On June 3rd, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba revealed that she possessed information that the government of Colombia was negotiating a deal with FARC to trade money for the release of Betancourt and the mercenaries. The official policy of the United States is that they don’t “negotiate with terrorists,” even as many leaders of Latin American countries accuse President Uribe of supporting the AUC paramilitary death squads and accuse the United States of providing safe harbor to known terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.
Careful observers began to question the strange circumstances under which the “dramatic rescue” of Ingrid Betancourt happened. Some guys with Che Guevara t-shirts simply showed up and redirected them into another helicopter? If it were that easy, why didn’t they do that years ago? The French media also found strange the fact that Betancourt didn’t resemble the gaunt and hungry images we have been seeing in the media — she seemed well-fed and healthy, as if she were being prepared for release.
More confusion came when the capitalist media seized this opportunity to hack up Betancourt’s press conference, keeping in the parts that glorified Uribe and the United States and excluding the parts that talked about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and their important efforts in finding a diplomatic, peaceful solution to the crisis. The press conference was broadcast in its entirety on the Latin American news network, Telesur, but only bit and pieces were shown on CNN (english channel), Fox News and other northern news channels. For instance, excluded from the edited version is Betancourt’s comments that she felt used by the whole situation and that the operation put the lives of the hostages at risk while a diplomatic solution, like the one pursued by President Chavez, would ensure their safety.
The capitalist media, without any shame, immediately began to use the situation to promote their own political objectives: everywhere in the corporate media, Uribe was lauded as a hero, FARC’s days are numbered and Chavez’s successful and peaceful diplomacy that freed other FARC-held prisoners was downplayed.
However, on Friday, information began to be revealed that, in reality, the government of Colombia had secretly paid $20 million USD to FARC in exchange for the release of Betancourt and the US mercenaries, confirming what Senator Cordoba had said a month before. This story was broken by MediaPart in France and Radio Suisse Romande. MediaPart also reported that France and Colombia guaranteed safe asylum for some members of FARC as part of the deal.
Dominique Moisi, one of France’s most prominent foreign policy experts, said that it was “probable” that FARC was given money in exchange for the prisoners. “They were bought in order to turn them around, like Mafia chiefs,” he said on French state television.
In light of all these events, the government of Ecuador has suspended diplomatic relations with Colombia.
The report of the $20 million pay-off is now rapidly circulating throughout the corporate media as it struggles with a way to spin this news. The confusion caused by this bizarre operation makes a lot more sense when viewed as a pre-arranged, money-for-prisoners exchange. And, the true face of the Latin American right-wing is once again exposed.
It is worth repeating that along with Betancourt, also released were private military contractors from the United States who were captured when their surveillance plane went down in FARC-controlled territory during a Plan Colombia operation. Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and arms manufacturing firm, was awarded a $60 million contract to provide logistical support to the US and Colombian military, on the ground in war zones there. Between 1990 and 2002, Northrop Grumman contributed $8.5 million to federal campaigns. Coincidentally, at least “seven former officials, consultants or shareholders of Northrop Grumman” have held posts in the Bush administration, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby (who was convicted on obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and making false statements to federal investigators for his role in illegally “outing” CIA agent Valerie Plame). In addition, Plan Colombia has been repeatedly criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, for maintaining close relationships with right-wing death squads, providing direct assistance to illegal right-wing terrorist organizations as well as directly and indirectly participating in massacres and atrocities. Many of the right-wing terrorists operating in Colombia are former members of the Colombian military, like paramilitary commander “Yair,” who openly support Plan Colombia and publicly offer their support to Plan Colombia operations.
Finally, it should be noted that the Colombian government under Uribe, who has enjoyed widespread celebration by the corporate press in the last few days, is routinely condemned as having one of the worst human rights records of any country in the world. More than 60 members of President Uribe’s congressional coalition are under investigation for election fraud or collaborating with right-wing groups classified as “terrorist organizations” by the United States. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for labor union organizers, with the world’s highest rate of assassinations and extra-judicial executions of trade unionists. Since Plan Colombia began, the United States has provided over $4.7 billion to the government of Colombia, described by Senator Cordoba as a “democracy that governs through fear and terror.” Senator Cordoba, herself, was kidnapped by 12 heavily-armed government-affiliated terrorists. Senator Cordoba says that the operations of Plan Colombia are only partly used to fight the so-called “war on drugs”: “It’s also used to silence those of us who speak out against the government. They try to silence us by kidnapping, disappearing and even killing many of us.” Unlike many other Latin American countries, who overthrew the brutal US-backed dictatorships which ruled the continent during much of the 20th century, Colombia is an active reminder of what life used to be like throughout all of South America — fiercely repressive dictatorships which terrorize the population with money and weapons provided by the United States in exchange for support of U.S. policies. How can a government like this receive the kind of tributes and congratulations that have been showered on them by the capitalist press in the last few days since they traded $20 million for the release of Ingrid Betancourt and U.S. mercenaries? How can a supposedly free and democratic media uncritically praise a government like this?
Today, Fidel Castro made one of the most sensible declarations about this situation: the imprisonment of civilians is wrong but what is worse is that the United States and the western, capitalist press are exploiting this situation to obscure and justify the genocidal horrors that they have imposed on Latin America for hundreds of years, up to and including this very day.
Even now, the soldiers of Plan Colombia and their right-wing death squads continue murdering union leaders in cold blood, continue terrorizing the civilian population of Colombia, and continue protecting terrorists who hunt down and kill anyone seeking social justice in the region, a cause that threatens the profit and power of the dominant, ruling class.
Even when the United States and their Latin American allies attempt to create a spectacle of positive public relations for themselves, their hands are so bloody and their crimes are so deep that, in the end, their fabrications do little to change the reality on the ground. Like all dictatorships in human history, their lies are so transparent, their brutality is so brazen and their lifespan is so limited. Indy Media