MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY has another fine article on the terror of the Andes and the friends who support them. A Regular cast of characters I must say:
Some 11,000 text documents have been retrieved from the computers seized by the Colombian government after a bombing raid on a guerrilla camp in March. That raid killed rebel leader Raúl Reyes.
Yet combing through only a portion of the material, which I did recently, is enough to see that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – the FARC – is held together by two common threads.
First is the globalization of the armed struggle. The FARC’s allies and suppliers come from places as far flung as Australia, China, Russia, the Middle East and all parts of Latin America. Some are ideological comrades – both inside governments and operating as illegal cells; others are members of organized crime networks. All are crucial actors in the FARC’s bloodthirsty search for power.
The second common thread is the propaganda war. FARC rebels not only assume that they can manipulate international opinion by claiming a “humanitarian” agenda. They count on it.
All this is facilitated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The Colombian military has been running up the score against the FARC of late and rebel operations are close to falling apart, as Journal reporter José de Cordoba wrote last week. But the documents show that aid from Mr. Chávez is prolonging the war by keeping FARC hopes alive.
The Venezuelan president has been creative in thinking about how he can help the rebels. The documents show that he has offered $250 million to $300 million but that’s not all. In a February memo to the FARC high command, two rebel leaders who had recently met with Mr. Chávez describe proposed money-making schemes. “He offered us the possibility of a business in which we would receive a quota of oil to sell outside the country, which would leave us with a juicy profit.” There was also an offer of Venezuelan state contracts.
In January 2007, the rebels penned a memo explaining that a Venezuelan general told them that arms shipments from abroad could be brought in through the Venezuelan port of Maracaibo. By September, the shipments were being lined up.
“Yesterday I received two Australian arms suppliers,” one rebel wrote to the high command, “thanks to a contact made through Ramiro [a Salvadoran.]” The Aussies “offer very good prices on all we need.” The list includes 50-caliber machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missiles. “All of these materials are made in Russia and China,” he wrote, and the shipment would take a month or so “to arrive in Venezuela.”
Just in case all this military hardware doesn’t maim and murder enough civilians to produce a surrender by the Colombian government, Mr. Chávez and the FARC also have been collaborating on Plan B: an effort to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of the international community by branding Colombian President Álvaro Uribe as heartless and unreasonable.
That was supposed to be a slam dunk after Mr. Chávez last year won the role of “mediator” in the effort to free some FARC hostages, including the French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt. But a series of PR faux-pas, culminating in a fruitless trip to see French President Nicolas Sarkozy, destroyed any credibility he may briefly have enjoyed as a peacemaker.
Shortly thereafter, rebel leaders wrote a memo outlining how they planned to position themselves as humanitarians ready to swap hostages for rebel prisoners “in contrast to the stubborn intransigence of Mr. Uribe.” Among their demands would be exclusion from the international terrorist list and access to diplomatic missions. “If [Mr. Uribe] rejects it, as he surely will,” they wrote, “we lose nothing and instead he will remain isolated and under international pressure.”
That plan, too, went nowhere. On Feb. 8 of this year, the rebels wrote that Mr. Chávez had a new idea: to create an international group – consisting of Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua – similar to the Contadora Group. Contadora, which was formed in the 1980s allegedly to find a peaceful solution to the Central American wars, in fact provided political cover to the region’s Marxists. According to the rebels, Mr. Chávez said that if Mr. Uribe wants to improve bilateral relations, he would have to accept it and “asks that we bring Ingrid to the inaugural.”
In preparation for the swap, the group would set up a “humanitarian camp” with “the presence of the press, international delegates and the FARC.”
In other words, there is no peace agenda. Only plans for a circus designed to undermine Colombia’s democracy. The rest of the region’s governments ought to worry about who is next.