Follow workers.org on
RED HOT: TRAYVON MARTIN
AFGHANISTAN, FIGHTING RACISM, OCCUPY WALL STREET,
PEOPLE'S POWER, SAVE OUR POST OFFICES, WOMEN, AFRICA,
LIBYA, WISCONSIN WORKERS FIGHT BACK, SUPPORT STATE & LOCAL WORKERS,
EGYPT, NORTH AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST,
STOP FBI REPRESSION, RESIST ARIZONA RACISM, NO TO FRACKING, DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION, ANTI-WAR,
CUBA, CLIMATE CHANGE,
JOBS JOBS JOBS,
STOP FORECLOSURES, IRAN,
IRAQ, CAPITALIST CRISIS,
IMMIGRANTS, LGBT, POLITICAL PRISONERS,
A setback to peace process
What really happened in Colombia?
Published Jul 13, 2008 10:26 PM
Colombia made prime news around the world on July 2 like never before. We
learned that former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt had been
freed from a Marxist guerrilla group along with three U.S. Pentagon
contractors—Tom Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell—and 11
members of the Colombian army and police.
They had been taken prisoner by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC-EP) at different times in an effort to force the government toward a
political, negotiated solution of the 60-year-old Colombian conflict. FARC had
proposed exchanging 500 of its members held in Colombian prisons and three in
federal jails in the U.S. for the several hundred people it had held in the
More importantly, the negotiated solution would involve a treaty whereby the
FARC would sit down with the Colombian government to seek avenues for a real
peace with economic and social justice for the majority of the Colombian
masses, who are overwhelmingly poor.
Freedom in three versions
However, the news on prime time was a distortion of the facts, concocted by the
Colombian government, which is very experienced in releasing half-truths and
false propaganda. It dubbed the action “Operation Jaque”
According to Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, the 15 held by the
FARC were handed over to military forces disguised as members of a
“humanitarian mission.” The government stressed that it was a
peaceful operation with not a single shot fired by either side. Their
explanation was that it was an undercover operation facilitated by
“infiltrating high layers of the FARC” and making them believe that
the prisoners were going to meet Alfonso Cano, the current FARC top leader, who
supposedly had sent the helicopter to pick them up.
With this story, they portrayed the armed insurgency as a group in disarray
after the recent deaths of three of its Secretariat members—Raul Reyes
and Ivan Rios who were killed, and Manuel Marulanda, its founder, who died of
They called it a perfect operation that signaled the end of the guerrilla
While Santos stressed that it was a 100-percent Colombian operation, with no
involvement of foreign governments or organizations, White House spokeswoman
Dana Perino stated on July 3 that it “was conceived by the Colombians and
executed by the Colombians with our full support.” U.S. Ambassador to
Colombia William Brownfield told CNN about the “technical support”
the U.S. provided for the operation.
What was this “support”? MSNBC reported on July 3 that “On
Thursday, Col. William Costello, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, said
the command made 3,600 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights,
followed up on 175 intelligence leads and spent $250 million trying.”
It then quoted U.S. officials who “spoke on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to speak on the record and the Bush
administration was adamant about giving the Colombians the credit.” These
sources said, according to MSNBC, that “the U.S. Special Operations
Command helped with surveillance that positively located the hostages within
the past year using satellites, aircraft and ground reconnaissance—and
had tracked them since then.”
A second version of what happened comes from France.
The French online news site MediaPart and
Radio Suisse Romande both reported that the operation was not a rescue but
a “$20-million-dollar transaction” and that the Colombian
government had paid that amount—provided by the U.S. government—for
the release of Betancourt and the three Pentagon contractors.
Reportedly, secret negotiations took place through the wife of one of the men
in charge of watching over Betancourt. The woman had been seized by the
Colombian military and forced to make her FARC husband change sides and agree
to the bribe. Needless to say, the Colombian government vehemently rejects this
version, but admits that it does pay for information.
Two European envoys—French diplomat Noel Saez and his Swiss counterpart,
Jean Pierre Gontard—were in Colombia at the time. They had requested
permission from the Colombian government to further negotiations with the FARC
for the release of Betancourt, who holds French and Colombian citizenship, and
the others. The Colombian government granted them permission and vowed to help
the effort. This was widely known; the government itself had publicized it
earlier. It had been reported in France that the two had already communicated
with the FARC leadership.
Narciso Isa Conde, a Dominican left leader, has presented a third version of
the events. Isa Conde is part of the Continental Bolivarian Coordinating Group
and has the authority to speak on this matter since he had participated in
earlier negotiations for the release of Betancourt. In a widely circulated
article written July 3 and entitled “There was no such rescue,” he
wrote that the operation was really “an initiative stolen from the
Isa Conde says that the FARC was about to release the 15 to the French-Swiss
team, so they had to be brought to one point from their locations in three
different parts of the jungle. The detainees were to be transported in civilian
helicopters to a place where they would meet with the FARC leadership in a
ceremony to hand them over to the Europeans.
However, the Colombian military, with the help of U.S. surveillance, located
the helicopters and substituted military pilots dressed as FARC members,
wearing Che tee shirts, who kept up the pretense until all the detainees were
inside the helicopters.
This certainly would explain why the rest of the guerrillas were so willing to
hand over the prisoners without a shot being fired.
Role of Israel
Many reports mention how “swift” and “smooth” the
operation was. Ingrid Betancourt, on her arrival in France, mentioned
“the Israelis” and their “extraordinary commando operations,
that resemble the coup that occurred today.”
In fact, Israel is part of Plan Colombia, the U.S. strategy to control
Colombia. There is ample documentation on how the Israeli secret services
Mossad and Shin Beth have assisted Uribe’s government in Colombian
territory. The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported in 2007 that Gen. Israel Ziv,
who had commanded Israeli forces in Gaza, was a consultant on
“security” for the Colombian government.
According to a recent report in TeleSur, Colombian Defense Minister Santos
traveled last February to Israel to meet with the leadership of
Mossad—Israel’s equivalent of the CIA. On the same trip, he went to
the U.S. to meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a former CIA
One thing is crystal clear. The person who gains most from this operation is
President Alvaro Uribe himself.
Up to his neck in a corruption and parapolitical scandal, he needed a
smokescreen. With the help of the capitalist media worldwide, but particularly
the Colombian oligarchy’s media, Uribe’s administration has mounted
a campaign to present him as a hero and the greatest defender of
peace—even as his closest allies in government are being implicated in
massacres and other crimes perpetrated by paramilitaries. Many are already
serving prison time.
He really needed this, and the U.S. gave it to him.
His reelection in 2006 has been ruled illegal by the Colombian Supreme Court of
Justice because he offered positions and favors to a congressmember who
provided the critical vote approving his reelection, since it was not permitted
in the Constitution. In spite of that, he is now proposing a referendum to
change the Constitution so he can run for a third term in 2010.
His Army chief, Gen. Mario Montoya, who received a medal from the U.S. Army,
was implicated in the creation of a clandestine terrorist unit in the Colombian
Army. This “Anticommunist American Alliance” attacked, assassinated
and took left-wing activists hostage. Montoya has a long history of criminal
activity, including when he led the Joint South Task Force between 1999-2001,
financed by the U.S.
Uribe’s past actions regarding people held by the FARC revealed no intent
to secure their release. After the FARC unilaterally released seven prisoners
late last year, Uribe bombed a FARC encampment in Ecuador where Raul Reyes was
preparing the release of Ingrid Betancourt, together with the Ecuadorean
government. That bombing, performed with U.S. technical aid, killed Reyes and
23 other people, including an Ecuadorean and four Mexican students.
Betancourt’s mother, Yolanda Pulecio, said at that time, “I pray
that Uribe does not find my daughter” because he might “order
military operations that could kill her and then justify the war saying that
the guerrillas killed her.”
Human tragedy in Colombia worsens
Already this year 30 union leaders have been killed. The paramilitaries that
Uribe says are “demobilized” have just changed their names from the
“Self Defense Units of Colombia” (AUC) to the Black Eagles. They
continue to spread terror throughout the country with total impunity.
The situation in Colombia right now is desperate for the progressive movement,
which courageously keeps demonstrating and trying to build alternatives of
peace and justice in the face of criminal repression by the state and
horrendous violence from the paramilitary forces.
Poverty continues and increases; the privatization of essential services is
preventing the masses from having access to education and adequate health care.
Millions of children have to work in order to survive. Peasants, Indigenous and
Afro-Colombian communities continue to face displacement. Progressive leaders
continue to be targets of assassination and disappearance.
As long as these conditions exist, a guerrilla movement will also exist.
Need for international solidarity
It is not surprising that the prisoners of the FARC-EP were “freed”
on the very day that U.S. presidential hopeful John McCain was visiting
Colombia to assure Uribe of his support for the Free Trade Agreement, now
frozen in the U.S. Congress. It was also one day after the infamous Fourth
Fleet of the U.S. Navy initiated its prowling in Latin American and Caribbean
The progressive movement in the U.S. owes an enormous debt to the peoples south
of the Rio Grande. Wall Street and Washington are the biggest threat to the
stability of the region and to the development of the progressive processes
taking place there.
It would be an enormous setback for the world progressive and revolutionary
forces if this brutal government doing the dirty work for U.S. imperialism were
to settle firmly in Colombia, able to threaten the Venezuelan Bolivarian
Revolution, Bolivia and Ecuador. It is of utmost importance to show concrete
solidarity with the struggling people in Colombia who are staving off the hand
of fascist dictatorship.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: [email protected]
Subscribe [email protected]
Support independent news DONATE