Rebels step up attacks on Colombia energy targets

first_img“After $8 billion of investment,” said Restrepo, “we’re staying.”___Associated Press writer Cesar Garcia in Bogota contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Associated PressBOGOTA (AP) – The port town of Tumaco on Colombia’s Pacific coast went dark for more than a week in early August after guerrillas toppled three electricity towers in the remote area.Rebel-planted land mines did even more damage, delaying the restoration of power while killing at least five people, including two workers trying to repair the towers, local authorities said.Such attacks on electricity infrastructure, gas pipelines and trains transporting coal occurred almost daily in the 1990s, and into the 2000s, as Colombia’s rebel groups targeted the energy industry either to extort funds or attack foreign companies considered to be exploiting the nation’s riches. Four benefits of having a wireless security system Top ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day Similar security has accompanied construction of a new pipeline called Bicentenario, which is being guarded meter by meter, even from above with military drones, Cardenas said. The proposed pipeline is set to be the country’s longest, at 960 kilometers (597 miles), capable of carrying 450,000 barrels daily from the oil fields in Colombia’s west to the Caribbean port of Convenas, according to Ecopetrol, a majority partner in the project.Despite the patrols, the ELN in July briefly kidnapped two women working on the pipeline, releasing them 20 days later to the International Red Cross Committee.Nationwide, at least 5,000 uniformed security forces guard Colombia’s oil pipeline network, energy towers and even convoys of trucks transporting petroleum to refineries, said Cardenas.Pinzon announced Wednesday that the Defense Ministry is creating eight new battalions to shore up security of the nation’s infrastructure. A high-ranking official speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly about national security issues said each battalion will be comprised of at least 1,200 troops, and three battalions are already operating.Despite the attacks and the mounting security burden, the companies say they have no intention of leaving the country. Sponsored Stories Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Comments   Share   The number of energy towers targeted by rebels rose from 39 in 2010 to 73 last year.Carbones del Cerrejon Limited’s rail line from its primary coal mine has suffered at least six attacks since January of this year, up from two in 2011, said Julian Gonzalez, the company’s vice president of public affairs. The 150-kilometer (93-mile) track stretches to Puerto Bolivar on the Caribbean, where coal is loaded onto ships bound for the United States and Europe.Alfredo Rangel of Colombia’s Security and Democracy Foundation, which studies internal conflicts, said the increase in attacks began about two years ago, spiking this year as the military reduced its offensive actions. Rangel said that according to his own calculations and press reports, there were as many as 1,800 such military operations in 2003, plunging to about 360 last year.Both Santos and Pinzon insist that the government has not let down its guard. According to Pinzon, 70 percent of the rebel activity occurs in just 50 of about 1,000 municipalities in the country.Still, energy companies are beefing up security to protect their facilities.The country’s largest crude oil field, Puerto Gaitan, is guarded by at least 800 soldiers located inside the vast complex where 14,000 people work, said Federico Restrepo, vice president of corporate relations for the Toronto-based company Pacific Rubiales Energy. The firm holds a 35 percent stake in Puerto Gaitan, which produces about 20 percent of the country’s daily production, set at an average of 918,000 barrels in August. Restrepo said none of the company’s Colombia operations have suffered attacks.last_img

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