[Marxism] COHA: Colombia: The Betancourt Rescue and Beyond

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 10 19:29:03 MDT 2008

Colombia: The Betancourt Rescue and Beyond

In spite of Ingrid Betancourt’s extraordinary rescue, the fate of
Colombia is unlikely to be any brighter than before unless she
accepts a new mission and returns to the public life, and President
Alvaro Uribe commits a patriotic act by declining to seek a
constitutional change allowing him to run for a third term in 2010.

• Betancourt’s unlikely but “impeccable” rescue may involve less than
meets the eye

• Uribe – a divisive figure who may now shine, but reflects
Colombia’s deep malaise

• Largely due to its own self interest, U.S. policy is blindly

• Ingrid Betancourt is a proven quantity, having run a very
respectable presidential campaign in 2002

[two excerpts]

The remarkably intricate nature of the rescue has raised some
speculation whether it might have been, in spite of the military’s
insistence, not an all-Colombian Armed Forces operation, but a joint
effort by the Colombian military and one or more FARC deserters, and
that massive bribes may have been involved. An organization that has
been surviving for over 40 years and was known for its capacity to
endure under the most trying of conditions is not likely to have
fallen for such an obvious trap. One explanation can be found in the
fact that, according to Ingrid Betancourt, the FARC, prior to the
rescue mission, seemed to be going through a period of pronounced
scarcity of supplies and had been enduring severe operative problems
in the recent months. She states that the government seemed to have
cornered the FARC, and that heavy pressure was being put on it,
causing desertions and various acts of bribery to occur at an
alarming rate. Therefore, it is conceivable that some FARC rebels
from that sector had defected and were cooperating in the operation
with the Colombian military, and that hundreds of thousands—even
millions—of dollars had exchanged hands.

Furthermore, the timing of Uribe’s rescue was suspiciously perfect.
Just when the legislator Yidis Medina had been found guilty of
bribery for changing her vote to allow Uribe to be reelected, and
just when Colombia was going through a profound institutional crisis
which put Uribe’s mandate into question, the paramount success of
Betancourt’s rescue hurried all of the previous legitimate concerns
over Uribe into the trash bin. However, there are increasing doubts
concerning the details of the rescue and the fact that some of them
might not have occurred in their entirety as related by the Colombian
authorities. For example Swiss radio Romande journalist, Frederich
Blassel, claims that reliable sources indicate that 20 million U.S.
dollars were in fact paid to the FARC to facilitate the escape of the
15 hostages. The channel said that the hostages “were in reality
ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a
set-up,” and that the U.S. was somehow involved in securing the
funds, providing intelligence, performing logistical services,
providing infrastructure and training availability in general.


After being reunited with her sons and daughter, Betancourt called
for international support to achieve the liberation of the rest of
the hostages. She called on the presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador and
Argentina to help with Colombia’s peace efforts by strengthening its
democratic institution. Now may be the ideal moment for peace
negotiations between the FARC and the government to once again
commence. Since Colombian authorities find themselves in an
indisputably advantageous position in their prospects to resolve the
current conflict, they now have the opportunity to make reasonable
demands, and then call upon all countries involved in the current
deadlock to reach a humanitarian agreement instead of perpetuating an
armed conflict with the guerrilla forces. At the same time, the hope
is that Uribe will not “get drunk in his own success,” as the
Colombian press agency Anncol warned last Thursday, July 3rd.
However, new signs of danger have started to manifest themselves. For
instance, according to the major Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, on
July 8th, Commissioner of Peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo announced that
the government would seek to negotiate the armed conflict without
turning to the international community because of “the difficulties
with the [international] mediators, and since the FARC are already
fractured, it is better to establish direct contact.” However, the
lack of international support and mediation was one of the biggest
reasons why the negotiations failed in the previous administrations.
Uribe would be wise to learn from the lessons of the past, to draw
upon as much help as he can get when it comes to achieving a lasting
peace in Colombia. Shunning international mediators now might be very
detrimental to Colombia’s future and this should be the Colombian
President’s main concern.

A now crippled FARC organization is being called upon by a number of
well-wishers to lay down its arms and achieve change by entering into
a sincere political dialogue and the pursuit of a meaningful
compromise. Optimistically, as former Colombian President Andres
Pastrana reasons, “leaders of the FARC will come to an understanding
that they need to sit down and negotiate.” Meanwhile, newly installed
FARC leader Alfonso Cano must come to recognize that the time has
come for his group to step up and make a sincere commitment to peace.
In the last few days, both Fidel Castro and President Correa of
Ecuador have called upon the FARC to release all their hostages and
no longer look upon kidnapping as a legitimate revolutionary tactic,
even though the Cuban strongman advised FARC not to lay down their
arms. As Hugo Chavez stated on June 27th, “the time for guerrilla
fronts have passed” and “there should be a greater effort towards
peace…from my point of view the time of the guns already passed.”
Furthermore, the FARC needs to realize that its armed struggle is not
helping to achieve social reform or ameliorate Colombia’s profound
economic and agrarian concerns, or deal with the massive problems
posed by poverty along with millions of displaced refugees.

Ingrid Betancourt can play a big role in this unfolding script by not
resorting to old political veneers, but through seeking after bold
new formulas. Perhaps Hugo Chavez could be called upon again to
resume his past efforts to negotiate with the FARC rebels in order
for them to agree to give up the captives in their hands, and perhaps
he would agree to take in thousands of demobilized guerrilla fighters
and offer them a temporary safe haven in Venezuela in order to
safeguard their future security, which could not be guaranteed in
Colombia. Betancourt, too, could call upon regional figures to offer
them guarantees as an act of good will, even though this might be
illusory. This would be one way that the FARC combatants could be
protected against being sitting ducks for further political assaults.
The government must ensure the FARC that past bloody incidents such
as the extermination of the Patriotic Union during the middle of the
1980’s, when the paramilitary and the military forces annihilated the
political party faction of the FARC, will not be repeated.

However, the final analysis is that it must be Uribe who shows that
although his military forces recently have achieved a stunning blow
against the FARC militants, his finest hour could be his decision not
to run again for president, for there have been too many scandals,
too many sanctioned human rights violations, and too much bloodshed
between the FARC and his government for his bona fides to have
credibility. If his commitment to peace in Colombia is true, and if
he genuinely wants the best for Colombia’s future, a decision not to
seek the presidential office for a third term would be a positive
factor in resolving his nation’s persistent woes and would offer an
opportunity for Colombia to end the four decade old armed conflict.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Erina Uozumi

July 9th, 2008 Word Count: 2600


     Los Angeles, California
     Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
     "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"

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