The truth about "Operation Redemption" of Ingrid Betancourt and the American Mercenaries

To be able to understand "Operation Redemption" to free Ingrid Betancourt and the mercenaries of the company Northrop Grumman Corporation who were released together with her, it is necessary to connect the pieces published in the media and their meaning, to filter the content, and from there to form a true understanding of the facts of what happened.

1. On the 3rd of June, Columbian Senator Piedad Cordoba disclosed that he had information that the government of Colombia was negotiating an agreement with FARC to exchange money for the freedom of Betancourt and the mercenaries. The official politics of the two countries, Colombia and the United States, is that they "do not negotiate with terrorists," while several leaders of Latin American countries accuse President Uribe of supporting the death squads made by paramilitaries and accuse the United States of promoting, supporting and guaranteeing the security of known terrorists, such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.

2. Attentive observers began to question the strange circumstances that surrounded the event of the "dramatic rescue" of Ingrid Betancourt. Some men wearing Che Guevara t-shirts simply had appeared and placed the hostages on board a helicopter? If it was thus so easy, why had it not been done years ago? The French media also found odd the fact that Betancourt did not have the distressed or hungry appearance in the images that were distributed before when she was still in captivity - she had a healthful appearance and appeared to have been fed well, as she was being prepared to be freed.

3. More confusion came when the capitalist media used this opportunity to edit the conference with the press given by Betancourt, keeping only the parts that glorify Uribe and the United States and excluding the parts in which she speaks of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador and their important efforts to find a diplomatic and peaceful solution for this crisis. The conference with the press was transmitted in the full text by Latin American media, such as Telesur, but only small edited pieces were transmitted by CNN (channel in English), Fox News and other media of the northern hemisphere. For example, one of the things excluded in the edited version were the comments of Betancourt that she felt used by the whole situation and that the operation had put the life of the prisoners at risk while a diplomatic solution, such as the ones carried out by President Chavez, guaranteed the security of the prisoners.

4. The capitalist media, without any shame, immediately started to use the situation to promote their political objectives: in all areas of the corporate media, Uribe was being portrayed as a hero, the days are counted for FARC and nothing is mentioned of the peaceful and diplomatic deeds and actions by Chavez that freed several prisoners kept by FARC.

5. This Friday, information had started to come to the surface, that in fact, the government of Colombia secretly paid US $20 million dollars to FARC in exchange for the liberation of Betancourt and the North American mercenaries, confirming what Senator Cordoba had said a month ago. This history was published by the French media MediaPart and by radio Suisse Romande of Switzerland. MediaPart also divulged that France and Colombia would guarantee safe asylum for some members of FARC as part of the agreement.

6. Dominique Moisi, one of the most prominent specialists in French foreign policies, said that it was " possible " that FARC had received money in exchange for the prisoners. "They were taken in order to be handed over, as heads of the Mafia, " she said to the state-owned French television channel.

7. In function of these events, the government of Ecuador suspended diplomatic relations of the country with Colombia.

8. The news that US $20 million dollars were paid, quickly circulated in the all the corporate media while they fought to try to distort the information. The confusion caused by this bizarre operation makes much more sense when it is seen as an action pre-organized, to exchange prisoners for money. And, the true face of the Latin American extreme right was again exposed.

9. It is worthwhile to repeat that together with Betancourt, soldiers of the United States also were set free that were working with private contracts. They had been captured when the aircraft that was doing observation flights came down inside a territory controlled by FARC during an operation of the Colombia Plan. Northrop Grumman, a company that manufactures airplanes and armaments, received a contract of $60 million to provide logistical support for the military operations of the United States and of Colombia in the war regions. Between the years 1990 and 2002, Northrop Grumman contributed with US 8.5 million dollars for federal campaigns.

Coincidently, at least "seven officials, consultants or shareholders of Northrop Grumman" had posts inside the administration of President Bush, including representatives of the office of the Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby (who had been charged with obstruction of justice, two accusations of false evidence and for having given false statements for federal investigators on his participation in the "illegal" exposition of the agent Valerie Plame of the CIA). Moreover, the Colombia Plan has been repeatedly criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations, for keeping close relations with death squads of the extreme right, providing assistance to illegal terrorist organizations of the extreme right beyond the direct or indirect participation in slaughters and atrocities. Most of the terrorists of the extreme right in Colombia are former members of the Columbian army, such as the paramilitary commander "Yair" who openly supports the Colombia Plan and publicly offered his support for operations done by the Colombia Plan.

10. Finally, it must be pointed out that the government of Colombia under Uribe, which has benefited from the generalized reminiscences done by the corporate press in the last days, is routinely condemned as having one of the worst human rights records of any country of the world. More than 60 members of the congressional coalition of President Uribe are under investigation for electoral fraud or collaborating with right wing groups classified as "terrorist organizations" by the United States. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for syndical organizers, with the highest toll in whole world of murders and extrajudicial executions of trade unionists.

Since the Colombia Plan started, the United States sent about US $4.7 billion dollars for the government of Colombia, described by Senator Cordoba as a "democracy that governs through the use of fear and of terror." Senator Cordoba herself was kidnapped by 12 armed terrorists affiliated with the government. Senator Cordoba says that the operations of the Colombia Plan are used only partially to fight the so-called "war on drugs.” “Also it is used to silence those, who like us, speak publicly against the government. They try to silence us through seizures, disappearances and even though killing many of us."

Unlike many Latin American countries, that had torn down the brutal dictatorships supported by the U.S.A. that governed the continent during greater part of 20th century, Colombia is an active remembrance of how life used to be for all of South America -- ferocious and repressive dictators that terrified the population with money and weapons supplied by the United States in exchange for support to its politics. How is it that a government of this type can receive the homages and congratulations that were demonstrated by the capitalists in the last few days, as soon as they had negotiated the release of Ingrid Betancourt and the North American mercenaries through the payment of US $20 million dollars? How is it that a media that is supposedly democratic and free can pay homage without any criticism to a government of this kind?

Today, Fidel Castro made one of the most sensible declarations on this situation: to arrest civilians is wrong, but what is worse is that the United States, the west, and the capitalist media are exploring this situation to mask and to justify the horrors and genocides that they have imposed on Latin America for hundreds of years, up until today. Even now, the soldiers of the Colombia Plan and the death squads of the of the extreme right continue assassinating leaders of labor unions in cold blood, they continue terrorizing the civilian population of Colombia, and keep on protecting terrorists that hunt and kill anyone that it is looking for social justice for this region, a cause that puts at risk the power and the profit of the dominant ones, of the ruling class.

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Translated from the Portuguese version




Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey