[Marxism] Colombia: Behind the freeing of Betancourt

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Mon Jul 7 02:36:49 MDT 2008


Colombia: Behind the freeing of Betancourt
Stuart Munckton
5 July 2008


*On July 2, an operation by the Colombian military succeeded in freeing
French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt from the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC), who had held her prisoner since 2002. Betancourt
was the highest-profile FARC-held prisoner and the action, which also
liberated 14 other prisoners, captured world headlines. *

On July 2, an operation by the Colombian military succeeded in freeing
French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt from the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC), who had held her prisoner since 2002. Betancourt
was the highest-profile FARC-held prisoner and the action, which also
liberated 14 other prisoners, captured world headlines.

The liberating of the prisoners was widely celebrated, including by the
Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez, which has been involved in negotiating
with the FARC for the release of its prisoners. According to a
Venezuelanalysis.com article, Chavez stated: "We share the jubilation … for
the liberation of these persons …"

Chavez reiterated his call, first made in January, for the FARC to release
all of its remaining prisoners, and Venezuela's foreign affairs ministry
stated "we wish that this event will open the path to humanitarian accord,
the dismantling of war, and the extraordinary achievement of peace".

@subh = Strengthening militarism

While the liberation is welcome, there is little doubt the use of a military
raid to free prisoners will be used by the Colombian regime headed by
President Alvaro Uribe to strengthen its policies of using military might to
crush the four decades-long insurgency by the FARC and, under the cover of
fighting "terrorism", strengthen the repressive apparatus of the Colombian
state and its allied death squads against social movements and trade
unionists. More trade unionists are killed in Colombia every year than in
any other country.

While the military raid will be presented as evidence of the success of
Uribe's strategy, the full story will remain omitted from the corporate
media. There was a very real alternative to liberating Betancourt other than
through a military raid, an alternative that had, and still has, the
potential to lead to a lasting peaceful solution to Colombia's civil war.

Last year, under intense pressure over a growing paramilitary scandal
engulfing his government, Uribe invited Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to
help negotiate a humanitarian exchange of around 40 prisoners held by the
FARC for the hundreds of FARC fighters held in Colombian and US prisons. A
successful prisoner exchange could have been the first step to a peace
settlement to end the fighting.

However, just as it looked like Chavez's negotiations were making headway,
Uribe unilaterally ended his role on a flimsy pretext, scuttling hopes for a
negotiated exchange. As a sign of goodwill for Chavez's intentions, the FARC
subsequently released six prisoners unilaterally to the Venezuelan
government earlier this year.

Plans for any further unilateral releases, potentially including Betancourt,
were literally blown apart by the Colombian military on March 1 when it
illegally bombed a FARC campsite inside the Ecuadorian border that killed
more than 20 people, including civilians. Among those killed was FARC leader
and chief spokesperson Raul Reyes, who was in charge of negotiations over
Betancourt's release.

The liberation of Betancourt could have occurred through an exchange of
prisoners last year, had Uribe not ended the process. It is possible she
could have been released unilaterally had the FARC negotiator not been
murdered. Both possibilities could have been the basis for a serious peace
process to begin.

A June 2 Bolpress.com article by Isaac Bigio argued that the action "will
strengthen Uribe in his battle with the supreme court (which is questioning
the 'legality' of his election and the fact that 20% of his parliamentarians
are tied to paramilitaries) and his moves towards a new election (hoping to
extend his mandate, which according to the constitution should end in
2010)".

"It will also benefit [US Republican presidential candidate John] McCain
(who recently went to Colombia) and his hardline 'anti-terrorist' strategy
in front of [Democratic candidate Barack] Obama (who has asked for a meeting
with Chavez and to put a freeze on a Free Trade Agreement with Bogota)",
Bigio argued.

@subh = Weakening the continental left

That fact that Uribe succeeded in liberating Betancourt without conceeding
anything in return means "his image, as much domestically as
internationally, will grow and the continental right wing will want to
validate itself in order to launch a counteroffensive against the
governments and leftist parties of the region", according to the article.

"It could have an impact on the US electoral race given that the Republicans
will want to use this to maintain themselves in power, demonstrating that
the best way to defeat 'terrorism' is with investing more in intelligence
and military actions."

Bigio argued in relation to the FARC that "a guerrilla force that
discredited itself by carrying out unpopular military actions ends up
weakening the left itself … and helps in the consolidation of forces that
want a greater liberalisation of the economy."

He argued that the FARC has been dealt a "strong blow" and "may face new
crises at a time when they have changed their leader for the first time".

"The defeat of the FARC would have repercussions within the left", he said.
"While one sector will come out of this concluding that individual and
isolated violence conspires against their ideals of organising towards a
mass uprising, the majority of 'socialists' will look to distance themselves
from all violent acts in order to appear as 'moderates' capable of being
good democrats."

On other hand, "Uribe will want to convert himself into the most popular
president in the region and a symbol that the opponents of Chavez,
[Ecuadorian President Rafael] Correa, [Bolivian President Evo] Morales and
[Nicaraguan President Daniel] Ortega can use to undermine the advance of the
'pink wave' in Latin America".

Uribe's victory "will be used by the Venezuelan opposition to hit out at
Chavez in the Venezuelan regional elections" in November, while it will also
be used by the opposition to the Morales government in Bolivia, Bigio
concluded.

It is clear the Uribe regime does not want peace, but wishes to cynically
use the FARC-held prisoners as political pawns, using the threat of
"terrorism" to advance its agenda of staying in power on the back of
increased militarisation and hostility to progressive movements — in
Colombia and the region.


-- 
"The free market is perfectly natural... do you think I am some kind of
dummy?" - Jarvis Cocker



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