is that the
bombing was planned by a disgruntled urban developer,
possibly in conjunction with the FARC. An anonymous
handwritten pamphlet was circulated a few months ago
threatening the justice house's architects and engineers.
U.S. INVESTMENT DESTROYED
-------------------------
6. (SBU) The Colombian Ministry of Justice funded $320,000 of
the construction for this Justice House, and USAID funded
$150,000 in equipment, furniture and pre-investment studies.
The Justice Ministry said they do not have funds to rebuild
the center. The building was not marked with the USAID logo,
and there are currently no indications that the center was
targeted due to the U.S. investment.
FARC COMMUNIQUE THREATENS SOCIAL PROJECTS
-----------------------------------------
7. (SBU) The FARC's 29th Front recently released an un-dated
communique in Narino. The communique threatens to treat as
legitimate military targets all projects developed by Accion
Social and the Center for Coordinated Integrated Action
(CCAI) under Colombia's Strategic Leap ("Salto Estrategico").
Brownfield
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