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Copa to go ahead in Colombia despite bombings

The executive committee of the CSF voted to back Colombia after a delegation of political heavyweights led by Colombian president Andres Pastrana guaranteed that the competition would go off peacefully.
“Unanimously, the confederation has backed our country, Colombia. We want to see in the name of all Colombians that we will not let them down. This will be the cup of peace,” Pastrana told reporters.
Colombia’s suitability as a venue had been in doubt after bombings in Bogota, Cali and Medellin – all of which will host matches – killed 12 people and injured around 200 in the last month.
The bombings prompted the CSF, which had awarded the competition to Colombia more than ten years ago under a rotation system, to call an emergency meeting to discuss the idea of transferring the tournament elsewhere.
Some 40,000 Colombians – mostly civilians – have been killed in ten years of fighting between leftist rebels, outlawed right-wing paramilitaries and the armed forces. The country also has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world.
Pastrana promised that a force of 20,000 men would be deployed to guarantee the safety of visiting teams in the seven cities which will be used as venues.
“We are deploying all our forces to guarantee the safety of the Copa America,” he said. “It was necessary to inform everyone of the plans, programmes and measures which are being taken.”
The Colombian delegation to the Paraguayan capital, where the CSF is based, included Congress president Mario Uribe, security police chief German Jaramillo and the mayors of the seven host cities.
“At no moment was there any doubt (about Colombia) in the mind of the president or members of the confederation),” said Nicolas Leoz, president of the CSF.
The CSF executive committee consists of the presidents of the continent’s ten national federations.
The loss of the tournament would have been a big blow to Pastrana, who has spent his three years in power trying to lay the foundations for a deal to end the country’s 37-year-old civil war.
Colombia had been due to host the 1986 World Cup, but were forced to pull out in 1984 and were replaced by Mexico.
The country successfully hosted the world cycling championships six years ago.
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela will take part in the tournament, with Mexico and Canada also participating as guests.