A Few Words from the FARC

It was a perfectly executed rescue mission and they pulled it off without a hitch. A small group of Colombian military-intelligence agents, posing as aid workers on a humanitarian mission, touched-down in the heart of rebel territory, gathered up Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages, and whisked them away to safety while a small army of rifle-toting Marxist guerrillas looked on dumbfounded. Whew. What a shocker.

One of the American contractors who was freed in the mission even boasted to NPR that it was “the greatest rescue mission in history”. Indeed, it may be, but it’s a little too early to tell just yet. After all, it took about a week before the Jessica Lynch story began to unravel. This could take even longer. Many readers will remember Lynch as the baby-faced GI who supposedly fought off a swarm of Iraqi regulars “Rambo-like” before making her way to safety.

Unfortunately, the whole story turned out to be an elaborate farce concocted by Rumsfeld’s Strategic Intelligence Unit to drum-up support for the war. In truth, Lynch had simply taken a wrong turn on the road to Baghdad, rolled her vehicle in a ditch, and was patched up by some magnanimous Iraqis. Some hero!

It was the same with Pat Tillman, the Niger uranium, WMD, Saddam in the spider-hole and myriad other whoppers cooked up by the Bush spinmeisters. Every one of them was a fabrication. And what about the 75 Pentagon chieftains who appeared regularly on commercial TV to pollute the public airwaves with their war-promoting bilge? There wasn’t a word of truth in any of it; 100% unalloyed horsecrap.

Already, the holes are beginning to appear in the “official” rescue narrative. First of all, how did John McCain manage to show up in Bogota just as Betancourt was getting off the plane and the champagne was being uncorked? The whole incident was eerily reminiscent of the way the American hostages in Tehran were released on the day of Reagan’s inauguration. Now there’s a coincidence. Seems like “straight talking” McCain might be just as lucky as the Gipper.

Isn’t it reasonable to assume that secret negotiations may have been going on behind the scenes and McCain was tipped off at the last minute so he share the limelight with Uribe and breathe some life into his moribund presidential campaign?

And what about the reports on Swiss Public Radio that “claim that the entire episode was nothing but a sham to disguise the payment of a ransom. SPR cited an unidentified source ‘close to the events, reliable and tested many times in recent years’ as saying the operation had in fact been staged to cover up the fact that the US and Colombians had paid $20 million for their freedom.

“The hostages released on Wednesday, including Ingrid Betancourt, ‘were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up,’ the public broadcaster said… The report said that the wife of one of the hostages’ guards had acted as a go-between after being arrested by the Colombian Army. She was released to return to the guerrillas, where she allegedly persuaded her husband to change sides.”1

Irc.indymedia.org tells a similar story in their article “The Real Operation to Rescue Ingrid Betancourt and US Mercenaries”:

“On June 3rd, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba revealed that she possessed information that the government of Colombia was negotiating a deal with the FARC a to trade money for the release of Betancourt and the mercenaries.”

Mediaparte, the French news web site founded by the former chief editor of Le Monde, reported that the rescue was “not an achievement of the Colombian military, but due to the surrender of a group of the FARC members” following “direct negotiations by the Colombian secret services with the guerrilla group that held Betancourt captive.” Citing Colombian sources, it reported that Uribe had told a group last May that a surrender of those holding the hostages was being negotiated. Mediaparte added that the Sarkozy government agreed to offer the ex-guerrillas sanctuary in France after their surrender.2

Now how did that little tidbit manage to slip by the New York Times?

And isn’t Betancourt’s announcement that she’s planning to write a play about her experience just one day after her release a bit suspicious? No one recovers from trauma that quickly. Something is fishy here. Clearly, this is not a woman who has been subjected to excruciating psychological pain like the US prisoners at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. Those unlucky fellows have been put through the full-range of sadistic abuses meted out by the Pentagon’s new breed of Dr. Mengeles and other intelligence “professionals”. Apparently, Betancourt was never water-boarded, beaten, raped, dragged around her cell in a dog-collar, or stacked naked on top of other prisoners. In fact, her medical report indicated that she was in remarkably good health. That says a lot about her captors.

So, what is the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and why are they traipsing around the jungle with Kalashnikovs instead of engaging in the political process?

The truth is, they were part of the process until the right wing death squads started killing their candidates and party bosses and forced them to go underground. As James Petras explains in his article “Homage to Manuel Marulanda”:

“In the early 1980’s, many cadre and leaders decided to try the electoral route, signed a ‘peace agreement’ with the Colombian President, formed an electoral party – the Patriotic Union – and successfully elected numerous mayors and representatives. They even gained a substantial vote in Presidential elections. …. By 1987 over 5,000 members of the Patriotic Union had been slaughtered by the oligarchy’s death squads, including three presidential candidates, a dozen elected congressmen and women and scores of mayors and city councilors. Those who survived fled to the jungles and rejoined the armed struggle or fled into exile.”

The FARC tried politics, signed a “peace agreement” with the government and were butchered anyway. That’s the way it works in Colombia. So now they are in the jungle waging war to gain entry into the political system. Is that terrorism?

The Colombian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world and much of the repression is facilitated by the billions of dollars they get from the United States via Plan Colombia. Again, James Petras details the effects of US support for the Uribe regime:

With an unprecedented degree of US financing and advanced technological support, the newly elected narco-partner and death squad organizer, President Alvaro Uribe took charge of a scorched earth policy to savage the Colombian countryside. Between his election in 2002 and re-election in 2006, over 15,000 peasants, trade unionists, human rights workers, journalists and other critics were murdered. Entire regions of the countryside were emptied — like the US Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces and their partners in the paramilitary death squads decimated vast stretches of the Colombian countryside where the FARC exercised hegemony. Scores of US-supplied helicopter gun-ships blasted the jungles in vast search and destroy missions — (which had nothing to do with coca production or the shipment of cocaine to the United States). By destroying all popular opposition and organizations throughout the countryside and displacing millions Uribe was able to push the FARC back toward more defensible remote regions.

Noam Chomsky draws the same conclusions as Petras in this excerpt from his book Rogue States:

“In Colombia, however, the military armed and trained by the United States has not crushed domestic resistance, though it continues to produce its regular annual toll of atrocities. Each year, some 300,000 new refugees are driven from their homes, with a death toll of about 3,000 and many horrible massacres. The great majority of atrocities are attributed to paramilitary forces. These are closely linked to the military, as documented in considerable and shocking detail once again in February 2000 by Human Rights Watch, and in April 2000 by a UN study which reported that the Colombian security forces that are to be greatly strengthened by the Colombia Plan maintain an intimate relationship with death squads, organize paramilitary forces, and either participate in their massacres directly or, by failing to take action, have “undoubtedly enabled the paramilitary groups to achieve their exterminating objectives.” In more muted terms, the State Department confirms the general picture in its annual human rights reports, again in the report covering 1999, which concludes that “security forces actively collaborated with members of paramilitary groups” while “government forces continued to commit numerous, serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings, at a level that was roughly similar to that of 1998,” when the report attributed about 80 percent of attributable atrocities to the military and paramilitaries.3

So now we all know something about the FARC and the repressive political program called Plan Colombia which is funded by the United States with the clear intention of perpetuating a war between a venal oligopoly and disenfranchised workers and farmers. But having searched the 4,253 articles written about the “Miraculous Bentancourt Rescue”; one thing appears to be missing, that is, a few candid comments from someone — ANYONE — who can speak for the FARC.

Here’s an excerpt from an Interview with FARC Commander Raul Reyes by Garry Leech that fits the bill. Readers can decide for themselves whether they hear something that “rings true” or if it is just revolutionary mumbo-jumbo:

FARC Commander Raul Reyes: “The goal of revolutionary struggle is peace”

When we speak of the New Colombia we are speaking of a Colombia without social, economic or political inequalities; of a Colombia without corruption; with neither paramilitarism or state terrorism; of a Colombia with industrial development; of a worthy Colombia, independent and sovereign; a Colombia where resources are invested in scientific research and technological development; a Colombia where the environment is protected; a Colombia whose wealth is used for the benefit of the population; a Colombia that does not continue privatizing, that does not continue selling the businesses of the State but instead uses these businesses to benefit social programs; a Colombia with agrarian reform that includes infrastructure for the peasants and that makes it possible for their children to study; an agrarian reform in which a market and the purchase of their products is guaranteed; an agrarian reform in which they can obtain affordable credits from the State; a Colombia with employment; a Colombia with subsidies for the unemployed; a Colombia that guarantees education, healthcare, homes and all that.

That it is the Colombia that we dream of and that we call the New Colombia…
But to achieve this is a task for titans, because Colombia has a mafia class and a corrupt murderous ruler. And as long as they continue controlling the destiny of our country it is going to be very difficult for the people to become controllers of their own destinies. This is the reason that the FARC continues its revolutionary struggle.

The end of the revolutionary struggle being waged by the FARC is peace. For us, peace is the fundamental thing. We understand that peace is the solution to the problems that affect our people. We understand that peace means that in Colombia we have a true democracy. Not a democracy for the capitalists, but a democracy for the people, who can protest, who can participate, who have the right to live, who have the right to healthcare, to education, who have the right to communication, to electricity, to agrarian reforms, to fight corruption, to not have to kneel before foreign powers, but to be a country free, independent and sovereign with respectful relations with all countries on equal terms. Also, that the weapons of the army not be not used against the people, but just for the defense of our sovereignty and nothing more. To achieve that objective is why we are here in this jungle. And in search of that objective we are willing to continue for as long as is necessary.”

These are comments that you won’t find in the 4,253 articles on Google News, because they stimulate critical thinking and shape hearts and minds. And that’s exactly what the corporate propaganda system hopes to avoid.

  1. Times Online. []
  2. “Mounting Questions about the Colombian Hostage Operation” Bill Van Auken. []
  3. Noam Chomsky, “Plan Colombia”, from Rogue States, 2000. []

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com. Read other articles by Mike.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. evie said on July 11th, 2008 at 6:38am #

    Yes Lynch story was hyped by the media – but your flippant description is cold, cold as BushCo. Eleven others died in that ambush including the driver of the vehicle, Lori Piestewa – the Iraqi were unable to patch up her head injury in the same hospital as Lynch.

    FARC preaching about peace and problem solving as they chain folks by the neck for years and years and rape or murder (remember Ingrid Washinawatok).

    Gnoams – ageless deformed dwarves of folklore.

  2. Allison said on July 11th, 2008 at 7:06am #

    I respect your opinion and am glad that someone would question the validity of the rescue. I find the presence of John McCain to be “convenient” as well. It makes sense that the rescue had been very well-planned and the details were leaked to McCain by his big supporter, Bush.

    I humbly disagree that the FARC is anything other than a narco-trafficking terrorist organization. They make money by trafficking cocaine, extortion, kidnappings, roadblocks. They began with a clear political goal, but have clearly strayed from their initial reasons for becoming dissidents. Uribe understands that a majority of the FARC members are poor farmers who have been either forced into the organization through extortion, or by lack of options. He has put programs in place that not only grant amnesty, but also provide job training and education free of charge for laying down their weapons. His campaign has been extremely successful. The FARC is finally dwindling. Uribe is well-loved by the Colombians. They even opted to change the constitution so they would be able to elect him as their president again. The general population is sick of the FARC and want them out. Back in February there was a huge protest by the Colombian people against the FARC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7225824.stm

    Many politicians have entered into peace talks with the FARC, offering amnesty and opportunity if they would lay down their weapons. They were given a demilitarized zone (more than once) which they quickly exploited and transformed into a major drug hub and canceled their peace talks with the government. Ingrid Betancourt herself was in peace talks with leaders of the FARC when she was kidnapped. Sounds to me like they aren’t actually interested in their political goals.

    The FARC basically started as a reaction to the Pablo Escobar Colombia. If you don’t know the history of that time period, you won’t understand the real story and you will believe the US has much more to do with all of this than it actually does. Plan Colombia was started by Bill Clinton (didn’t know if you knew that) to get rid of Escobar and the drug-related violence and kidnappings. The entire country was about to be overrun by terrorists and the US came to their aid… maybe it was merely in an effort to protect the oil pipeline that was being attacked constantly on the border of Venezuela (likely)… regardless. Escobar and his cronies basically owned Colombia. They were in positions of extreme political power. The rebel groups developed as either supporters of this, or dissenters. Their war is about money, power, and drugs, not politics. Kind of like every other war!

    On a side-note Colombia is the country, Columbia is a city… and it’s Bogota, not Bogata.

  3. Michael Kenny said on July 11th, 2008 at 8:55am #

    The identity of the Swiss source is known: Geneva Professor Jean-Pierre Gontard, the Swiss Government’s official mediator in the conflict, now kicked out of Colombia, which gives credence to the theory that Uribe’s hand was forced.

    I don’t believe that the release was a US operation. It was too slick and sophisticated. A US operation would have been crude and bloody. As soon as the helicopter with Betancourt was off the ground, other choppers would have machine-gunned the FRAC people. I would guess that it was a French operation (it reeks to high heaven of Sarkozy!) and I would guess that the 20 Mil was French money. Probably the French set the whole thing up but because US citizens were involved, informed the US of its plans. The US then told Uribe, who threatened to blow the whole thing if he wasn’t let in on the deal.

    The idea that McCain was in on the plot sounds silly to me. Nobody, not even McCain himself, claims that he had any part in it. I would guess that they chose that day because all eyes in Colombia were focused on McCain’s visit and everyone beleived that the military and police would be too busy babysitting the Ancient Mariner to notice what was happening up-country.

    I too have been surprised by Ingrid Betancourt’s state of health. Saint Ingrid, as she has been nicknamed in France, has spent the days since her release hugging and kissing every French politician who has come within reach and shows no sing of the slighest ill-health. That suggests that she was “fattened up” for release, which, in turn, suggests that the whole thing was planned for a long time and that FARC was in on the deal from the start.

    In any event, the whole thing is a huge triumph for FARC and the Europeans and a slap in the face for Uribe and the US.

  4. hp said on July 11th, 2008 at 9:27am #

    Sounds like they have been taking lessons from the Israelis and their always perfect (too perfect) elite commando rescue episodes. They work great when no one is looking.
    Sometimes a rescue isn’t even needed.
    Just the story will suffice

  5. mo said on July 11th, 2008 at 11:10am #

    can you check the spelling on the places!!!!
    is
    ColOmbia not ColUmbia

    is
    BogOta not BogAta

  6. Pedro Pan said on July 11th, 2008 at 1:39pm #

    Dude!

    Are you for real!?

    Guerrillero!!!!

  7. Greg Banks said on July 11th, 2008 at 11:47pm #

    Another perfect example of Disaster Capitalism. We have seen this so many times, Chile Argentina, Guatemala, San Salvador and all over the world, that we are no longer fooled. Please read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.