A few weeks ago I wrote about the imminent release of hostages being held by FARC terrorists in the jungles of Colombia. We now know for certain Venezuela’s leader Hugo Chavez sole purpose had nothing to with playing “peacemaker,” but rather seek to legitimize a terrorist group.
During his State of the Union speech before the Venezuelan Congress, he said that the FARC “was not a terrorist group, but genuine army, an army that occupies a region of Colombia.” He then adds, in the same inconsistent breath, “that the FARC and the ELN are insurgent forceswith political platforms, a Bolivarian political platform that we respect … we are mindful of their struggle and they can count on our support.”
On December 30, 2007I wrote the following about the hostage situation and related events: “[t]o say that Hezbollah’s Hassan Hasrallah wants peace with Israel is the same as Hugo Chavez, Cuba, and the FARC seeking a peaceful resolution to current and related matters in Colombia. Prior to that, on December 28, 2007, the following on the same issue:
While the release of innocent civilians held hostage by terrorists is always a cause for celebration, it is a bitter sweet moment for many other families whose loved ones, including several American citizens, are still being held by the FARC. Yet make no mistake about what is taking place here today. Chavez and the FARC leader Manuel Maralunda are engaging in a high level performance of political kabuki theatre, a peacemaker canard that cannot obliterate from our memories the victims that have died at their hands during the past few decades. For every good turn, expect two or more bad deeds from these people. They have come to this process without clean hands. We should respond accordingly.
And respond accordingly we should. In the U.S., for example, the FARC and ELN are deemed foreign terrorist organizations (“FTOs“) by the federal government. If Chavez’s promise holds true, that these FTOs can count on “his support,” and some observers in the region have been arguing for months that Venezuela already serves as a terrorist safe haven for FARC terrorists, then should the U.S. respond to such a move?
An Investor’s Business Daily editorial yesterday made a few suggestions: “Europe and the U.S. should also pressure Chavez for concessions. He should stop consorting with FARC and turn over the information he has on them to Colombian authorities. Chavez also must shut down the seven FARC camps on Venezuelan soil that Spain’s El Pais documented recently because they act as lifelines.” That would seem a reasonably place to begin.
Colombia has been relatively patient as its country comes under fierce attack by regional powers through what has become a de facto war of attrition under the guidance of Cuba and Venezuela and their support of the FARC. There are many other options on the table for the U.S., the Europeans, and regional powers that have a stake in this matter and, working closely with our ally Colombia, robust and measures should be reviewed and adopted to counteract Cuban/Venezuelan adventurism in the Andean region.
When all is said and done, it will likely by the U.S. as the only power capable of assisting the Administration of Alvaro Uribe. The Organization of American States (“OAS“) has failed in this process and, frankly, been more of a hindrance and facilitator for the other side than anything else. The Europeans, with the possible exception of the Spanish, do not have as much of an interest in Colombia as the U.S. U.S. taxpayers have invested billions in Colombian democracy and have seen good returns on their investment. There is much more to do.