Government says Rebel Sabotage to Blame for Widespread Blackout in Colombia: Power Industry Investigating Cause : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Mar 21, 2000 - 02:28 PM

Government says Rebel Sabotage to Blame for Blackout in Colombia: Power Industry Investigating Cause

By Javier Baena Associated Press Writer

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - A blackout blamed on sabotage bombings by leftist rebels cut electricity Tuesday to most of Bogota and large portions of central and northeastern Colombia.

Traffic in the capital was even more snarled and chaotic than usual: Stoplights were among the casualties of the outage that left 70 percent of Bogota without power all morning.

Businesses of all kinds, from gas stations to casinos, were forced to close and firefighters were called in to rescue people trapped in elevators.

While power company officials were more cautious in assigning blame, Finance Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo said the outage was caused by bombings carried out by the rebel National Liberation Army. "Terrorist groups think this is how they're going to obtain peace, but all they are obtaining is the repudiation of Colombians who want to work and move the country forward," Restrepo told Caracol radio. Restrepo said rebel attacks on the civilian infrastructure would only frustrate peace negotiations and attempts to restore growth to a recession-plagued economy.

The rebels have stepped up attacks on power installations this year, in an apparent effort to gain concessions from President Andres Pastrana in peace talks expected to start soon.

Monday's blackout marked the first time, however, that residents of the Colombian capital felt the effects of the sabotage campaign that last month left the country's second-largest city, Medellin, in the dark and forced power rationing for millions.

Over the weekend, rebel bombs felled 11 electricity pylons and damaged a power station, the state-owned energy company ISA reported.

The attacks apparently caused a power spike at three hydroelectric plants serving seven states where blackouts occurred, and where about a third of Colombia's 40 million people live.

The National Liberation Army, Colombia's second-largest rebel group, wants Pastrana to withdraw his troops from a northern rebel stronghold. The rebels also oppose government plans to privatize state energy companies.

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 21, 2000

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