[Znet's Justin Podur on the context of the recent release of the Colombian FARC hostages Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez and what Chavez was, and is, probably trying to achieve with his involvement in the negotiations.]
Colombia's war and Venezuela's foreign policy
January 30th 2008
Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe Velez, who has accused social activists of 'terrorism', refused them protection against paramilitary killers, and sent troops and police against protesters, has called for a march against Colombia's guerrillas, the FARC, on February 4, 2008. This government-organized initiative is an attempt to polarize the country. To not join the march is to be accused of supporting kidnapping and terrorism. This is also what the Colombian President accuses Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, of, because Chavez helped to negotiate the release of three Colombian hostages held by FARC. Meanwhile, Uribe's war politics eclipse paramilitarism, the free trade agreements and their destruction of Colombia's economy, the millions of internally displaced, and the ongoing attack on social movements.
There has been some coverage in the US of the Colombian humanitarian accord talks, brokered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, which recently saw three of FARC's hostages released. In early January, the NYT reported charges “flying” of Chavez's “failure” to achieve the humanitarian accord. Ultimately the three hostages were released, though Colombian officials, the US, and the mainstream press responded by accusing Chavez of interfering in Colombia's internal affairs. This article will explain the Colombian context and what Chavez was, and is, probably trying to achieve with the humanitarian accord. The release of the hostages was a very positive development, for reasons that will be discussed below.
Colombia's war has gone on for decades. Some date it from 1964, when the FARC was born out of a government offensive against Liberal guerrillas. It is also possible to date it from 1948, when a Liberal politician (Jorge Eliecer Gaitan) was assassinated beginning a wave of political violence between Liberals and Conservatives that lasted for years, killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced millions (called “La Violencia”, which ended with the creation of a National Front in 1958 that shared power between the two parties). Peasants formed armed groups to defend themselves and their lands from the bands of the landlords and the military. The peasant groups became the guerrillas. The landlords' bands, joined later by drug traffickers, became the paramilitaries, who worked closely with the military and continued to displace peasants, afro-Colombians, and indigenous people from their lands and destroy social organizations and labor unions in the cities. Paramilitarism, with its massacres and displacements, benefited multinational corporations and landowners who ended up with the resources and territories, and pacified populations.
The US has been involved in it from the beginning. Fr. Javier Giraldo, author of “Colombia: the Genocidal Democracy”, argued that the paramilitary strategy itself came from the US with “Mission Yarborough”, begun by a visit of US General William Yarborough to Colombia in 1962 (1). At the time, the US advocated the use of terror to fight “communism” throughout Latin America, and trained and armed Latin America's soldiers to do so, and did so itself, in places like Cuba. In more recent decades, the US has given helicopters, sent military “advisors”, and of course more recently dispatched private contractors from MPRI, Dyncorp, and other mercenary companies (2). Today, Phase II of Plan Colombia is evolving, with the same regional targets (Venezuela and Ecuador), the same methods ("counternarcotics" and counteirnsurgency) and the same brutal effects.
(click here to view entire article)