Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Return of the FARC We All Know:  Just Plain Murder


Colombian Forensics Team Scours Through Blast Rubble in Ituango
Source:  Reuters

They have done it before. And so long as they exist, the horrible truth we must all face is that they likely will do it again.

The FARC and murder are still synonymous. Forget the cautious and protective advocacy of so-called human rights organizations and other NGOs on behalf of these narcoguerrillas. Forget the political spin of their pro-Chavez apologists who try to tell us the FARC have a popular base of support in Colombia rooted in an ever-present problem of endemic poverty that the developed world cannot grasp. And especially forget the FARC's own statements in which they attempt to cast themselves as the last group of romantic guerrillas still standing after all these years.

The FARC are just plain murderers.  Last Thursday night in Ituango, a small town located in the north of the Department of Antioquia, they reminded anyone who may have forgotten.  While local residents celebrated an annual fair they call Ituanguinidad, i.e. "being Ituanguan," an explosive device placed in a trash can in the vicinity of several local shopping stalls exploded, killing seven and wounding approximately fifty others.  The region has been the focus of recent efforts on the part of the Colombian military to eradicate FARC-managed coca cultivation, which immediately identified the perpetrators.  Antioquia Police Commander Colonel Luis Eduardo Martinez affixed responsibility for the attack to the FARC's 18th Front and stated that it was committed "in retaliation against the campaign to eradicate illicit crops."  Colombian authorities have detained and charged one Jhon Jairo Ortiz, known by the alias El Pajaro (the bird), and charged him in the attack, accusations which he has denied.

It also may be worth adding that several top FARC commanders have been killed this year, including Raul Reyes and Ivan Rios, which might be encouraging the narcoguerrillas to retaliate.

Source:  Reuters

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe traveled to Ituango afterwards, along with Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and Luis Alfredo Ramos, the Governor of the Department of Antioquia, to meet with the townspeople personally.  Uribe spoke to local reporters on the scene, saying "we must have solidarity with the community and support it.  And reaffirm the steel will we have in the defeat of terrorism."  He announced that he would enlarge the local police authority in the vicinity and that the Colombian government would pay an indemnity to the families of the victims in an amount equivalent to about $5,400 U.S.

International Reaction

In a year in which Colombia's struggles with the FARC have been much in the news, the aftermath of the Ituango attack has resulted in uncharacteristic expressions of solidarity with the country and its people.  Human Rights Watch issued a press release that was outstanding for its very rare mention of the FARC with no simultaneous allusion to the Paras, the usual tactic HRW has followed when addressing -- and subtly supporting -- the narcoguerrillas.  HRW did not fault the Colombian government for inattentiveness to the population because they recognized that officials in Bogota previously had issued a warning to the citizenry in Ituango that they might be at risk from a FARC attack.  The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in Bogota issued its own statement of condemnation, and even went so far as to describe it as typical "of a war crime."  But in perfect keeping with the twilight zone perspective of the UN, the commissioner requested that the FARC Secretariat "assume publicly the full subjection of its organization to respect humanitarian norms and to teach its members the order to fully respect their humanitarian obligations."

A much more meaningful step was the action Interpol took in response, in which they issued an order for the capture of Rodrigo Granda, the "Foreign Minister" of the FARC, who has enjoyed international immunity for over a year, permitting him to travel abroad frequently.  Henry Cobas, speaking for Interpol in Bogota, stated that they were working "through Interpol channels" to coordinate the capture and extradition of the FARC leader whose seizure in Venezuela and transfer to Colombia in 2004 provoked an international incident between the two countries, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of Venezuelan Lieutenant Colonel Humberto Quintero, who remains a political prisoner in Chavez's jails to this very day for the "crime" of arresting Granda.

Perhaps Humberto Quintero's case deserves another look?  Forgive me, for I diverge from the subject at hand.  I was thinking of justice.

My Comments

Though there appears to be some movement in international opinion to marginalize the FARC recently, and especially in the wake of events this year such as the release of the Interpol report on the Reyes laptops and the daring rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and the 15 other FARC kidnapped hostages, I am still disappointed that this event has not been publicized more prominently.  We're still largely dependent upon news sites and those very few blogger-heroes who keep an eye open, like Martha Colmenares (¡Que Dios te bendiga Martha!), and a couple of others.

The time has come for everyone to demand an end to the atrocities of the FARC.  It's just plain and simple murder, nothing more.


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