"Ex-Rebels First as Colombians Elect Assembly" {news story, Dec. 10} was a welcome departure from The Post's almost exclusive focus on drug-related news in its coverage of Colombia. Three points made in the article are worthy of comment.

First, the U.S. official's comment that "there is not much to be optimistic about in the assembly" suggests that U.S. policy is single-mindedly concerned about drug-war goals, being either indifferent or opposed to the process of attaining peace and broadening democracy, which both President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo and his principal opponents view as the key objectives of the National Constituent Assembly.

Second, the army attack on the headquarters of the largest guerrilla movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on the same day as the assembly elections was emblematic of one of Colombia's main political problems -- the relative autonomy of the Colombian military and its obsession with counter-insurgency actions. Neither the FARC or the ELN, the two largest guerrilla forces, has stated opposition to the assembly. Quite to the contrary, both have sought representation in the assembly, making it a prospective means for them to join the peace process.

Third, the article said the M-19 "was one of the most feared and violent guerrilla groups in Latin America." Although the M-19 did carry out several spectacular actions beginning in the mid-1970s, these actions initially earned it widespread popularity, not fear. Indeed, other guerrilla groups in Colombia, as well as the Shining Path in Peru, clearly inspired more fear. While the Palace of Justice takeover of November of 1985 was widely seen as a major blunder, the violent deaths of approximately 100 civilians, including 12 supreme court magistrates, were recently attributed by a special prosecutor to the army general who, according to the prosecutor's report, directed the government counterattack.

Finally, there is no reason to lament the end of extradition, because it has only provoked terrorist actions by some narco-traffickers, while the multibillion-dollar drug business has continued to flourish. Moreover, ending extradition poses a crucial challenge to Colombia to strengthen its justice system.

Colombia is perhaps the most complex country in Latin America, with the most successful economy, the highest homicide rate, the worst political violence and the largest cocaine exports. The National Constituent Assembly will not solve all of the country's problems; indeed, attempts to broaden democracy and redefine the role of the military likely will provoke staunch opposition from elites and military commanders who will work to defend their interests.

Close monitoring of the assembly, peace negotiations and rights violations committed or tolerated by government forces may, as in Central America, play a key role in fostering the peace that most Colombians seek. CHARLES H. ROBERTS Washington

The writer is a member of the Colombia Human Rights Committee.