Guerrillas continued to target the democratic process in Colombia through intimidation and violence. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) held at least four US citizens hostage at the end of the year. The group killed two US missionaries in June after kidnapping them in 1994. Ransoms continued to provide guerrillas with significant income, making up for a decrease in protection payments from coca growers, who had lower production as a result of the government's eradication program. Government efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement were met with increased guerrilla violence.
There were no international terrorist incidents reported in Argentina during 1995. The investigation into the bombing in 1994 of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association remains unsolved. The Government of Argentina organized and hosted a regional counterterrorist conference in August in an effort to encourage cooperation in countering the international terrorist threat.
Peru successfully continued to counter its terrorist organizations, significantly lowering the level of violence in the country. While Peru's terrorist organizations, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path or SL) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) have significantly declined in strength, they still have the capacity to inflict damage against international targets. At year's end, the Government of Peru was planning to host an Organization of American States (OAS) conference on terrorism in 1996, which will focus on promoting cooperation among Western Hemisphere nations in combating terrorism while protecting human rights.
The investigation into the bombing in March 1992 of the Israeli Embassy failed to develop any new leads. Paraguay extradited seven suspected terrorists to Argentina, where they were released after questioning. The Argentine Supreme Court now has responsibility for the case. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Hizballah remains the key suspect in both the 1992 and 1994 attacks.
One of Argentina's most wanted fugitives, Enrique Gorriaran Merlo, was detained on 28 October in Mexico and expelled shortly thereafter to Buenos Aires to stand trial. Gorriaran was involved in the kidnapping of the general manager of an Exxon refinery and managed the negotiations for the captive's release after a ransom was paid. Gorriaran was also an organizer of an attack on a military base in 1989 that left nearly 40 dead. He had been a leader of Argentina's People's Revolutionary Army (ERP), a largely leftist urban terrorist group that operated in the 1970s, and he personally took responsibility for the assassination of former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in Paraguay in 1980. If convicted of the several charges, Gorriaran faces life imprisonment.
Argentina took a leading role in regional cooperation against international counterterrorism in 1995. Buenos Aires hosted a regional counterterrorist conference in August to improve cooperation among its neighbors - Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, as well as the United States and Canada. The Government of Argentina also is pressing for greater cooperation with Brazil and Paraguay to improve border controls in the "triborder" area, where their three frontiers meet. Argentina will introduce a new machine-readable passport in early 1996.
The nation's two main guerrilla groups - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) - intensified political violence during the year, ignoring offers for peace talks with the government. Rebel attacks against oil pipelines owned jointly by the Government of Colombia and Western companies escalated, accounting for most of the international incidents in Colombia in 1995.
Kidnapping for ransom continued to be a profitable business in Colombia; leftist guerrillas conducted approximately half of all abductions in the country, increasing their war chests by several million dollars. Colombians were the primary victims, but many foreign nationals also were abducted. At year's end, FARC rebels held at least four US citizens, three of whom were detained in 1993 and one in 1994. In August presumed FARC guerrillas released one US citizen kidnapped near Cali in 1994. Another US citizen, kidnapped in January, was released in April.
Kidnappings of foreigners sometimes have ended with the murder of the hostage. A British citizen kidnapped by guerrillas in June was found dead in August near Bogota. The guerrillas also kidnapped and subsequently released a UK Embassy employee. In June, FARC guerrillas murdered two US missionaries, held since January 1994, during a chance encounter with a Colombian army patrol. Police have issued arrest warrants for eight guerrillas suspected of kidnapping the two missionaries.
Despite President Samper's willingness to negotiate with the nation's guerrilla organizations, FARC and ELN insurgents did not demonstrate a sincere desire to pursue a negotiated settlement in 1995. Instead, they continued to attack government forces and other targets. On the anniversary of President Samper's inauguration in August, FARC rebels attacked a police counternarcotics base in Miraflores (in Guaviare Department), killing six and wounding 29 police officers. Unknown assailants, possibly guerrillas, bombed a sculpture in a crowded Medellin square, which left 28 persons dead and injured more than 175. FARC guerrillas operating in areas of heavy coca cultivation often fired on - and in one case shot down - government aircraft engaged in US-supported drug eradication efforts.
Twice during 1995, President Samper declared a "state of internal commotion," invoking exceptional measures because of increased violence nationwide and the assassination on 2 November of Conservative Party patriarch Alvaro Gomez Hurtado. On that date, President Samper announced that he was empowering the military, governors of the 32 departments (states), and all mayors to authorize the evacuation of civilians from municipalities to combat illegal armed groups, including the guerrilla organizations operating in Colombia.
In April a bomb was detonated outside the Presidential Palace during a visit by UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Evidence points to guerrilla involvement, but no group claimed responsibility. In May presumed guerrillas fired on a US Embassy antinarcotics helicopter on a training flight over Palin. The aircraft sustained minor damage.
Progress was made in two other terrorist cases. Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, one of the suspects in the murder in 1992 of US Army Corporal Zak Hernandez, turned himself over to Panamanian authorities in January 1995; his case had not yet gone to trial by the end of the year. Two others sought in connection with the murder of the US serviceman remained at large. Juan Barria, who confessed to having murdered a US citizen and a US Embassy employee during Operation Just Cause in 1989, was convicted after a jury trial on 19 November.
Police arrests helped disrupt Sendero's terrorist plans for the national elections in April 1995. In a major coordinated operation, counterterrorist police arrested approximately 20 members of Sendero Luminoso in the cities of Lima, Callao, Huancayo, and Arequipa. Among those captured was Sendero Central Committee member, and number-two leader of Sendero militants still at large, Margi Clavo Peralta. Clavo later publicly announced her support for peace talks with the government, which jailed Sendero leader and founder Abimael Guzman first advocated in 1993.
Three years after the capture of SL chieftain Guzman, the Maoist terrorist group is struggling, attempting to rebuild and resolve its leadership problems. Sendero Luminoso has become less active, its operations smaller and less sophisticated. While SL's capability to target international targets has diminished, it retains the capability to cause considerable harm, and its "anti-imperialist" animus has not changed. In May the group detonated a car bomb in front of a luxury Lima hotel, killing four and injuring several dozen persons. In July, Sendero terrorists killed a Peruvian employee of a US mining company after seeking by name a US geologist who had left the site a few days earlier.
On 1 December the number-two leader of MRTA still at large, Miguel Rincon, surrendered to police after a firefight that followed a raid of a MRTA safehouse. The police arrested more than a dozen other MRTA members and uncovered weapons and explosives in the residence. The police effort inflicted a severe blow to the weakened terrorist organization, disrupting its plans to conduct attacks.