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Defense Minister: Army Will Protect Convoys from Guerrillas

September 26, 1996

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ The army will provide truck escorts to combat guerrilla attacks intended to paralyze key trading routes, Colombia’s defense minister said Wednesday.

The attacks, which began Aug. 30, have cost transport companies about $60 million, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra said. Produce prices in many cities have soared as a result.

Esguerra said the military would begin escorting convoys of 15 trucks and buses along three highways linking the Atlantic coast with the capital, Bogota.

``Of course, we can’t protect every truck and every bus that traverses the country, but by cooperating in the most complicated areas ... we will overcome the present difficulties,″ Esguerra said. He did not say when the escorts would begin.

Rebels have destroyed more than 70 trucks and buses in half of Colombia’s 32 states. They also have killed more than 100 soldiers and police, dynamited oil pipelines and electricity towers, bombed banks, and set vehicles on fire.

About 50 guerrillas and 10 soldiers were killed during the past week as the armed forces fought to reopen key trading routes that had fallen under rebel control, Esguerra said.

The routes include the road that links the northern banana-growing region of Uraba with Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, Esguerra said.

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