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Mystery woman among guerrillas

Times Staff Writers

Lucia Morett survived the attack Saturday by the Colombian military on a rebel base in Ecuador, an act that has brought three South American countries to the brink of war.

Since then, many have wondered what the 26-year-old Mexican drama student was doing in a base led by the No. 2 commander of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group.

On Wednesday, Morett remained in a hospital in Quito, Ecuador, recuperating from wounds suffered in what appeared to be an aerial bombing, she said. Her public statements have shed little light on the mystery.

Her story is being cast in Mexico City as an espionage tale involving Mexican students and local support networks sympathetic to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

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In media reports, Morett has been called a “Mexican guerrilla” and “drug trafficker.” But her friends and relatives say she is an aspiring actress who was in Ecuador working on her bachelor’s thesis on Latin American culture.

Jorge Morett, Lucia’s father and a professor at the University of Chapingo, said in interviews with the Mexican media that his daughter was an idealistic young woman who had traveled to Ecuador to attend a leftist meeting. She is not a guerrilla, he said.

Many students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s School of Philosophy and Letters said Lucia Morett often gave speeches on campus. Morett, who completed her studies at the university, Mexico’s largest, about three years ago, was a committed activist who took up a variety of causes, including support for the Zapatista rebels in the Mexican state of Chiapas, some students said.

“She’s a woman with values who fights for social causes and who is unjustly being treated like a criminal,” said Dulce Ortega, 24, a sociology student. “There’s a lot of us like Lucia in this school.”

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On Wednesday, the newspaper El Universal reported that Colombian officials believed that the FARC rebels had a support network at the university.

Colombian intelligence officials have sent agents to Mexico to monitor student groups at the university and in other cities, the newspaper said.

El Universal said it had obtained a confidential Colombian intelligence report that indicated the FARC was attempting to recruit Mexicans between the ages of 16 and 30 in Mexico City, Monterrey and other places.

The report said various houses and businesses in Mexico City, including a car dealership, were used for FARC activities. Mexicans were recruited to FARC “schools,” the report said, and some become guerrillas.

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Mexican officials have often linked the FARC to Mexican drug trafficking groups.

In an open letter to the daily newspaper La Jornada, a group of more than 30 friends of Morett sought to squelch any notion that she was involved in illegal activities or was a guerrilla.

Morett “has a life as an actress in Mexico City,” they wrote, and “studied dramatic literature and theater” at the university.

“She is working on her thesis and has nothing to do with the Colombian guerrillas or drug dealers,” the letter said.

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In a television interview from Ecuador, Morett talked only about the attack, a series of explosions that shook her from her sleep.

“I could hear planes, helicopters, and they started to bomb us,” she said.

She heard gunfire and another round of exploding bombs.

“I didn’t move, but when I realized I was wounded, I dragged myself away,” she said.

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Killed in the raid were Raul Reyes, the nom de guerre of the No. 2 commander of the FARC, and 16 other people. Colombia said the rebels, blamed for widespread extortions and kidnappings in Colombia, were operating in Ecuador with the consent of local authorities.

Ecuador responded to the attack by expelling Colombian diplomats, a measure also taken by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Ecuador and Venezuela have deployed troops to the Colombian border.

At the Autonomous University, student groups said they planned a demonstration outside the Colombian Embassy today in support of Morett.

Ten campus groups signed a letter in her behalf Wednesday, including the Karl Marx Collective and the Revolutionary Brigade for Anti-Capitalist Unity.

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hector.tobar@latimes.com


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