…the Bombs Bursting in Bogota

Thursday’s lunch hour in Bogota, Colombia was interrupted by six small explosions reported to have consisted of roughly 200 grams of ammonium nitrate each, according to officials conducting the investigation. The acts of violence were concentrated primarily in the more affluent northern area of the city and resulted in eighteen injured bystanders, eight of which are severe. Property damage was restricted to buildings and vehicles.

A couple hours later, a bus burst into flames following a seventh small explosion near the international airport of El Dorado. While inner-city violence was once a common occurrence throughout the nation, the past several years have been quite calm in comparison thus creating a new wave of tension and fear among urbanites.

Commander of the metropolitan police, General Rodolfo Palomino, hastily made his accusation clear about the culprits. His unsubstantiated blame lies where one might expect – on the typical scapegoat known around the world as the FARC, Colombia’s leftist guerrilla group with nearly fifty years of state opposition under its belt. As usual the trend is guilty until proven innocent as one would expect in a country where the rule of law has been absent for so long.

Fortunately, neither the Minister of Defense Manuel Santos, nor the city’s Mayor Samuel Moreno, are as reckless to point the finger of accusation without evidence. Santos justifies his reservation by stating that “the guerrilla group lost control of the capital city’s department some time ago”, and as such he believes it unlikely that they were the actors in this display of aggression. Meanwhile, Moreno confirms that the incidents had nothing to do with the current protest marches being conducted by indigenous groups in the department of Cauca Valley.

So, the question arises, who is the responsible party and what was the objective for these acts of aggression? It is natural to immediately interpret that the attacks were meant to be fairly benign; attention getters so to speak. There exists no doubt that if the intention were to target civilians or achieve wide-spread damage, it would have been accomplished. However, that was not the case with these attacks which leads one not only to speculate the motives, but also to rule out the General’s ignorant and expected accusations based on zero credible evidence and inconsistent FARC behavior.

The timing and coordination of the explosions automatically eliminate the possibility of amateur involvement, while the strategic placement of the bombs indicates a willingness to avoid multiple deaths and thus eliminates the possibility of a group wishing to make a bold statement. The subversive and somewhat benign nature of the attacks therefore leaves an opaque understanding of the culprits and their motives.

After having spent three years living in Colombia, while being cognizant of the government’s unwillingness to negotiate with the “terrorists” (FARC) prior to and in the midst of an attempted third term unconstitutional run for Presidency on behalf of Uribe, it is unavoidable to speculate that this somehow may have been an inside job conducted for the simple reason of jolting the public. With so many eyes of humanitarian groups on Uribe and his government, care must be taken to avoid additional criticism. As such, it isn’t difficult to fathom that yesterday’s events were purely intended to raise tensions amongst the populace while it looks to its leader and his security forces for answers. After all, manipulation through fear tactics has been an effective tool of the governing body since long before the FARC arose from the country’s blood-stained soils. Unfortunately, the truth is often evasive in Colombia.

David A.G. Fischer is a high school English teacher who lives in Colombia. He is also a lifetime student who contributes socially as a free-lance writer, volunteer, and activist. Read other articles by David, or visit David's website.