Monday, March 10, 2008

Family identifies body of 1 of 5 Mexican students thought hit in Colombia raid on Guerrillas

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Family members identified the body of a Mexican student thought to have been killed in a Colombian cross-border raid on guerrillas in Ecuador that sparked a regional diplomatic crisis last week, Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said. Juan Gonzalez del Castillo was one of five Mexican students thought to have been hit when Colombian forces on March 1 bombed a jungle camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC _ raising questions about ties between foreign students and sympathizers and Colombia's largest rebel group.
Gonzalez's family traveled to the Ecuadorean capital of Quito and identified his body Saturday, Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said before sending its regional director to Ecuador.

The five students had traveled to Ecuador to participate in a leftist political conference in Quito from Feb. 24-27, an Ecuadorean official said last week, declining to give his name because he was not authorized to discuss the case. The conference included a taped greeting from Raul Reyes, a FARC rebel commander killed in the attack, in which he thanked participants for attending. It was not known how the Mexican students ended up a week later at his camp.

Four of the five attended Mexico's National Autonomous University, the university said Friday. The school denied reports that a guerrilla support office operates on its campus, saying in a statement that it «rejects the use of violence in any form.
Colombia nonetheless called on Mexico to investigate the FARC's presence on Mexican campuses and its links to drug-trafficking organizations that operate across Mexico, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said in an interview published Sunday in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal. «The FARC's presence in other countries makes it a continentwide threat _ a threat that stretches beyond Colombia's borders,» he told the newspaper.

Ecuador had given tourist visas to all five students, including Gonzalez, Lucia Andrea Morett Alvarez, Veronica Natalia Velasquez Ramirez, Fernando Franco Delgado and Soren Ulises Aviles Angeles, Foreign Relations officials said.
Morett, a 26-year-old student at the National Autonomous University, was wounded in the raid and is recuperating at a Quito hospital. Her father, Jorge Sanchez Morett, on Friday called her «a clueless girl,» telling reporters in Quito that she had been «in the wrong place. It was unclear if the other three students were still missing on Sunday, and no one was available to comment at the Foreign Relations Department.
A fifth student, Aviles, attends Mexico's National Polytechnic University, the director of a human rights group told Ecuadorean authorities. Officials at the school were not available to confirm that statement on Sunday.