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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Colombian Lawmakers Undaunted By Threats

BOGOTA, Colombia -- As 1,600 police and soldiers searched Bogota for suspected guerrillas, members of the Colombian Congress refused to be cowed by recent rebel attacks on lawmakers. Legislators planned to convene as normal Monday morning to push ahead their agenda in the last week before a scheduled three-month adjournment.

"The message the violent ones are sending us is clear: We must strike at institutions," said lawmaker Luis Fernando Velasco late Saturday. "But they should be aware that Congress is not going to change its course."

Colombia's usually combative Congress has supported hard-line President Alvaro Uribe in his crackdown on leftist rebels. They recently approved a referendum on a plan to stem political corruption and authorized the president to oversee peace talks with right-wing paramilitary groups.

Last week, rebels launched a string of attacks that put authorities on high alert and led to the emergency operation by soldiers and police to search for suspects.

Authorities searched more than 20 homes, detaining various suspects and seizing documents, police said Sunday.

Shortly before midnight Friday, an explosion in the 30th-floor restaurant of a hotel frequently used by lawmakers injured 22 people watching a tango show. No legislator was hurt.

Three hours earlier, a bomb disguised as a Christmas present exploded in the office of Senator German Vargas Lleras, a member of Uribe's governing coalition who often has denounced the rebels. He suffered minor injuries to his hands.

"Congress has always been a military target of the violent ones," said William Velez, president of the House of Representatives, who pointed out that dozens of lawmakers have been killed, kidnapped, attacked or threatened over the last few years.

Nonetheless, when lawmakers convene Monday "you will not see a scared congress, but rather one that is determined to work harder than ever for the benefit of Colombia," Interior Minister Fernando Londono said.

An editorial in the Sunday edition of Colombia's leading daily newspaper, El Tiempo, urged Colombians not to weaken in the face of the attacks, saying, "These acts of terrorism are a test of our moral strength." The article praised Uribe's administration for accurately interpreting the will of the Colombian people as they scream "Enough already!"

Authorities blamed members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for the attacks. The FARC has been using increasingly sophisticated technology in its 38-year war against the government. The president said the FARC may be using training received from the armed Basque separatist group ETA and Northern Ireland's IRA to carry out the attacks.

Late Sunday, suspected FARC rebels threw a grenade into a crowd of people who had just watched a bullfight in the town of El Castillo, police said.

Eleven spectators, including two journalists, were wounded in El Castillo, located 160 kilometers southwest of Bogota in Meta state, police Colonel Jose Arnulfo Oliveros told RCN Radio.

Earlier in the day, a bomb exploded in front of the house of Jaime Cordero, the second-in-command of the secret police in Arauca, a town on Colombia's border with Venezuela, police said. Cordero was not injured.