Yesterday, the Colombian newsmagazine Semana published a series of guerrilla communications, apparently recovered from computers found at the site where FARC leader “RaÃºl Reyes” was killed on March 1.
They include this tantalizing passage, in an August 23, 2007 communication from FARC Secretariat member Alfonso Cano to the other six secretariat commanders.
The Democrats of the USA, in Colombia, who were in Venezuela before, say they have a clear position about a political negotiation with the FARC. [Colombian Nobel Laureate author Gabriel] GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez is in charge of this intermediation with the FARC on behalf of the USA, and they want Panama to be the country through which to talk to the FARC. For this, GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez has already transferred that request to [Panamanian President MartÃn] Torrijos, and he accepted. Clinton told GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez in Cartagena, “I want to have a personal task. I want to help Colombia. An accord with the FARC must be sought.” Senator McGovern [almost definitely Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts)] told GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez that: Bush wants to make Colombia play the role that West Germany played against socialist Europe, and this must be stopped. He also said that the Democrats’ political analyst specialized in Colombia is Adam Isackson [sic.].
I was pretty surprised to see my name there, however misspelled. But since it is, perhaps I’m in a position to clear up some of this.
- I don’t know of Bill Clinton expressing any recent desire to be involved in talks with the FARC. That would be surprising, since he has had to dedicate so much time to his wife’s presidential campaign.
- The involvement of Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez and MartÃn Torrijos is also something I had never heard before. If true, it would be encouraging, because both have sufficient credibility with both sides to be useful interlocutors.
- The “Senator McGovern” in question is definitely not former Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern (D-South Dakota), who has not been to Colombia anytime recently.
- This leaves Rep. Jim McGovern, who has been to Colombia twice in the past year. But Rep. McGovern has never set foot in Venezuela. In fact, very few congressional Democrats have paid visits to Venezuela since ChÃ¡vez made his “sulfur” speech at the UN in September 2006.
- Neither has Rep. McGovern ever met Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez.
- Rep. McGovern denies making any bizarre comments about West Germany. (And of course, defenders of U.S. policy could easily point out that West Germany emerged from the Cold War as a stable democracy and an economic powerhouse.)
- Though more of a legal detail than anything else, I should make clear that I have no formal ties to the Democratic Party. It just so happens that many more Democrats than Republicans agree with CIP’s critiques of, and recommendations for, U.S. policy toward Colombia and Latin America. Getting those recommendations enacted, in fact, requires the support of at least a fair number of Republicans.
With so many glaring inaccuracies, it’s apparent that this FARC communication is either a blatant fabrication or the result of a series of miscommunications fed in part by the guerrillas’ own wishful thinking. It could be that, like the old game of “telephone,” messages get more and more garbled as they are passed along to the top of the guerrilla command.
Knowledge that this particular communication is so inaccurate leads me to two conclusions about the “revelations” from RaÃºl Reyes’s computers.
- They cannot be taken at face value. While what has been recovered so far reveals much about the guerrillas’ thinking, their own understanding of their dealings with the outside world is apparently quite distorted. For me, knowing how badly the guerrillas got things wrong about the “Democrats” calls into question the accuracy of other tidbits recovered from the FARC computers, including Venezuela’s alleged payments or the guerrillas’ apparent efforts to buy uranium.
- They underscore the need for trusted interlocutors. The recovered communiquÃ©s show how badly information gets garbled and distorted as it passes, slowly, to the guerrilla commanders in their jungle hideouts. If talks with the guerrillas are to go ahead about anything, but especially about freeing their hostages, then both sides need a trusted go-between who can ensure that communications pass efficiently, accurately and in something close to real time. These necessary conversations just can’t happen otherwise. We repeat our call for the appointment of a neutral facilitator, or group of facilitators, that is acceptable to all sides.