September 2, 2008
The Central Command of the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) issued a statement on August 21, 32008 in which the guerrilla organization disclosed the names of 21 Colombian Army officers, a soldier, and 3 policemen, as well as 4 political figures they are holding as prisoners, including a former Governor, Alan Jara. The FARC proposed that the Colombian government enter into an agreement with them for the exchange of these 29, whom the FARC call “prisoners of war”, for FARC guerrillas imprisoned by the Colombian government.
Calling attention to President Alvaro Uribe’s efforts to reform the system of justice, the FARC statement suggests the reform plan is a step toward the imposition of a totalitarian state. It notes the corruption which the President’s buying of Congresswoman Yidis Medina’s vote revealed; the close continuing ties between paramilitary forces (now calling themselves “Aguilas Negras” (Black Eagles)) and high government officials; and the anti-democratic role of the 2 million government-paid informants who, the FARC say, comprise Uribe’s so-called “network of cooperators”. The statement also decries the support and protection of the United States government as “the imperial protection of the White House” for the Uribe government, which it alleges maintains a military offensive against the guerrillas to undermine the popular struggle for change. It criticizes the Uribe government for the kidnapping of Rodrigo Granda in Venezuela; for invading Ecuador to strike at FARC leader Raul Reyes; and for using improperly the symbol of the Red Cross and identifying news media and non-governmental organizations falsely in the operation which freed Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other FARC hostages.
A number of the FARC’s assertions concerning the Uribe government and its goals are true. The attack on Colombia’s courts, the corruption revealed by the Yidis Medina affair, and the injustice done to many innocent people by false reports of paid informants are serious failings of the Uribe government. And the support of the U.S. government in spite of these failings and its refusal to recognize them by again certifying Colombia’s progress against corruption and abuses by the Colombian military, are indefensible. (For exhaustive proof of continuing abuses by the Colombian military, see the historical compilation of such abuses on the CSN web page.)
But the FARC guerrillas are particularly poorly placed to make these criticisms. Their strategy of kidnapping for ransom and for political advantage is execrable. While the FARC began 43 years ago with a commitment to land reform and social justice, through many of their actions and strategies—kidnapping; massacres of innocent civilians, including repeated attacks on indigenous communities; and use of exploding cylinders, land mines, and bombs in buildings which have taken the lives of many non-combatants—the FARC have lost the moral authority to criticize the forces arrayed against them. Nor has their coercive involvement in cocaine trafficking in rural areas been consistent with the moral precepts they say they espouse.
The FARC should at once release all of their prisoners—who are not, as they frequently claim, simply being “detained”. And they should recognize that, in spite of the history of the genocide of the Patriotic Union, a peaceful alternative to the armed struggle now exists through opposition within the political process, making it possible for them to lay down their arms and work for social justice through that process. The FARC’s military campaign has become so discredited and has so encouraged militarism in opposition to the FARC that it now complicates and impedes the efforts of those seeking justice through a peaceful political process. Recent reports of FARC involvement in the Ituango killings and in the bombing in Cali reinforce this conclusion.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621