On February 23, 2002, a candidate for the presidency of Columbia, Ingrid Betancourt, was kidnapped by FARC Guerillas while on a mission to talk with the leaders and negotiate.
Ingrid is a passionate peoples advocate. She founded the Green Oxygen Party. She was born in Bogota and her mother was a former Miss Columbia who went in to politics representing the poor districts of Bogata. Her Father was a Minister in the Government and later a diplomat and posted in Paris where Ingrid was educated. She went to the prestigious Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, commonly know as Science Po, where most of the leading French politicians graduuate from. She married a French diplomat and was stationed in New Zealand and had 2 children, Melanie and Lorenzo. She returned to Columbia in 1989 determined to enter politics after the murder of the anti corruption and drug fighting politician, Luis Carlos Galan during the presidential race. In 1998, after divorcing her French husband and marrying a Columbian, she was elected to the Senate. Her anti corruption efforts attracted death threats and she sent her children out of the country to live with their French father. She wrote a book about her poliitical struggles and her fight against the corrupt political system called "Rage in the Heart". It was banned in Columbia, but published in France because it named names! It was published in the USA in 2002 under the title "Until Death Do We Part".
In the 2002 Columbian Presidential Race, she declared herself a candidate against Alvaro Uribe Velez. She wanted to go to the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, that had been experimentally set up after negotiations with FARC, the paramilitary revolutionary communist organization that has been at war with the Columbian government since 1965. FARC effectively controls an area the size of Switzerland and has a force of almost 18,000. They have waged a war of terror using kidnappings as a potent tool for negotiiating power. They have kidnapped many Columbian government officials and business leaders and many poor citizens. The goverment grew frustrated after FARC hijacked a commercial jet in 2002 and took a senator hostage. President Pastrana announced thatt the truce was ended and the government forces would attempt to take back the DMZ.
Ingrid announced her intention of going into the DMZ for direct negotiations with FARC and was denied assistance by Pastrana, because that would look like he was supporting her as a presidential candidate. She drove in with her vice presidential candidate and a small entourage of media. The last contact was at a checkpoint and later, the rest of the entourage returned with out Ingrid and reported her capture at gunpoint by FARC Guerillas. The capture was recorded on film by the camera man in another jeep who was allowed to leave with the rest.
After her kidnapping, her husband continued campaining for hewr in the election, but she did not win. That was 5 years ago. Since then, she has been allowed to make a few videos showing that she is still alive and in relative health. The FARC maintains that they will only negotiate for prisoner exchanges and the Columbian Government has since taken a hard line of no negotiations. Her value as a hosttage has risen with the involvement of the French government and the attempts of the now Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. He is claimed to have been at one time involved with Ingrid and when he was Foriegn Minister, he tried to personally intervene and a series of mis steps occurred which seemed to harden the position of FARC. Ingrids daughter, Melanie has waged a constant struggle in the media to keep the awareness of her mothers plight in the spotlight. The current French Foreign Minister, Phillippe Doust-Blazy has been engaged in cautious attempts at negotiation. In August, a spokesperson for FARC said in Switzerland, that Ingrid is healthy and doing as best as she can to cope with the situation.
What is FARC?
Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Columbia-Ejercito del Pueblo
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia-Peoples Army.
Organized in 1965 as the military wing of the Columbian Communist Party, they existed as a purely political guerrilla movement but in the 1980's they became involved in the Cocaine Trade and were officially split from the Communists. They are the worlds oldest longest lived gueriilla movement, controlling an area of Columbia roughly the size of Switzerland. They are effectively another country with it's own elected officials running a part of Columbia out side the control of the Bogata Government. They are funded by the cocaine trade and by the corporations who pay them protection to do business inside the FARC controlled areas of Columbia. This last week, we saw a major America Corporation, Chiquita Brands charged with aiding FARC and funding them through protection payoffs. It seems that Chiquita, controlled by a major investor of the Republican Party was paying off FARC and the Right Wing ParaMilitary AUC, a group that has been
charged with the worst civilian massacres in Columbia in its war with FARC. Chiquita is playing a dangerous, cynical game which only encourages both sides to destroy each other except that the AUC massacres entire villages in its attempts to destroy FARCS power. Chiquita on the other hand has been playing a willing partner in FARCS Cocaine funded operations. Chiquita banana shipments have been called a majopr conduit for the smuggling of cocaine into Europe and America. The priveleged status of corporate classified imports in privatized port facilities and the expedited handling of them has aided them in this venture.
Chiquita has a history of using the internal politics of the countries in Latin America brutally for its advantage. They were able to have the Honduran Army massacre peasants and destroy villages to acquire land for their plantations in
Honduras in 1996. Chiquita gets tax breaks from the USA to do their business. The Right Wing American Approved Columbian Government supports Chiquita. These are your tax dollars at work helping a major American Corporation make money off of the drug trade and financing a guerilla war that is decimating the Columbian rural population and finally, why America has not lifted a finger or shown the least amount of sympathy to the plight of Ingrid Betancourt!
Post script: The CEO of Chiquita who is the big Republican donor is Billionair Financer Carl Lidner. He and his family have donated heavily to the Republiicans and George Bush. On crooksandliars this evening, there is a post which questions the donations made by the Lidners and seems to point to a pattern of evasion of Federal Election Contribution laws. They seems to have been making donations using a variation of the name Lidner, Linder in fact, to get around the limits. Let's see where this leads!