For several months family members, international observers such as the Red Cross, media, and others anxiously waited for the release of several hostages held by Latin America’s largest terrorist organization, the FARC-People’s Army. As posted on December 28, 2007 on this blog, the leaders of this political stage-show were doing nothing more than a canard. Yesterday, the Colombian National Police even had the DNA evidence to bolster this argument.
The alleged formal release efforts were announced by Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chavez in August of last year. With support from Cuba’s intelligence services, Chavez offered to meet with the families of the hostages and to mediate talks between FARC-People’s Army leader Manuel Maralunda and the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to secure the release of several hostages including a child born in captivity. The child is the son of a hostage that was supposed to have been released. She is the presidential campaign manager for another hostage who is also in captivity.
The child was used as political chattel by the FARC-People’s Army as recently as July 2007 when it released a propaganda video forcing a Colombian Army hostage to say such things as: “When Mrs. Clara gets tired of carrying the child, a guerrilla kindly offers to help her, which (the boy) loves, because he likes to play horsey.” Let’s fast forward things to December 18, 2007.
On that day, the Cuban government announced on state-run television that it had received a communique from the FARC-People’s Army that it would release the child (allegedly named Emmanuel by his captors), his mother, and the former presidential candidate — a former Colombian Senator. The thing is, DNA tests results released yesterday may prove that the child has not been in terrorist hands for several years.
Besides good political theatre, this recent incident proves what President Alvaro Uribe and his advisers have been telling the world for quite some time: the FARC-People’s Army is a terrorist organization, it cannot be trusted and people’s lives are at stake and much more. It also shows in dramatic fashion, for those individuals that may not be following closely the FARC-People’s Army continued attacks on Colombian democracy, that we must robustly support our Colombian allies during a critical time.
This entire episode appears now to have been a public relations effort to garner international sympathy and support for the FARC-People’s Army terrorist group. The public face of this process was Venezuela’s Chavez who we can see maintains close relations with the group and, among other things, allows its members to use Venezuelan territory for planning and training purposes against the Colombian government.
The intellectual master-minds of the effort appear to be none other than the Cuban intelligence services and its advisers based in Caracas and in FARC-People’s Army camps. From the alleged naming of the little boy Emmanuel – no coincidence during the Christmas season – to the false promises of a release, the entire effort staged for the cameras reminds us of another little child exploited for political purposes, Elian Gonzalez.
Finally, and more importantly, does this incident show some organizational weakness of FARC senior officials? If the child was never in their custody, did they know? If they knew he was not, why allow propaganda to be shown that he was? Who knew what and when?
On a larger regional scale it is a much-deserved political blow for Hugo Chavez, the Cuban Communist Party, and the FARC-People’s Army. Holding more than 750 hostages – including three American citizens – is bad enough, but playing political games with the lives of these hostages has completely discredited any scintilla of credibility that they may have had prior to this process as genuinely interested in peaceful solutions. This incident reinforces the view that the FARC, and their Cuban and Venezuelan patrons, are only interested in one thing: destabilizing Colombian democracy and U.S. interests in the region.