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Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Colombian hostage rescue: Aftermath

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Yesterday I stated that the hostage rescue by Colombia's military has changed the political landscape in South America. Last Wednesday Investor's Business Daily looked at some of the actors.

It's really early to explore the implications, but here are some of the more immediate:

1. Colombia has undermined the FARC to the point of having it on the run, killing its top leaders, and infiltrating its topmost ranks. At its height, the FARC controlled over 30% of Colombia's territory and terrorized the entire country. Colombia is about to end its decades-long civil war, and the good guys are winning.

While the really hard work is about to start - i.e., ending the stranglehold of the cocaine trade - the victory opens the possibility that that, too, can be attained.

2. The FARC started as the military wing of the pro-Moscow Colombian Communist Party and has remained aligned with Communists in Latin America, including Hugo Chavez.

(Please don't come telling me that Chavez is not a Communist. He declared himself a Communist on January 2007, as this laudatory article at the Guardian states,
"Socialism or death - I swear it," he said last week, and declared himself a communist.)
This is a blow to Communism in Latin America. To use Esteban Lijalad's words, "Today Che died".

3. Appeasement never works, and the only way to defeat terror is through relentless, calculated, strategic, effective force. This carries great implications not only for Colombia and Latin America, but also on the war on terror.

The rescue has vindicated Mr Uribe's uncompromising position with respect to negotiating with the Farc and justified his refusal to make concessions in order to gain the release of hostages.
4. Hugo Chavez's dream of heading a Bolivarian empire in Latin America has been dealt a huge blow. The FARC, one of his key allies, is defeated. As Ingrid Betancourt herself said,
"agradezco los esfuerzos de Chavez, pero debe saber que los Colombianos elegimos a Uribe, no a las FARC".
(my translation:) "I appreciate Chavez's efforts, but he should learn that we Colombians elected Uribe, not the FARC."
5. Just as the bad guys get together - as Chavez supports the FARC, Hezbollah, and Iran - the good guys also get together for training and technology: The US has funded the Colombian government's efforts in its war against terror to the tune of $600 million/yr in security and antinarcotics aid (h/t Betsy), and Israel (h/t Atlas) provided training:
The Israeli consultation was focused mainly on intelligence issues, special operations and integration and coordination between different security elements. This was in order to prepare them for a coordinated and productive campaign within a short period of time.
6. However, it can not be emphasized enough that it was the Colombians themselves who actually planned, executed, and succeeded in a months-long operation, and who will continue to do the heavy lifting.

Clarification: To give you an idea of why point #6 is so very important, Simon Romero of the NYT summarizes the situation in one sentence:
The mission would require near perfect execution by a military that only a few years ago could rarely be trusted.
That is a hugely significant development, both in the symbolic sense, and in the strategic implications. It marks a new stage in the history of Latin America.

As to the rumors circulated by Swiss public radio and their unnamed sources, clearly the Swiss should stick to reporting on cuckoo clocks. Daniel casts a jaundinced eye on the Swiss.

UPDATE 2: Translation of Operation Check: Images from Ingrid Betancourt's rescue
Macker sent this video of the rescue, asking that I translate it:

Translation: Please credit me if you use this translation. Thank you.
Operation Check (as in chess): Images from Ingrid Betancourt's rescue
13:23:00 [Voice off camera] "...from this side... hold...hold...backlighting...backlighting..."

13:24:00 [Reporter, now in front of camera, approaching man in long-sleeve t-shirt] "Commander, may I ask you only one question?"
[FARC commander] "No, no, there's a rule and I'd be violating a rule."
[Reporter] "Allow me, only one question. Only one question, yes?"
[FARC commander] "Ask me in the helicopter." (chuckles)
[Reporter] "But it'll be too noisy. Let me ask you a question, so it shows."
[FARC commander] "No, it is..."
[Reporter] "Real easy one, Commander."
[FARC commander] "It's against the rules."
[Reporter] "Commander, one question, please."
[FARC commander, laughing] "No, it'd really be a mistake for me to give a..."

Video cuts him off.

Camera zooms to the hostages: man wearing black t-shirt, Ingrid Betancourt wearing hat, tall man in sleeveless t-shirt & baseball cap.

[Reporter, again off camera, while the tall man's hands are tied] "...of prisoners at the hands of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces [i.e., the FARC]. the people's army. We'll have the chance to talk with the three Americans being held by the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces. On politics, we can't talk about politics. Get closer [to the tall man], get closer."

13:27:30 [Tall man, getting closer to the camera] "Tell my family, my family, the whole world." [gets taken away]
[Reporter] "On politics, we can't broadcast, we can't have the group of prisoners at the hands of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces, we can't..."

13:27:45 [Hostage with mustache, approaching reporter] "Yes, excuse me. I only have one thing to say: I have been chained for ten years. I am Lieutenant Malagon, of the glorious Colombian National Army, [voice breaks] kidnapped for many reasons by this guerilla."

13:28:01 [Reporter] "Words by Lieutenant Malagon. We can't broadcast them directly, we can't quote them but we know the suffering."
[Lt. Malagon] "They should be broadcast, because I have something very important to state...."

Gets cut off.

13:28:29 [Walking to helicopter]

13:29:11 [Lt. Malagon says something, voice drowned by helicopter noise.]

13:29:12 [Reporter] "We understand, but the restrictions, the press is restricted, it's not allowed."

13:29:31-13:31:49 [Sound off]

Once in the helicopter, Betancourt crying, hostages laughing, hugging, thumbs up. Betancourt & other hostage holding each other. Helicopter noise, unintelligible voices.

[Man's voice] "My God, man, thanks."
[Betancourt] "Let's give thanks for this moment."
[Man] "Who do you give thanks to, mother?"

Betancourt shakes her head.

[Man] "I always expected this, always. Ten years waiting! Ten years expecting it!"

Sound gets cut off.
13:38:45 Video ends.
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At 12:03 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

That is a hugely significant development, both in the symbolic sense, and in the strategic implications. It marks a new stage in the history of Latin America.

Because of the dramatic execution of this rescue, there will no doubt be a movie. A good counter to "Black Hawk Down", wouldn't you say?

It also brings SA front and center on the international stage, which is important. It has too long been neglected.

BTW, one of our posters talks about "Bolivarism"... a term I wasn't familiar with. Wikipedia solved that problem re my ignorance. It says that Hugo Chavez claimed the mantle but has mixed it with Marxism...

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Dymphna said...

BTW, our commenter is Portugese and has trouble with translation...I realize now that it's Bolivarianism in English.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Anthony (Los Angeles) said...

Nice to see the good guys win one finally, and thanks for the translation, Fausta!

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Macker said...

Stand by Fausta...I hope to send a lot of Lizard traffic your way!

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Fausta said...

Thank you Macker! I appreciate it.

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous slavag said...

Thank you for your astute comment, but I would also mention another Times article in which Senora Betancourt is raving about how she owes it all to the French and Monsieur Sarcozy and French media are breaking their arms slapping themselves on the back while congratulating themselves on the success of their "nonviolent" policy. Plus ca change, as they say...

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Amercicaneocon said...

Excellent post ... !

I've got some stuff up on this as well, and your list of impications is awesome.

Well done!

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