It has been all over the news, hostages were released by a US/Columbian Military trick from the FARC who had been holding them captive. 3 US Military Contractors from Grumman and a Green Party former presidential candidate in Columbia who was married to a French Diplomat as well as several members of the Columbian military were freed from captivity.
McCain went to Columbia a couple days before the release and he was tipped off, Fox News tried to imply that he was involved. CNN broadcast a HBO documentary about it Sunday nght 7/6/08.
From the “Think Progress” blog site I got this summary of the Fox spin and the AP Newswire report. I also listened to the interview on Ian Master’s show on KPFK today with one of the makers of the documentary “The Kidnapping Of Ingrid Betancourt” Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes. She was with Betancourt’s family when they were notified about the release of the hostages.
The Fox attempt to spin this for McCain is particularly insidious. But it is only the tip of a particularly nasty and bloody mess that the United States has allowed to develop in our own back yard.
“Fox News: There ‘Really Might Be A Connection’ Between McCain’s Visit To Colombia And The Hostage Release»
Today, Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said that his country’s government had rescued 15 hostages — including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors — from FARC rebels.
Santos made his announcement shortly after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) left the country, where he was visiting as part of a three-day trip to Colombia and Mexico. As soon as the good news broke, Fox News was already spinning it as a victory for McCain and speculating that it came about as a result of the senator’s short visit to the country:
SHEP SMITH: John McCain’s been over in Colombia. He was over there just yesterday. Is there a sense the timing is coincidental, or something more?
STEVE HARRIGAN: Well, you’d have to think as a former prisoner of war himself, Sen. McCain would have an intense interest in this case. It’s been played pretty low profile. A lot of people aren’t even aware of the fate of these three Americans. They were really working for a Defense Department civilian contractor. So there really might be a connection between the high-level visit of the former prisoner of war, John McCain himself, and the release now of three American prisoners here in southern Colombia.
Fox News’s suggestion is not only completely inaccurate, but also insulting to the years of work by the Colombian government. Today’s rescue had nothing to do with McCain. The AP describes the operation :
Santos said the military intelligence agents infiltrated the guerrilla ranks and led the local commander in charge of the hostages, alias Cesar, to believe they were going to take them by helicopter to Alfonso Cano, the guerrillas’ supreme leader.
Surrounded by military commandos, Cesar and the other guerrillas gave up without a fight as the helicopters took the hostages to a military base in Guaviare.”
For more on that story…
It is interesting and sad to see how the politicians of the dominant parties will spin anything.
I am a member of the Green Party, the party of Ingrid Betancourt. They are at least not trying to turn this into political capital. This is what the Party has to say.
“WASHINGTON, DC — US Green Party leaders expressed gratitude and relief after learning of Ingrid Betancourt’s rescue on Wednesday after she had been held hostage by Colombian rebels since 2002.
Ms. Betancourt, who served as national legislator in Colombia, ran for President as member of the Partido Verde OxÃgeno (Oxygen Green Party), and led campaigns against political corruption, was a special friend to US Greens.
At the recent Global Greens Congress, held in May in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Ms. Betancourt was made President of Honor of the Global Greens Coordination, the 12-member Steering Committee of the Global Greens.
“We are thrilled that Ingrid Betancourt’s captivity has ended, and we can only imagine the suffering she experienced during the past six and a half years,” said Carl Romanelli, Pennsylvania Green and member of the party’s International Committee. “We’re happy not just for Ms. Betancourt, but also for her family and friends after their long and agonizing wait.”
Greens thanked the international movement of individuals and groups who worked hard to secure her release, and affirmed their dedication to freedom for the many hostages still held and to a diplomatic and nonviolent solution to the armed conflict in Colombia. Greens also expressed congratulations to the families of the American hostages who were rescued.”
I have done a little bit of my own research on the FARC. They are the revolutionaries in Columbia who are fighting the regime in power. They use kidnapping of the wealthy and taxes on the areas of the country they control as funding mechanisms. I have included a link to their site and if you read Spanish it can be informative. Otherwise Wikpedia has a pretty good summary.
FARC in my mind has made a big mistake in kidnapping Greens; Indigenous rights activists and others who might be sympathizers. Activists in many countries are turned off by these actions. They are traditional methods of radical fund raising, robbing banks, kidnapping the wealthy, etc, in a revolutionary situation it might be justified in an emergency, The problem is that they have turned it into a business and if they lose their ideological foundation they could easily degenerate into an armed gang. Being organized as an army they have the internal discipline to maintain a line. But they are so isolated from world opinion, at least in the west that they have allowed themselves to be categorized as terrorists by the EU. They have the support of the Cubans, Venezuela and a few other regimes that are considered to be radical in their critique of capitalism. It is because of this that I am even willing to give them any slack at all.
I was once, briefly the leader of a small cell that could have turned in that direction. We were willing to destroy property of the rich, and to use this as a means to get them to pay attention to the needs of the poor where we lived in San Francisco. This was before the city became simply a playground for the rich. In 1980 it was still a mixed community of working class, poor and the wealthy. This was gentrification was just getting started. Before Starbucks became the symbol that the yuppies had arrived. But when I was faced with all the demand in the community for our little group let to perform tasks of vengeance for the poor and dispossessed of the neighborhood, I had to say no. We were not in the business of being a group of Robin Hoods. We were trying to show people that if they acted righteously and stood up to the powers that they could make a difference. But we were constantly asked to do it for them. And that was not what I was interested in. You can become a hero that way, but it does not empower others, and I could see how easily political action for the sake of the people could degenerate into a protection racket.
If the FARC can maintain its organization by switching from kidnapping as Chavez has recommended and become recognized by the UN as a belligerent in a war, then they will have gained the status they require for greater international recognition. But they will need sources of income. There will always be a need for support and they have the United States against them supporting the regime in Columbia. It is my contention that if they free the hostages and refuse to act as participants in the drug trade they may gain in support from around the world. The problem is that they are realists. They understand that even if they did gain that pr victory, unless they were able to counter the massive campaign against them on the part of the government, they would not survive for long without this income source. Perhaps Chavez has offered the FARC oil money from Venezuela, but that would make them dependent upon the whims of the Venezuelans.
For the sake of the Columbian people perhaps they should attempt a compromise; it seems that the outrage in the urban areas at the continued fighting has exhausted the patience of the people. But that is hard to determine, as long as the average Columbian is not benefiting from a functioning democracy there will be a material basis for the revolutionaries to act.
In the 1980’s the FARC had tried to enter civil society through the means of the Patriotic Union but as was reported in the NY Times, back when you still could read about Columbia without a totally right wing bias.
“Colombia’s Death-Strewn Democracy
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
Published: July 24, 1997
A state official in this remote pueblo in a rebel-dominated region in southern Colombia has a photo. It shows him with eight leaders of the Patriotic Union, a left-wing opposition party born during peace negotiations between the leftist rebels and the Colombian Government 12 years ago [Ed. Note: 1985]. One by one, the people in the photo have all been murdered. He is the only one still alive.
”All of them were killed,” said the official, who declined to be identified out of fear for his safety. ”In different circumstances, but none accidentally. It was physical extermination.”
Though the Patriotic Union is a legal party, most of its elected officials are now afraid to be identified with it. In all, more than 4,000 leaders and members of the party have been killed since its birth.
The dead include most of the presidential candidates the party has fielded, seven members of the House of Representatives, two senators and thousands of regional and municipal office holders. Last year, one member was murdered on an average of every other day; those who are left refer to one another as ‘’survivors.”
The killings have picked up as Colombia prepares for municipal elections in October, with the targets becoming not only party members but, it seems, whoever might vote for them. In the eastern and northern parts of the country — particularly the Uraba zone, a strategic corridor for drugs and weapons — right-wing death squads are waging a campaign of extermination, terrorizing residents and frequently forcing them to flee.
Robin Kirk of Human Rights Watch/Americas likens the brutality to a ”language of violence,” integral to the country’s overall political dialogue. ”All of the groups use that language to pursue their ends, and when they feel massacres is the right word to use, they will use it,” she said.
But the ghosts of the Patriotic Union are themselves a silent argument for skepticism about any efforts to achieve peace.
Not all of the phantoms are actually dead. Many of the party’s members have retreated into exile, others into a terrified anonymity that mutes their political activism. And many seem beaten by sorrow, exhausted by loss.
Jael Quiroga, a member of the party’s national council, recalled rallies that she attended, only to collapse into tears as she realized that all the other leaders who surrounded her were now dead, missing limbs or gone into exile.
”They were such good people, dreamers, who believed that through the democratic process we could be able to express ourselves, to make this a more just country,” Ms. Quiroga said through her tears.”
You can read more of the article at the site below.
What we see is the result of years of US intervention in Columbia. The rightwing death squads were allowed to murder any opposition in civil society, the revolutionaries were driven further underground. They lost the support of the Communist left with the demise of the Soviet Union and the El Salvadorian option of attempted negotiated peace has led to murder and betrayal. There are negotiations ongoing. But the cycle will not end as long as there is a world market for cocaine, as long as there are right wing death squads ready to kill off anyone who attempts to oppose the interests of the rich in a manner that is at all seen as a threat, and as long as the United States continues to believe that it has the right to perpetuate this war of attrition in Columbia in the vain hope that by linking the revolutionaries with the drug trade they can de-legitimize the cause which the revolutionaries are dedicated to.
But what about the war on drugs? This is the main justification for the United States military support of the regime in Columbia. Millions of our tax dollars have been spent there.
“Colombia’s coca crop booms despite US-backed crackdown
Rory Carroll The Guardian, Thursday June 19, 2008 Article Colombia’s coca crop increased by 27% last year, a surge which has shocked the United Nations and raised fresh questions about Bogotá’s US-backed “war” on drugs. Cultivation unexpectedly boomed in the country that is the world’s leading supplier of cocaine, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s annual report, published yesterday.
“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” the organization’s executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, said in a statement.”
You can read more about this in the link on Columbian Cocaine. The same could be said about heroin production in Afghanistan. Here is another war on drugs, and on terrorism and again millions of our tax dollars are being spent and heroin production has reached record levels.
There is a bloodbath going on in Juarez, Mexico as rival gangs’ battle for control of the drug trade into the United States. As a former drug user and dealer, I can say that I almost never had trouble finding drugs. All it took was money. The drug war is a hoax. As William Burroughs said in the movie ‘Drug Store Cowboy” it is a pretext for the implementation of a police state. It was the first step; the war on terror was the second. The war on polluters will be the third. How can you be in favor of illegal drugs, terror or pollution after all? But like Bill Clinton said, it all depends on how you define the term. The war on drugs and terror has been waged on people who want to change the terms under which we operate. They are anti capitalist. Not only are they anti capitalist, but they are effective and that is the worst crime. You can spout rhetoric, you can deal drugs, you can murder with impunity, but you cannot use drugs, guns and words to oppose the system of control that the capitalist class has implemented to dominate the world. If you do and do it with any degree of success, you will be demonized and destroyed. That is what is happening in Columbia. Let us hope they fail and the people of Columbia gain some control of the beautiful land they live in.
What we need is an end on this war on drugs. What we need is a complete change in orientation to take the profit motive out of the drug industry, it needs to be decriminalized and medicalized. It is only a step, but a step in the right direction to stop the militarization of our world. Again we have to start at home, not in the jungles of Columbia. By changing what we do here, we can make a difference there.