Bogota seige is Latin America's 11th since Jan. 1
"An end to this nonsense." This plea, part of a radio commentary in Venezuela, sums up hemisphere reaction to the seizure of 14 ambassadors by leftist guerrillas in Colombia.
The embassy drama, which began Feb. 27 at the Dominican Embassy in Bogota, is only the latest in a long string of embassy seizures by political extremists throughout the world, particularly in Latin America.
While some of the extremist groups have been questioning the usefulness of embassy takeovers, other groups clearly see them as a valuable means of obtaining publicity, and occasionally, political objectives.
Although world attention has been riveted on the US Embassy occupation in Iran, extremists have seized 10 other embassies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru since Jan. 1. All of these have been vacated.
The extremists who seized the Dominican Embassy during a diplomatic reception belong to the Movimiento M-19, one of several leftist guerrilla groups operating in Colombia. Close to 200 M-19 members are in prison -- and one of the extremists' demands is their release. They have also asked for $50 million as a ransom for the ambassadors, whom they threaten to kill if the Colombian government does not accede to their demands.
Negotiations between Colombian authorities and the extremists are under way at this writing.
The ambassadors seized are from Austria, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay, the Vatican, and Venezuela. Also seized were the charges d'affaires from Bolivia and Paraguay, and several Colombian foreign ministry officials.
Early reports that US Ambassador Diego Asencion had been wounded in the takeover proved erroneous, although one guerrilla was killed and several persons were wounded.
This latest incident, perhaps the most bizarre of those in Latin America, not only has been condemned throughout most of the Americas, but also has raised questions about how to prevent future seizures.
So far, there are no ready answers. The publicity that each takeover receives may be a factor in encouraging other groups to try the same tactic.
Of more immediate concern, however, is the fate of the 14 ambassadors. Observers do not forget that US Ambassador Adolf Dubs was killed in Afghanistan last year or that three Western ambassadors were murdered by Palestinian guerrillas in the Sudan in 1973.