Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Guerrillas in the Mist

So Friday someone shot up a combined military and police patrol, part of the Xatruch II operation, in the Bajo Aguan, just as it was about to turn into the La Consentida orange plantation of Rene Morales. One police officer and one soldier were killed, and three others wounded.

The initial description was that the attack was made with shotguns, but later it was characterized as employing large caliber weapons, e.g., military rifles.

Interestingly, there's no indication from press accounts that those "ambushed" either returned fire, or came under fire beyond the initial salvo that killed two and wounded three others. The encounter is not described as a firefight. No suspects were either found or detained in the region.

The military has concluded the attack was not the work of campesinos, because of the strategy used. Police reached the same conclusion, according to spokesperson Juan Martinez. They point to the use of surprise and violence as un-campesino-like behavior. Like the media, the security forces characterize the event as an ambush.

The reaction by security forces was to stop and question all foreigners coming through the district, although to no avail:
"None of them could be tied to anything illicit,"

said Martinez.

But that, of course, did not stop the military from reaching conclusions.
"It's a dedicated band of guerrillas,"

said Joint Chiefs Chair General Rene Osorio on Sunday.

There is another, unexamined, group in the Bajo Aguan that has both licensed and unlicensed weapons of the type used in the attack, and military training.

During the 2009 coup, landowners there hired paramilitary mercenaries from Colombia and Paraguay to be the "guards" on African palm plantations.

According to the UN Working group on Mercenaries in 2010, more than 120 paramilitaries from various Latin American countries are present in the Bajo Aguan.

The military, as part of Xatruch II, has not apparently thought to inspect, regulate or interdict the arms used by these paramilitary guards, only those campesinos were suspected of using.

Until the paramilitary guards employed by land owners in the Bajo Aguan are subject to the same scrutiny as the campesinos, the military surely cannot conclude that there is a band of foreign or foreign-trained guerrillas operating in the Bajo Aguan.

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