Colombian guerrillas and paramilitary fighters engaged in a bloody gun battle over control of the cocaine trade in western Chocó department, leaving at least 75 fighters dead, the Bogota daily El Tiempo reported. Victor Mosquera, a regional human rights observer, said corpses littered the site of the fighting and that many people were missing. Government troops have been rushed to Chocó.
El Tiempo cited Blanca Inés Marín, mayor of San Jose del Palmar, as saying that paramilitary fighters from the ostensibly “demobilized” Bloque Pacífico, were reportedly attacked by mixed force of guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the little-known Guevarista Revolutionary Army (apparently a breakaway faction of the ELN).
The paramilitary AUC and guerillas have for years been fighting for the control of Chocó because it contains strategically important smuggling routes along the Pacific Coast. (Venezuela Daily Journal, DPA, Oct. 30)