A look at the “final” 2008 aid bill Friday Links
Dec 192007

Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-New York), William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts) and Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) talking to (mostly Colombian) reporters earlier today.

In a speech on Sunday in Medellín, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe leveled a strange accusation.

I’m worried about some national and international politicians who recommend to the FARC that they don’t accept [President Uribe’s proposed 150-square-kilometer “encounter zone” for prisoner-exchange talks between the guerrillas and the government]; that the only way is a full demilitarized zone [the 800 square-kilometer, two-county zone that the FARC has demanded as a pre-condition for such talks].

And I say so because I have learned this week, to my sadness, that some politicians have been making this recommendation to the FARC. They tell them, “No. Don’t accept that. Someone will intervene with Sarkozy to pressure Uribe.”

… [Other politicians] are saying to the FARC: “No. Set a gringo free. Free a gringo and that way we can pressure Uribe to demilitarize an entire zone.”

Who was he talking about? In an interview with Colombia’s Caracol radio network this morning, he offered another clue – one pointing to Washington: the culprit is “a low-ranking politician” in the United States.

What? Who in the world of Washington politics would possibly be doing something as ridiculous as advising the FARC to insist on a full demilitarized zone?

The Colombian newsmagazine Semana speculated today that the most obvious candidate for Uribe’s ire would be Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, who has been one of the members of Congress most interested in the efforts to win freedom for the FARC’s hostages.

Of all [Democrats], the one who has the most relations with hostage relatives, and who has most often shown interest in their liberation, is McGovern, a congressman whose power is less than that of other very recognized legislators like Charles Rangel and Nancy Pelosi.

If Uribe is indeed thinking of McGovern, he is flat wrong. Why would Jim McGovern advise the FARC to take a position that isn’t his? The same Semana article explains, “[McGovern's] concern is for the freedom of the kidnapped people, and he knows well that demanding a full demilitarized zone would totally obstruct the process.”

As I understand it, during his contacts with Sen. Piedad Córdoba – the Colombian government-appointed “facilitator” for prisoner-exchange talks between August and November – Mr. McGovern never supported demilitarizing the entire municipalities of Florida and Pradera. Neither he nor any of the other Democratic congresspeople who have been in contact with Sen. Córdoba were thrilled about the idea.

The Democratic congresspeople who signed a letter in March offering to help the process were endorsing a European proposal for a much smaller zone – a proposal that President Uribe also supported. It makes no sense, then, for any of them to have advised the guerrillas to do anything to “pressure” President Uribe into accepting a proposal they don’t support themselves.

Nor did Mr. McGovern oppose President Uribe’s proposal for a smaller demilitarized “encounter zone” in which to hold prisoner-exchange talks with the FARC. In fact, I had the impression that his office viewed President Uribe’s proposal as a positive step.

So to whom, then, was President Uribe referring? We would like to know who in the U.S. political arena is offering such counter-productive advice to Colombian insurgents.

Our dismay at President Uribe’s latest comments is tempered, however, by this afternoon’s revelation that the FARC may release three of its hostages. This in turn is combined with disappointment – if not surprise – that the FARC rejected President Uribe’s offer for a smaller demilitarized zone.

Those who may be freed are Clara Rojas, Íngrid Betancourt’s running mate, kidnapped in February 2002; her son Emmanuel, born in captivity about three years ago; and Consuelo González de Perdomo, a senator from Huila department kidnapped shortly before September 11, 2001.

I met Clara Rojas’ mother in Bogotá earlier this year, in a meeting with several FARC hostage relatives. She is of advanced age, frail in appearance if not in spirit. It was overwhelmingly sad to think that she might not live to see her daughter again. Let us all hope that this guerrilla offer turns out to be real and quickly realizable, so that Clara González de Rojas can see her daughter and meet her grandson as soon as possible.

Senator Perdomo’s daughter, María Fernanda de Perdomo, was the first hostage relative ever to contact us, back in 2002, to ask for any kind of help that might come from Washington. Back then, we got some statements of support from Capitol Hill, but few here seemed to care about the hostage situation because there was so little that anyone felt they could do about it.

María Fernanda has nonetheless persisted from her new home in the Washington area, despite living through the further tragedy of her father’s death in 2003. She has continued to be an active advocate of a humanitarian accord, along with her sister, who remained in Colombia. Let us hope this is for real, and that her ordeal might be over soon.

20 Responses to “A measure of outrage, a glimmer of hope”

  1. Camilla Says:

    Adam, some of these congressmen are incredibly subversive – if anything is perceived as coming from Uribe, no matter how appeasing to terrorists, they will say there’s something wrong with it and work to obstruct it. They perceive Uribe as a Bush’s twin and everything revolves around that, even the lives of the hostages. Politics is all for them, not humanitarian accords. They don’t do compromises. They don’t see things in terms of freeing the hostages no matter who gets credit, for them, if an Uribe measure has a hairbreadth’s chance of making Uribe look good, they’ll oppose it even if it means the hostages won’t be freed. That’s how venal they are. Nothing is more important than making Uribe’s life miserable. If Uribe says the sky is blue, they will insist the sky is pink, not because it’s really pink to them but solely because Uribe said the sky is blue. You totally underestimate how reactionary they are. They are primarily motivated by hatred of Uribe, which trumps any desire to see the hostages freed, even at the sort of bargain basement appeasement prices they like. None of these people ever votes for Colombia in Congress on anything, other than maybe funding for prosecutors and leftwing activist groups. What baffles me is why Uribe listens to them at all, he owes them nothing, literally nothing.

    By way of criticism of Uribe, if it is McGovern, why isn’t he naming the guy? I would, it’s important to get these guys’ names out there as FARC symps if all they care about is undermining Uribe and Uribe’s men can show some kind of proof that they are. Maybe it means Colombian agents have McGovern’s office bugged and can’t admit this? I don’t know.

    I am not so sure it was McGovern, though. I agree he seems like an insignificant congressman, I’ve never heard of him ever doing anything important. I had the feeling Uribe was talking about maybe Chavez, Correa or Ortega when he made his statement. Those guys would be exactly the types who would counsel FARC not to accept the zona de encuentro, and Chavez at least must be in close touch with the FARC, and far more likely to be subject to Colombian (or American) electronic surveillance.

  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Camilo’s ability to defy the rules of traditional human logic is becoming more outrageous by the day. One thing’s for certain, In Colombia the sky’s not pink or blue. In Colombia the sky is red. :sad:

  3. Sergio Méndez Says:

    Camilla:

    So why exactly I should assume that GOP military assistance fro colombia is good intentionated?

  4. Alejandro Pelaez Says:

    I wonder if Sergio knows that a big part of the “social aid” will be directed to oil palm plantations. But oh! This palm plantations are evil, they destroy the rain forests.

  5. Tambopaxi Says:

    Well, a spot of (possible) good news this morning: Radio here in Quito is talking about FARC announcement about releasing a couple of women (didn’t catch their names) and a child born in capitivity. As I recall, Ingrid Betancourt’s assistance was said to have had a kid after her kidnapping, so perhaps they’re talking about her….

  6. jcg Says:

    I think Camilla’s argument is an exaggeration, overall, but I still would like to know if there is indeed something factual behind Uribe’s accusation. If it’s only a rumor or even a lie, then it hardly provides any help at all.

    As for the glimmer of hope, I’m positive about it but still in “wait and see” mode, until the three hostages are actually released.

    No surprise as far as FARC’s rejection of the smaller DMZ goes…though there’s really not much of an objective reasoning behind it, politics aside, since that proposed zone was more than enough for the purposes of the exchange talks.

    But if I were Uribe, which I’m not, at this point I’d be willing to offer a larger demilitarized zone, even Pradera and Florida themselves if necessary, but I would in turn establish some necessary and essential conditions along with it (heavy international verification and strict controls outside of it) and that would be my best card, take it or leave it.

  7. Camilla Says:

    Why does FARC need a demilitarized zone at all? Why can’t they be satisfied with a promise not to shoot them if they turn over the hostages? I don’t understand any legitimate need for a DMZ, that will only give them the wherewithal to regroup and train new terrorists. They can get that in Venezuela anyway.

  8. Camilla Says:

    Here’s why FARC can never be negotiated with:

    http://www.france24.com/france24Public/en/news/world/20071220-colombia-farc-demand-uribe-resign-hostages.html

  9. Camilla Says:

    Sergio; Because it’s to rub out the FARC. They’re a bunch of killers who don’t have the balls to run for election. Instead, they insist on the right to shoot their way into power. Military action is the only way to stop them, there are no good intentions in the FARC.

  10. Sergio Méndez Says:

    Alejandro:

    And when did I said I like US social “aid” anymore than I like the military aid? As far I can remember, I asked why should I assume the US military aid is good intentionated. Anyways, since you think palm planctations are great and more productive and decent than small rural properties, I do not see that should have any problem with it…do you?

    Camilla:

    To rub out the FARC or to:

    1) Warrant that no oposition to the colombian goverment and stablishment – you know, one closely tied to paramilitary interests- remains intact

    2) Cause after all, it is a damm buisiness for American politicians and contractors to have a war

    3) Cause it ensures that the colombian goverments remain a puppet of US interets in the region

    4) To ensure the destructive and worthless “war on drugs” that so much evil has cause not only to this country, but to the US also.

    You know, the FARC are not the only killers and thieves in this country

  11. Camilla Says:

    Sergio: re: 1: Last I heard, there is an opposition group known as Polo, have you heard of it? They won the mayor’s election in Bogota last October and seem to be doing pretty well in the polls.

    re: 2: Why are American politicians of the Democrat stripe constantly trying to pull Colombia’s war aid and micromanage the country as if they owned it? They control both houses of Congress and all they want to do is defund Colombia to ensure that FARC wins. As for contractors, they do what Congress tells them. They aren’t nearly as bad a force among the Democrats who control congress as the civilian NGOs who really want to rule the country without the bother of taking out Colombian citizenship or standing for office. They just want power over other people’s lives handed to them.

    re: 3: The Colombian government is not a puppet of the US. If anything, Bush does what Uribe tells him. He’s constantly going along with what Uribe wants, Bush knows a real man when he sees him. A much better man than Bush, I might add.

    re: 4: Arguable. But won’t go into it here.

    re: (5): FARC is the worst problem Colombia has – worse than crummy sanctimonious NGOs, worse than paramilitaries, worse than Hugo Chavez, worse than drug lords because they are the drug lords, worse than thieves, worse than corruption, worse than greedy defense contractors, worse than any ill you can cite or imagine. They are the fount of all evil in Colombia and the worst enemy this country has. Get rid of them and watch all the other problems become manageable. There is nothing on earth worse than the FARC.

  12. Jaime Bustos Says:

    The Camilo’s Show

    “The Colombian government is not a puppet of the US. ” :lol:

    “Bush does what Uribe tells him” :lol:

    “He’s constantly going along with what Uribe wants” :lol:

    “A much better man than Bush, I might add.” :lol:

    “FARC is the worst problem Colombia has – worse than crummy sanctimonious NGOs, worse than paramilitaries, worse than Hugo Chavez, worse than drug lords” :lol:

    “worse than thieves, worse than corruption, worse than greedy defense contractors, worse than any ill you can cite or imagine.” :lol:

    “Get rid of them and watch all the other problems become manageable.” :lol:

  13. Camilla Says:

    Glad you are coming around, Miss Jaime. Appreciate your applause. :D

  14. Camilla Says:

    El Tiempo is reporting that McGovern and Delahunt are pressuring Uribe for more appeasement with FARC. Since all they ever do is cut off aid to Colombia, insult its president and oppose its free trade, I don’t understand why Uribe should give them the time of day. But he does. Does anyone have any theories on why he does? He owes them absolutely nothing, all they ever do is harass him – and still he gives them the time of day. If I were Uribe, I’d throw their letters unread into the wastebasket.

  15. Randy Paul Says:

    They control both houses of Congress and all they want to do is defund Colombia to ensure that FARC wins.

    After a libelous statement like that I’m amazed that you wonder why I call your fairness into question.

  16. Kyle Says:

    Camilla your last comment shows yet again, as Randy Paul points out through another quote, your lack of fairness; it also shows a complete lack of understanding of how politics works. I don’t know if I should continue to critique your arguments or let them speak for themselves. Lastly, a quite atrocious and horrendous note that we spoke of earlier Camilla. Apparently, some people were unhappy with the lack of journalists murdered in Colombia in 2007. On December 19th, a photographer for La Opinion, based in Cucuta, was murdered. As a student and practitioner of journalism, I am appauled. Either way, with regards to death, it was a good year for journalists. Any other issue, threats, exile, etc; 2007 seemed on par.

    FARC are not the worst thing in Colombia; they are up there on the list. I won’t go into it too much (I’m visiting family now) but if you get rid of the FARC, the other problems will not be managable. Take a history note from the death of Pablo Escobar and the fall of the Cali Cartel. Those were “the worst” at the time, and the scourges still continue. As Adam accurately titled a blog post about the capture of Montoya earlier this year, The Hydra Loses Another Head (or something along those lines), history and common sense show us that removing the FARC (which you cannot do militarily, again, another point I won’t go into too much detail) will not automatically remove all of the other problems. They could make some worse. In fact, removing the FARC may allow for drug traffickers (the FARC are nowhere near the biggest, strongest nor richest ones in Colombia; if they were, the country would be far worse off) to take over what the FARC used to control. Thus, the problem will continue to not be managable.
    Another odd illogical argument of Uribe supporters: If Uribe has done so much to damage the FARC (which he has), how can they still be the biggest (or only) traffickers in Colombia? Or, if the FARC are the biggest and richest narcos in Colombia, how could Uribe hit them so hard? Any response is welcome, though I hope some logic and facts play a part too.
    As for Jaime, you’re still useless. Without Camilla, you would have nothing. In fact, the post using only Camilla quotes and laughing emoticons may be your best yet; and you didn’t say a word.
    Sergio, I find some issues with some of your responses to Camilla, but they are smaller and thus I won’t comment for now.

  17. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Kayliman, regarding your abstaining from elaborating your opinions, don’t dispair: nobody will miss your comments, not even Camilo I guess

    P.S. Did you already do your homework and got savvy as to who Ron Paul is? :twisted:

  18. Sergio Méndez Says:

    Kyle:

    I am open to discusion, and you make fair points. Please go ahead.

  19. jcg Says:

    Kyle: You did make some very interesting observations there, I have to say.

    I wonder if Camilla will try to address some of those issues though…

    Still, beyond that detail, I think it’s going to be very hard to determine whether the end of FARC (through military or political means, if not a combination of the two) will indeed be more for better or more for worse.

    I think it’s crystal clear that there will be positives ***and*** negatives, but I’m not certain about making a specific prediction. At least not at this point in time.

    I guess it’ll probably depend on whether the government actually tries to address some of the underlying issues, such as the current anti-drug strategy and its continuing failure to produce lasting results (to say nothing of the many negatives, of course), or if everything else will remain mostly the same.

  20. Kyle Says:

    The only reason I have not expounded is that I am visiting family and do not feel it necessary to spend more than a few minutes online. Sergio, I will make them probably monday when I am back home and have some free time.
    I agree JCG that there will be positive and negatives. My guess that narcos trying to fill the space does depend on exactly what you said: whether the government will try to address the underlying issues.

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