CSMS Magazine Staff WritersWhile Washington, Paris and Bogotá are still celebrating their self-proclaim coup against the FARC, new revelations have surfaced, resulting to serious and pertinent questions being raised over what the US and European media are now calling “the beginning of the end for the Revolutionary Arm Forces of Colombia (FARC). It looks as if the Colombian army, all of a sudden, has found the magic tools to put to rest once and for all the longest and bloodiest conflict in modern day Lain America. Even if that were true, will that suffice to pacify and unify a society fragmented by years of social and economic divides, by years of forced internal displacement of its minorities (Blacks and Indians alike), by years of despicable massacres committed by the Colombian army and its holy allies: the death squad paramilitaries? Let it be noted that we sincerely hold sympathy for Ingrid Betancourt, a mother of two held against her will for 6 years in the Colombian jungles. However, it is obvious if the hostage were not Ingrid or someone of her social, economic and political status—French-educated holding dual nationalities (French-Colombian), the daughter of a former government minister and a well-suited member of the Colombian dinosaurs clique—the outcome could have been far different. At this hour, hundreds or perhaps thousands of political prisoners are being rotted in Colombian jails while thousands more were abducted by right-wing paramilitaries. It may be impossible to know their fate for no one seems to care. Who is going to stage a Rambo style rescue à la Hollywood on their behalf? Their parents’ cries for justice have long been lost in a desert of despair once it became clear to them that there will never be a rescuer at the end of tunnel. Ingrid rose to fame while in FARC custody, as she became the organization biggest prize possession at the bargaining table with the Colombian government. Countless negotiations to gain her release produced no results, while former French president Jacques Chirac and now president Nicolas Sarkozy made Ingrid’s release their personal crusade. Arriving in Paris last Friday, she received a superstar welcome at both the Elysé palace and at Jacques Chirac’s private residence outside Paris.Was Ingrid rescued the way it has been portrayed?According to the official version from the Colombian Defense Ministry, intelligence agents have managed to infiltrate the FARC and “duped” its leadership into believing that elite commandos units dressed in Che Guevara T-shirts were simply aid workers. What makes this version so suspicious is the fact the ministry claimed that guerrillas and journalists were involved in the supposed plan engineered by some FARC elements to transfer the hostages via helicopter to what was supposed to be a “safer” location. Assuming that were true, it is hard to believe that Ingrid Betancourt and the American hostages were mysteriously held in the same encampment at the same time, unless the top FARC leadership, not some fringed field commanders, was deeply involved in the operation. CNN reported that the United States aided the Colombian army by providing it access to global positioning satellite to eavesdrop on FARC activities in the jungles, while monitoring the guerillas troop movements. That is fairly possible. The high-tech military hardware in the US arsenal could easily be used to track the FARC movements, including using night vision devices to monitor its nightly activities. However, the triumphant cry of “not a single shot was fired” holds no sway, for Alvaro Uribe, a right-wing politician, who rose to the presidency with a staunch, militarist attitude and who made defeating the FARC through violent means the cornerstone of his campaign, would have never resorted to peaceful means to stage such a “delicate” operation. “What makes this account particularly suspect, however, is the entire record of the Colombian military, which hardly calls to mind operations in which “not a shot is fired.” In fact, it has carried out one of the bloodiest campaigns in the hemisphere over the course of decades, fueled over the last 10 years by some $5.4 billion in US military aid,” wrote Bill Van Auken, one of the leading editorialists on the WS website. Furthermore, Uribe’s recent actions leave no doubt about his intentions to never resolve the hostage crisis through peaceful means. As a matter of fact, Uribe nearly sparked regional conflagration last spring when he sent the Colombian army into a dangerous cross-border incursion on a FARC camp inside Ecuador, which resulted into the killing of Raul Reyes, FARC chief negotiator. That action has triggered international outrage and nearly derailed the Ibero-American summit in Santo Domingo, when Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and many of his supporters threatened to expel Uribe from the gathering. Critics claim that Uribe’s action was a diabolical attempt to block any peaceful resolution that could have resulted from secret negotiations led by French negotiators in the hope of earning the release of Betancourt and other hostages back in March. Uribe’s militarism was reportedly infuriated Betancourt’s family, who expressed fears that the Colombian president’s dangerous adventures could have put Ingrid’s life in danger. Based on these facts, it is fair to believe that the so-called heroic tale told from the military headquarters in Bogotá may have been just that: a fairytale. There are other revelationsAccording to Swiss public radio cited on the Bill Van Auken editorial, the so called shrewd maneuver was nothing but a theatrical scene, a stage play for “ the whole operation afterwards was a set-up” [and] “the hostages’ freedom had been bought with a $20 million ransom.” These allegations may have some truth to them because Switzerland, France and Spain were heavily involved in the negotiations along with “Washington playing the leading role in organizing the deal.” According to the same sources, both Washington and Bogotá wanted to claim political success as part of their campaign for the global war on terror. To Uribe, it would have been self-defeating to be seeing sharing a stage with what he and the Bush Administration consider a terrorist organization. In France, Dominique Moisi, a top foreign policy analyst, threw some weight behind these allegations when he suggested on French television France 2 that there is tangible probability money were used to buy the cooperation of the FARC’s top leaders. And then he went on to say that “They were bought in order to turn them around, like Mafia chiefs.” Then there is this: reports from inside Colombia have claimed that the rescue could not have been possible without the collaboration of the specific guerilla group in charge of holding Ingrid Betancourt. In recent months there have been some high profile guerilla defections, and a captured wife of one of the guerrilla leaders was used as a go-between in order to arrange the release of the hostages during secret negotiations between this specific group and the Colombian secret services. According to this version of event, the captured wife was sent back to the FARC camp with a mission to sway her husband to change his allegiance for money and security guarantee with France providing sanctuary to him and others who surrender. Giving weight to this revelation was the slaying last March of Ivan Rios, a top FARC leader, assassinated by his own bodyguard who then severed Rios’ right hand and presented it to authorities as proof in order to collect a $2.5 million US bounty. The drumbeat has been playing to exonerate Uribe who is fighting corruption scandals when human right organizations and other groups fighting against the rise of fascism in Colombia accused the president as the mastermind behind thousands of killings. It has been reported that more than 30 members of the Colombian congress have been arrested while many more are under investigation. Almost all of them are close allies of the president. Just three weeks ago, the Colombian High Court ruled that Uribe had used or misused the power of the presidency to bribe some members of the Colombian Congress in order to secure “a constitutional amendment allowing him to succeed himself in 2006.” It was also reported that one legislator was arrested following the ruling, which now cast serious doubt over the legitimacy of Uribe’s second term. In any event, the biggest loser among the players is none other than the FARC, whose credibility and perhaps its ability to recover lost grounds has called into serious questions. CSMS Magazine in a lengthy article published back in May already explained why the FARC’s desire to stay at war may no longer be sustainable. No one can wage a people’s war without the backing of the people, and FARC has long lost that backing after it deviated from the course to resort to very unpopular, brutal tactics clearly incompatible to any national liberation struggles. But FARC dilemma is the mirror reflection of the internal soul searching facing many leftist movements in Latin America. From El Salvador to Peru through Nicaragua and Guatemala, the feverish attitude of the 1980s is now being replaced by an opportunistic attitude, which left thousands stranded in the river of death once their leaders surrendered to their enemies, thereby leaving many of their supporters at the mercy of death squads who roam the countryside freely in order to impose the everlasting fear into the minds of those who dare to resist.Also see Ingrid Betancourt’s release, the return of the U. S. Fourth Fleet and John McCain Latin America tour Can the death of Marulanda finally bring peace to Colombia?Colombia’s cross-border military incursion into Ecuador could spark regional conflagrationNote: Our Paris correspondent, Marie-Jeannine Myrthil, also contributed to this report.
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