Archive for December 31st, 2007

Handover of hostages in Colombia collapses as the FARC fails to deliver

December 31, 2007

For some as yet unexplained reason the delivery of three hostages in the hands of Colombian guerilla group FARC to the operation staged by President Hugo Chavez has collapsed. After Chavez himself had given a deadline of last night, the international group of personalities present in the Colombian town of Villavicencio to guarantee the integrity of the hostages has left that town, including former President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner and movie Director Oliver Stone, who made absolutely stupid comments about who the FARC are and what they stand for.

The FARC blames the Colombian Government for staging military operations in the area, while the Colombian Government is suggesting that the FARC may not even have the kid in its hands as it may be a child in the hands of Colombian social workers for over a year. Thus, once again, the FARC make President Hugo Chavez look very bad, the same way that they did in November when they even failed to provide proof that some hostages, such as former Presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were even alive. After that failure, Colombian police found such proof in the hands of some guerilla members in the city of Bogota and the proof was dated at least one month before the talks collapsed at the time.

Hugo Chavez had created a whole media circus surrounding the handover of the hostages, making it seem like a complicated military operation which it did not have to be. Chavez kept talking about “search” and “rescue” when it was just a matter of the FARC finding a way to leave the hostages at a safe place to be picked up by the Venezuelan helicopters flying under the Red Cross flag. But something was clearly wrong, as the handover was postponed repeatedly without explanation. Reports are that former Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner, a Chavez ally, was so upset yesterday with the operation that he was ready to leave and had to be stopped by “panicky” Venezuelan diplomats. President Uribe had stayed away from the operation until today when he met with the international observers and agreed to allow a corridor to be opened for the hostages to be handed over, after extending the Chavez deadline yesterday. The FARC meanwhile, contends that the Colombian military was staging operations near where the handover was supposed to take place and made it unsafe.

As I have suggested before there is no reason for this to be so complicated, but the diverging goals of those involved: Chavez, Uribe and the FARC made it complex as each group wants the other to look bad. What is a mystery is why the FARC have so far left Chavez out in the cold each time he has tried to mediate the handover of some hostages. In the past, the FARC has broken truces with the Colombian Government, failed to return hostages when promised and once killed eleven Deputies who were in captivity and were supposed to be about to be returned. The Colombian Government recently released the Foreign Minister of the FARC to the French Government as a goodwill gesture. There has been no reciprocal gesture from the FARC, who had only agreed to release these three hostages, two women and a kid, despite having thousands of hostages in their hands.

For now, the whole thing has collapsed and made Hugo Chavez look very bad, after he tried to raise his national and international stature after the loss in the Dec. 2nd. referendum. For now, the whole thing has collapsed and it looks as if it will be a while before the same show can be staged again with everyone’s cooperation.

Chavez finally signs Amnesty decree

December 31, 2007

So, we are getting the “soft” and “lovable” Chavez now. After his “humanitarian” effort in Colombia looks like is failing, Chavez signs an Amnesty Bill that he had refused to consider as recently as last Christmas, when it would have been more appropriate for people like Henry Vivas and Lazaro Forero so that they could spend that time with their families. I wonder if the decree implies that PDVSA will return its lifetime savings and severance pay to its former workers, since none of them were ever even tried and PDVSA confiscated their property illegally. The list for the Amnesty cases decreed is here.

As General Uson suggested yesterday, Chavez does not change, this is probably part of his new strategy to regain popularity by being more gentle and human, let’s see how long it lasts. In any case, he needs to start running the country and so far, none of his moves imply that. Meanwhile, I obviously welcome the decision as the rights of so many had been violated by the travesty that is the Bolivarian revolution. It is indeed a belated Christmas present for those involved that have suffered so much because of the whims of the autocrat.

Not even Napoleon at Waterloo by Simon Alberto Consalvi

December 31, 2007

Historian Simon Alberto Consalvi wrote this piece in today´s El Nacional, which expresses quite well the remarkable media show staged by President Hugo Chavez in the last few days for the handover (Chavez calls “rescue”) of the hostages in Colombia. Some details are missing, such as Chavez naming his former Minister of the Interior and Justice as Coordinator, a man who after leaving Government was shown to have a second legal identity which he had used to divert funds from the secret budget of his Ministry. He also provided papers and aid to the Foreign Minister of the FARC Rodrigo Granda, a criminal who was later captured and extradited to Colombia, after living in opulence in Venezuela.

By now, the operation is surrounded in mystery and as of today, not completed as the FARC claims the Colombian military is not allowing the operation, while the Colombian President is saying the FARC does not have the kid. So, we go back to my earlier question: Why did the FARC once again promise Chavez something and not deliver? Only time may answer it.


Not even Napoleon at Waterloo by Simon Alberto Consalvi in El Nacional (by subscription)

If people were moved by the promise of the liberation of the two
Colombian hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, adding the young kid
Emmanuel (born of the first in captivity), they could not explain the theatrics
displayed from the very beginning. One got the feeling that it was as if one of
the greatest battles in history was being fought. One thought of the useless
pomposity of Napoleon at Waterloo,
already in his imperial dawn. It was all ostentatious, despite the fact that the
matter was the return to civilization of only two of hundreds of hostages. As
if the FARC did not know how to free their hostages without any risk.

It used to be that they would get them out of the jungle or wherever
there were being held and they would leave them in some town where they could
ask for help and the operation ended there. This time pomposity and bombastic
behavior predominated, together with wastefulness and vanity. What was before a
secret, now was a media event. Star Wars, as interpreted by Alfred Hitchcock. One
suspense after the other. The only thing missing was some submarines in the
Arauca River. Times have changed; there is no doubt about that. Now the
“rescue” operation was simultaneously, a military one, one of protocol and
publicity, and of course, political and of such nature that it seemed to
contradict what it should have had of human solidarity. Pomposity and rhetoric,
proclamations and lessons in strategy, air force mobilizations and eloquent and
friendly references to the FARC or Marulanda, its unique leader and lifetime
factotum. All of this carried out with high class witnesses.

The modest handover of two women and a child that for the first time
will know something different than the jungle has turned out to be a
cinematographic operation. A celebration, in the end, which is reasonable in
its limits, but which tried to erase the horror of having kidnapped a three
year old kid, separated at birth from the mother and cared for by guerilla
members. That is, doubly kidnapped. The story goes that not even the mother
could see him. Clara Rojas will one day tell her story. When former Deputy
Consuelo Gonzalez returns to her home, she will miss her husband, who died in
2005. She will find two married daughters and a grandson.

With these precedents, when Ingrid Betancourt is freed (if Marulanda
ever allows it), the UN blue helmets will have to come, together with the most
indispensable part, the Hollywood cameramen. We will see the tenderness with
which American Director Oliver Stone, Danny Glover’s and Sean Penn’s colleague,
will register this “humanitarian gesture” by the FARC in the entrusted documentary
with which he will return to the comforts of the Empire. Not even Napoleon at Waterloo.