Letter: A nation at bay

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Has not the time come for the countries of the European Union to take seriously the war in Colombia?

Colombia is losing the battle against the guerrillas. May years ago the guerrilla groups had a political rationale. Now the guerrillas and the drug traders have joined forces; the armed guerrillas protect the drug traders and the drug traders fund the guerrillas' arms purchases, to an extent the Colombian army cannot match.

I have watched for 25 years a brave, hard-working, democratic nation fail in its efforts to maintain control of its territory. Frustration has led to excesses on the anti-guerrilla side; but there is no doubt where responsibility lies for the misery and savagery which Colombia has suffered.

In an effort to talk its way to peace the government has made exceptional concessions, to the extent of conceding the principal guerrilla movement temporary sovereignty over a vast tract of central Colombia. The concessions have been cynically exploited and have borne no fruit.

We in Britain know something of such conflicts. Colombia is more frightening that Ulster or Kosovo. There is a real possibility of criminal take-over of a nation state as large as Western Europe.

Britain has helped Colombia in a small way in the past. Margaret Thatcher for one recognised the danger which Colombia presented. We cannot send an army, but with our neighbours in Europe we should commit ourselves to support Colombia and plan intelligently how we help Colombia to win.