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Pastor & son among victims of rebels’ campaign in Colombia

LOS ANGELES (BP)–A Colombian pastor and his adult son were ambushed and killed Aug. 3 by unidentified assassins from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) rebel group in the South American nation, Compass Direct reported Aug. 8.

Adelmo Cabrera Polanco, pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance-related church in Puerto Rico, Colombia, for the past 18 years, and his son, Luis Carlos, were returning to their home when they were killed in the area of San Vicente del Caguan.

Cabrera left a widow and five children. The Cabreras were raising a grandson, orphaned when his father died several years ago in Colombia’s civil violence.

Adelmo Cabrera had served as president of the Puerto Rico municipal council. His public service apparently led to his murder. In July, the FARC high command issued an ultimatum to local government officials in Colombia. The rebels demanded that all mayors, judges and state governors immediately resign their posts or face retaliation.

According to fellow evangelical ministers, Cabrera resigned several weeks ago as municipal president in response to the threat. Nevertheless, FARC carried out the assassination.

Since the rebel group announced its intention of eliminating elected officials, 222 mayors have abandoned their posts, leaving some 35 municipal governments “in total paralysis,” according to the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo. Evidently, FARC has copied the strategy from the Viet Cong, the guerrilla army that helped overthrow U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1975. Social anarchy resulted from the mass resignations and assassinations of municipal leaders in Vietnam. Analysts say this was a turning point in the communists’ rise to power.

To counter the FARC threat, the Colombia government has earmarked $1.6 million to pay for tighter security for local politicians. The United States reportedly has donated $1 million of the amount, which will be used to provide city officials with more bodyguards and, perhaps, bulletproof vests and guns.

However, few politicians feel that arming themselves against the FARC will prove effective. “It’s not a good idea because it will increase violence in the midst of the conflict,” Jose Daniel Cardona, mayor of the town of San Francisco in Antioquia state, told El Tiempo.

Justapaz, a Christian nonprofit organization with headquarters in Bogota, told Compass Direct that, in addition to Cabrere, at least three other pastors of evangelical churches have died violently in the San Vicente del Caguan area since late February, when peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government broke down. Attacks against the civilian population, in the form of car bombs, assassinations and kidnappings, have dramatically increased since then.

The 15,000 square-mile “de-militarized zone” in the state of Caqueta, formerly controlled by FARC forces, has experienced the brunt of attacks against evangelical churches and their leaders in recent months. In recent weeks, FARC guerrillas shot dead Abel Ruiz, pastor of a Pentecostal church in the former de-militarized zone. According to the BBC, Ruiz died while speaking to members of his congregation.

Since 1988, civil unrest in this South America nation of 38 million has claimed the lives of at least 70 evangelical ministers and 29 Roman Catholic priests.

Alvaro Uribe Velez, the new president of Colombia, was himself the target of mortar shells during his Aug. 7 inauguration and, last spring, an assassination attempt while campaigning.

The death toll Aug. 7 from two mortar shells that landed near the presidential palace reached 19, with scores injured.
Reprinted by permission of Compass Direct, based in Santa Ana, Calif., and on the Internet at www.compassdirect.org.

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  • David Miller