[Marxism] What really happened in Colombia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 7 08:32:39 MDT 2008

Counterpunch, July 7, 2008

What Really Happened in Colombia?
A Rescue Staged for the Screen


What drew me to the Sunday edition of Diario Vea wasn't just the 
headline "Venezuela will never again be a colony of anyone" and a cover 
photo of women soldiers in full uniform, wearing make-up and carrying 
bazookas on their shoulders. I confess to a weakness for strong women 
and this was so very Venezuelan: The women, demonstrating the strength 
of the nation, nevertheless didn't neglect putting on eyeliner, 
eyeshadow and lip gloss. And for me the clincher was the woman in the 
middle of the photo, looking over her bazooka at the camera and smiling 
widely, as if to say, "Even in war we won't lose our warmth nor our 
sense of humor." But if you spend any time at all in Venezuela it's hard 
to avoid that conclusion.

I was trying to catch a bus to Tabay, just a half hour outside of 
Merida, and I didn't want to carry the Sunday tomes the other papers 
offered with glossy mags and advertisements stuffed inside what is 
essentially a fluffy journalistic taco. Diario Vea is dependably 
lightweight on Sundays as it carries no advertising other than the 
lackluster government ads that seem to be the paper's major source of 
income. Vea, as it's known, is a left paper run by Guillermo García 
Ponce, rumored to be an old Communist who has lined up behind Chavez. 
Indeed, Vea is the only pro-government paper available in Venezuela, and 
that was the real reason I wanted to read Diario Vea today. Experience 
has taught me that US media shows and government lies broadcast as 
gospel have a life of maximum one week before reality bleeds through the 
cell doors where it's locked away and tortured by those same media 
conglomerates and lying government. Keep in mind that five or so 
corporations control 90% of all we hear, see, read and, ultimately, 
therefore, think. Those five corporations form our opinions for that 
crucial first week after a story, which is about when the alternative 
media, like Diario Vea, have a chance to pick up the real story and get 
at the truth concealed by the "facts."

Such has been the case this week in the wake of the "dramatic rescue" of 
Ingrid Betancourt, the three U.S. mercenaries and ten or so soldiers and 
police flown by helicopter into Bogotá while U.S. presidential candidate 
John McCain coincidentally toured the country. The whole event, even as 
broadcast here in Venezuela on government television stations, had the 
look and feel of an event staged for the screen and today's Diario Vea 
points out that the reason was because it was, indeed, an event staged 
for the screen and the "facts," which remain unacknowledged by the 
mainstream press in the U.S. and Colombia, tell a very different story 
from the media's fairy tale version of the event.

The story entitled "There was no such rescue but a media 'show'" that 
appeared in today's Diario Vea was drawn from the work of Bolivarian 
Press Agency writer Narciso Isa Conde and the Popular News Agency of 
Venezuela. According to the article the Colombian Revolutionary Armed 
Forces (FARC) had agreed to turn over Ingrid Betancourt and the other 
hostages to Swiss and French negotiators who agreed to arrange to pick 
up the hostages from various locations in two helicopters. The Colombian 
military got wind of the upcoming release and took control of the 
helicopters. The collusion of the U.S. in the media spin, while yet to 
be proven, is quite likely, especially since McCain just "happened" to 
be in the neighborhood and would be able to take the spotlight in a 
crassly opportunistic attempt to boost his pathetic presidential campaign.

And so the "rescue" ironically turned out to be a hostage taking in 
reverse in which the FARC's goodwill gesture was blindsided for the 
glorification the paramilitary, drug-dealing President Uribe and his 
friend, John McCain, as the armed forces of Colombia seized two civilian 
helicopters full of prisoners, who had, in fact, been released, and not 
"rescued." But presidential vanity wasn't the only thing behind this 
media show. The mainstream media leaked what may have been the major 
motives. In the July 5 edition of the Houston Chronicle, Bennett Roth 
writes, in a story entitled "Hostage rescue (sic) will likely reinforce 
U.S. ties" that the media show, which Roth calls a "commando operation," 
will "strengthen…security ties with the United States" with Colombia. 
The article quotes Riordan Roett of Johns Hopkins as saying that the 
non-event of the "rescue"  "validates to a great degree Plan Colombia."

In an AP story on the same page, a headline announces that "Chavez [is] 
left on the sideline" by the "bold rescue," and that the Venezuelan 
leader  "could do little more than phone congratulations to President 
Uribe," as if Chavez's role as a world leader consisted only in his work 
to free FARC hostages. The article ends with a statement by Betancourt 
that with "the help of our neighbors" the FARC could be shown "that 
there's room in Latin America to win power the democratic way."

So much for the lessons about this "bold rescue" from the perspective of 
the U.S. press and Ms. Betancourt. Colombians who have suffered terror 
and worse at the hands of the narco-government of Alvaro Uribe with his 
media shows and many other Latin Americans who have watched the civil 
war in Colombia for many years know otherwise. In this same issue of 
today's Diario Vea there is an exclusive interview with Nicolás 
Rodríguez Bautista, "Gabino," the commander of the National Liberation 
Army, Colombia's other major guerrilla, composed of revolutionary 
Christians, Marxists and workers from the oil fields and others. He 
reminds readers of Diario Vea that the last time leftists lay down their 
arms and took up legal paths of political struggle, the Colombian state 
and oligarchy murdered six thousand militants, beheading the legal left 
of Colombia. For Gabino, Chavez can play a much greater role in the 
conflict as mediator, despite his recent calls for the Colombian 
guerrilla to what appears to be an unconditional surrender. "His 
declarations are no obstacle to his being a facilitator for peace in 
Colombia. His essential role as ruler and his status as leader on the 
continent hasn't changed."

So far the U.S. press, unfortunately including much of the alternative 
media, have largely gone along with the "official" version of events in 
Colombia, a story in which a "terrorist" guerrilla insurgency has 
plagued the country with irrational kidnappings, drug dealing and 
massive violence which can only be defeated by the combined forces of 
the U.S. and its faithful sidekick, the Colombian government.

Nevertheless, Diario Vea presents a very different picture of the 
country. As the interview with Gabino highlights, it is the 
paramilitaries, allied with the government and oligarchy of Colombia, 
that have been most involved in the drug trade and the violence, 
including kidnappings. Since Uribe has been in power, over four hundred 
union activists have been killed by those same forces. In defiance of 
international law, the Colombian military has bombed Ecuador to kill 
members of the FARC and the government still offers no guarantees of 
protection to a legal left. Hopefully in the future media in the U.S. 
will follow suit with Diario Vea and Venezuelan news agencies and do a 
more critical analysis of the joint fabrications of the U.S. and 
Colombian governments.

Clifton Ross, translator and co-editor with Ben Clarke of "Voice of 
Fire: Communiques and Interviews from the Zapatista National Liberation 
Army," is the writer and director of "Venezuela: Revolution from the 
Inside Out," a feature-length documentary released May 20 of this year 
and available from PM Press (www.pmpress.org). He can be reached at 
clifross1 at yahoo.com

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