Saturday, March 8, 2008

Newsworthy news from Colombia!

True to form, mainstream media has covered the Colombia-Venezuela-Ecuador "crisis" in gripping detail, making sure to alert Americans on the latest details of Venezuela's troop movements, border squabbles Ecuador, and FARC rebel deaths. People who have never so much as brought up Colombia in conversation with me have emailed, called, and inquired with concern about the "close call I had with the fighting in Colombia". "So you got out just in time," they ask me, no doubt imagining all of us ducking behind cars to avoid the gunshots. I resist the urge snap at them, trying to remind myself that people ask me questions like this because they are misinformed, not malicious. I'm sure I harbor mistaken stereotypes about many people and countries, and I hope that those who know better will forgive my ignorance and kindly inform me.
When I heard the news that Raul Reyes of the FARC had been killed in a raid by the Colombian military, I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I felt a certain morbid sense of excitement, even joy. The FARC no longer enjoys any support within the Colombian population and their supposed fight for poor Colombians and social justice has diminished to an incoherent mixture of kidnappings, indiscriminate violence, and terror. Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has used the hostage exchange between Colombia and the FARC as a tactic to push his own agenda, and, as his close ties to the terrorist group becoming increasingly apparent, Colombian and Venezuelans alike, are crying enough is enough.

The February 4th pro-peace anti-FARC march in Colombia was a direct reaction to  President Chavez' appeal to the international community which asked for the FARC to be taken off the list of terrorists. Colombians won't stand for it. Millions of protesters all around the world gathered peacefully with signs like the one above, proclaiming, "yes, they ARE terrorists". 5 million people marched in Colombian cities alone, which is over 12% of the entire population, and simultaneous marches were carried out in over 165 cities around the world. CNN reported that  "thousands" had marched. Let's be clear about the difference between "thousands" and "millions".

When the Colombian military killed Raul Reyes last week, ten kilometers over the border into Ecuador, it was considered one of the biggest victories for the Colombian military in years. Chavez responded to the violation of Ecuador's sovereignty, with his characteristic temper tantrums and name calling, but this time, he ratcheted things up by breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia and mobilizing troops to the border. Meanwhile, Venezuelans are increasingly unable to meet basic needs with rationed goods, staggering poverty, and growing divisions. Breaking relations with Colombia carries a high price for many average Colombians and Venezuelans who cross the border every day to work and who depend on the economy of the other.
Colombians rolled their eyes and shook their heads at Chavez' antics, which have reached cartoon-like proportions in the recent months, and Uribe assured Colombians and the world that we would not fuel the fire by moving troops or breaking relations, and, for most, life went on as usual. After all, the raiding of FARC camps had happened in Ecuador, not Venezuela, and both borders are a long way from major Colombian cities. That's why Ecuador and Venezuela have been such a convenient refuge for members of the FARC, and a computer uncovered in the raid shows that ties between Ecuador, Venezuela and the FARC may run deeper than anyone realized. The bottom line is that the whole "crisis" was played off by mainstream media as a legitimate showdown between Venezuela and Colombia, and this really isn't fair to say. The Colombian government had no choice but to seize the opportunity to close in on high ranking leaders of a terrorist group that has been tormenting the Colombian people for more than 40 years. And no, there was no shooting in Bogotá, no civilians were in danger, and the event shouldn't scare you from going to Colombia anymore than our National Guard troops on the border with Mexico should dissuade tourists from visiting the United States.

What should, however, call your attention is that yesterday, while CNN replayed the same blurb five thousand times about the so-called crisis in South America, which wasn't much more than another one of Chavez' temper tantrums, tens of thousand of Colombians once again took to the streets to march peacefully in favor of the victims of paramilitary violence. They conducted vigils and ceremonies for the disappeared and displaced people and called on all Colombians to keep working toward peace and reconciliation for the victims of the armed conflict and against paramilitary violence and massacres. But this, of course, didn't make the news. We were too busy watching Chavez stomp his feet and waive his arms, stirring the South American pot, and diverting attention from the all things truly newsworthy.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post about FARC terrorists and Chavez. In my opinion, the headline "Troops Mass on the Border" has been a press favorite for many years, and that is both good and bad. Good because it opens a world window onto potential aggression; bad because the accompanying story is bound to be rife with speculation and misinformation. However, I think it would be cavalier for us to completely discount the rantings and threats of men like Chavez, or, for that matter, Amadenajad, and Kim Jong.

I have lived in a war zone with hot borders and have seen life on the street go on unabated and unchanged. Sometimes border skirmishes are just that, and sometimes they're preludes to wider, more serious confrontations. Remember, every time an army gets to posture itself on the border of a neighboring country, it gets to play an invasion game for free.

I doubt anybody thought Chavez was going to invade Columbia with 9,000 troops. But I'm thinking he pretty much got what he wanted, the opportunity to show his FARC allies that he's willing to mobilize his troops on their behalf. In and of itself, that's a worrisome development.

Again, thank you for your insightful post.