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Colombian Hostage Rescue Less than Perfect

El Tecolote, News Analysis, Chelis Lpez Posted: Jul 17, 2008

As the world now knows, Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages were rescued by the Colombian military from rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on July 2. 
There is no historical precedent for such a perfect operation, Betancourt told reporters.

We begin by ruling out that the liberation was perfect because not all the hostages were freed. Rather, we could call it irresponsible for Colombian forces not to think about the consequences of those who remain in captivity. There are up to 740 other hostages, according to the BBC.

To begin with, FARC rebels have not shown vengeance following the last aggression the March 1 massacre in Ecuador in which one of FARCs top leaders, Ral Reyes was killed. FARC also restrained from retaliation following the questionable death of Manuel Marulanda, long-time leader of FARC, alias Tirofijo. It is still unclear whether he was killed by the bombardments carried out in Meta, Colombia, or died of natural causes.

There have been rumors the Colombian government paid FARC $20 million to rescue the hostages. This paid rescue is the least significant version of the story but the most detestable. If we think that this action clarifies that the liberty of some human beings is worth millions of dollars while the liberty of others is worth nothing, this leaves out the option for a humane exchange, for there are still hostages left.

Then there is the betrayal story in which FARC was to get some of their members returned in exchange for the hostages.

This is the version that comes closest to Colombian President Alvaro Uribes politics always under the command of Washington. Why?
It is known that the old French consul in Bogot, Noel Saenz, and the Swedish diplomat Jean-Pierre Gontard had begun negotiations for a humanitarian exchange to include Betancourt and the three Americans, the latter to be exchanged for the guerrillas Simon Trinidad and Sonia, prisoners in the U.S.

The assumption is that right at the moment of the planned exchange, there was a surprise incident in which not only was FARC deceived, but also those who would be functioning as delegates in the role of the non-government agencies and the Red Cross. The helicopter was red and white. Even though the Red Cross symbol wasnt used, the color of this neutral international organization alluded that it was the Red Cross. Until now, the Red Cross mentioned nothing about this.

It is easy to understand why at this precise moment the perfect operation was conducted. 

From the electoral point of view, Betancourt would have been a headache for Uribe in his re-election, not only because in 2002 they were both running for president, but because her popularity rose with the kidnapping. This would have helped her win the election for president had she been released.

And at the same time the rescue focuses Colombias attention away from Uribes re-election problems and the case of Yidis Medina. Medina claimed senior members of the government bribed her supporters with jobs in exchange for her key vote. Uribes administration has denied the charges, but her case challenges the legitimacy of his re-election.

The rescue is beneficial to the political careers of both Uribe and Sen. John McCain, Republican candidate for U.S. president.
Amongst the coincidences of this perfect operation is McCains visit to Colombia at the exact moment Betancourt and others were rescued.

One day later, McCain visited the shrine of the Virgen of Guadalupe in Mexico, to whom, by the way, Betancourt also thanked publicly the day of her rescue.

Betancourt asked the presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador and Argentina for help and unity to achieve peace, as long as they respect Colombian sovereignty.

Is she referring to the same sovereignty that the government of Uribe respected in Ecuador when Colombian troops crossed the border March 1?

Without a doubt, to be kidnapped in any manifestation is reprehensible, so we should all be satisfied that these hostages are free. At the same time, it should be clear that true social peace will not be possible as long as the demands that led to the forming of FARC 44 years ago are addressed.

Translation by Mabel Jimnez-Hernndez

Related Articles:

McCain and Obama Ignore Abuses in Colombia and Mexico

Independence for Colombian Hostages is a Blow to FARC

Drug War -- Can Mexico Succeed Where Colombia Failed?

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