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.

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