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Colombia: Celebrate the Release, Not the Regime

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Posted on Jul 9, 2008

By Amy Goodman

  It is fantastic to see Ingrid Betancourt free. She was the Green Party candidate running for president of Colombia against Alvaro Uribe in 2002 when she was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) just days after appealing to the FARC to stop its campaign of kidnapping. She was held hostage for more than six years and was released last week along with 14 others. The flamboyant rescue operation by the Colombian army has been splashed across newspapers and TV screens globally, but the celebration of their release should not be confused with celebration of the Colombian government.

  I reached Manuel Rozental at his home in Canada. He’s a Colombian doctor and human-rights activist who fled Colombia after receiving several threats on his life: “We’re talking about the regime with the worst human-rights record in the continent and the army with the worst human-rights record in the continent with the greatest U.S. support, including the contractors or mercenaries. So the fact that this regime was involved in this liberation does not and should not and cannot cover up the fact that it is a horrendous regime.”

  Colombia has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid outside of Israel and Egypt. Amnesty International USA has called for a halt to all support for Colombia, saying ” ... torture, massacres, ‘disappearances’ and killings of noncombatants are widespread, and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day. In 2006, U.S. assistance to Colombia amounted to an estimated $728 million, approximately 80 percent of which was military and police assistance.”

  John McCain was in Colombia on July 2, the day Betancourt was released along with U.S. military contractors and Colombian soldiers and police officers who were held. McCain’s links to Colombia are worth noting. The Huffington Post reports that a McCain fundraising event was just given by billionaire Carl Lindner of Cincinnati, the former CEO of Chiquita Brands International. Chiquita, under Lindner’s watch, paid and armed one of the most notorious right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The U.S. government fined Chiquita $25 million for its funding and arming of the AUC, designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department as early as 2001. One of the conditions of the deal was that Chiquita would not have to name the top executives involved.

  The Huffington Post and The New York Times recently reported another McCain connection to Colombia. His top adviser, Charlie Black, resigned in March as chairman of the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm BKSH & Associates in order to work full time on the McCain campaign. Since 1998, BKSH has earned $1.8 million representing Occidental Petroleum, which has controversial oil operations in Colombia. Occidental worked with a military contractor and the Colombian military to counter pipeline attacks. In December 1998, the Colombian military dropped a bomb on the village of Santa Domingo, killing 11 adults and seven children. According to the Los Angeles Times, Occidental “supplied, directly or through contractors, troop transportation, planning facilities and fuel to Colombian military aircraft, including the helicopter crew accused of dropping the bomb.”

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  It was a photographed hug that grabbed the attention of Inter Press Service, an independent, global news agency. Soon after Betancourt was released, IPS published a story, “The General Ingrid Hugged,” about the national commander of the Colombian army, Gen. Mario Montoya. Montoya has been linked to a secret commando group from the late 1970s that bombed and massacred political opponents of the right wing. While the initial flurry of photo ops, with Betancourt hugging Montoya and standing with Uribe, has boosted public acclaim for the Uribe administration and the Colombian military, Betancourt is beginning to assert her traditionally oppositional status. She told RFI radio in France: “President Uribe, and not just President Uribe but Colombia as a whole, should change some things. ... I think the time has come to change the language of radicalism, extremism and hatred, the very strong words that cause deep hurt to a human being. ... There comes a time when one has to agree to talk to the people you hate.”

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By JP, July 14, 2008 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy,

Democracy now? I understand all of the concern about human rights but it is sad to see that there is no question on the guerrilla and their methods…Additionally I ask ‘democracy now?” because of your lack of respect to the colombian people and their democracy…I voted for Uribe…he won fair and square elections..there was no rigging…so at least some respect should be in line…it’s just like with Hammas..the US likes democracy when it’s their guy who wins…I thought this was a right wing view but I realize that the US left suffers from the same illness….

You mention all the money that the US has given to Colombia but have you thought or analized what would have happened ten years ago if that aid hadn’t arrived?  The guerrilla’s drug money would have won them the war…They had so much power that they almost took a state capital…(Mitu)...Yes the paramilitary are a problem that has to be delt with…but why not do justice and cover stories with fairness…You are just as guilty as the right-wing media…wouldn’t it be more helpful if you reported and really informed people? It would really help us Colombians….

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By porqueami, July 10, 2008 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The company that provided air security services to Occidental is called AirScan.  In fact, the incident that is referred to in your article was fully recorded by the camera mounted on the aircraft.  There were two incidents really.  The first was the bombing of the FARC group which was very effective.  (I’d like to add Also, that the aircraft crew consisted of two Americans and one Colombian Air Force officer.  The Colombian Air Force Officer is who directed any and all air strike info.)  The second incident was the killing of the towns people by the farc.  These towns people killed by the FARC are the ones that they later claimed were killed by the Colombian Air Force.  Their wounds were not caused by shrapnel… This was also filmed by the same aircraft but was deemed inadmissable as evidence by leftist Colombian judges.  Needless to say the crew of that aircraft did go free because of the video evidence (inadmissable but none the less a diplomatic problem if the crew was detained and the video brought to light).  That is why 2 American crewmen and 1 Colombian Air Force Officer are still free to this day.  “Long live the revolution!”

Colombia does ride a fine line within itself and the making of peace there will not be easy.  The high amount of cash that can be had through the drug trade tends to twist things.  People on the left and the right seem to build their own realities out of all that cash flow. 

I doubt that Mr. Black or Mr. McCain have anything to worry about from the incident in your article.

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By smkngman, July 10, 2008 at 9:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Via IndependentUK

“As Ingrid Betancourt emerged after six-and-a-half years – sunken and shrivelled but radiant with courage – one of the first people she thanked was Hugo Chavez.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-lies-kidnapping-and-a-mysterious-laptop-861286.html

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By Bill Blackolive, July 10, 2008 at 7:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amy, thanks always, Cyrena, thanks always, and, now, to get beyond fear and get more prominent people into the 911 Truth movement, and possibly stop Iran’s getting bombed (wherein she could sink US Airplane Carriers, help us all)and possibly get the USA to legalizing drugs when there is just too, too much blood flowing already on the designated US side.  I am told, that Ralph Nader, and Daniel Elseberg, are both too stricken, but that Dennis K. is interviewed tonight on NoLieRadio.  Amy, somebody has to do it.

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By cyrena, July 9, 2008 at 8:34 pm Link to this comment

P.T….Thanks for the link to what really happened in Columbia.

Maybe it’s an admitted cynicism on my part at this point of the ‘journey’ that allows me to admit that I’m NOT surprised, and that in all honesty, I don’t even follow these ‘events’ until after they’ve been ‘launched’ for a week or more, when the real truth begins to surface. That is basically what the author explains, and that’s what happens. The US media does their already ‘planned’ coverage of whatever the ‘planned’ event is, (think 9/11) and then later, sometimes much later, somebody gets beyond the created ‘facts’ to get to the ‘truth’.

Meantime, the most helpful thing about Amy Goodman’s piece here, (and I do believe it to be a good piece for this reason) is the reminded details of the long term alliance and SUPPORT of one of the worst regimes in the history of the world, (Columbias) by the US.

Amy could not have stressed enough, just how horrific the Columbian regime has been over the DECADES, and the support provided to them by every US regime of the past 4 decades at least.

The School of the Americas, (now remained the Western Hemisphere something or other) has been the US provided training camp for all of these torturers and other death squad commandos operating in Columbia and other parts of Latin America for decades. Without a doubt, the total destruction and crimes against humanity perpetrated for so long in Latin America could NOT have been managed without US support.

It was no ‘coincidence’ that McCain just happened to be there. Now why the hell was a US presidential candidate traipsing around Columbia just months before an election? And before that…Israel?

Anyway, thanks again for the link. It’s a shame that I’m not even stunned or surprised by the fake rescue. The fakery of 9/11 cured me of that.

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By P. T., July 9, 2008 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment

Here is an interesting article about the so-called “rescue.”  The article pertains to a report that appeared in the Venezuelan press that maintains the “rescue” was phony.  Click (and then scroll down a little) http://www.counterpunch.org/ross07072008.html

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