Saturday, August 27, 2011

Libya: the Colombian Connection

M-19, Muamar Gaddafi ally.
These days, Venezuela's socialist Pres. Hugo Chavez remains as one of the last, and one might say most stubborn, supporters of overthrown Libyan dictator Muamar Gaddafi.

History does move in cycles. In the mid-1980s, members of Colombia's own leftist M-19 guerrillas traveled to Libya to fight in one of the dictator's wars.

The M-19and Gaddafi held some values in common, including an opposition to capitalism, the United States and colonialism. The Colombians joined leftists from other Latin American and Arab nations and the Phillipines to fight with Libya against Chad for a god-forsaken stretch of desert called the Aouzou Strip. The dispute certainly was rooted in colonialism: France, which had ruled Chad, had given the area to Italy, which had ruled Libya, in a futile attempt to prevent Italy from allying itself with Germany before World War II. But Libya's position had no more justice in it than Chad's, and the leftist groups seemed to have aligned themselves with Libya mostly because of the Libyan leader's anti-colonialist rhetoric.

All of which shows once again how some leftists, then as now, trust rhetoric over reality. Even by the mid-1980s, when the Colombians and others snuck their way into Libya, Gadaffi had already showed his true nature by viciously repressing dissidents at home and supporting terrorist groups and financing outright killings abroad, from Colombia to the Phillipines to West Germany to Great Britain. Gaddafi's later downing of a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland  and efforts to develop nuclear weapons are also well known.

Even today, after Gaddafi's recent massacres of his own people and tyrranical regime have been well documented, ex-M-19 member Diego Arias, who wrote about the episode for El Tiempo newspaper, sounds like something of a believer in Gaddafi.

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"With all of its particularities," Arias writes, Gaddafi's was "a revolution which, in its best moment, we began to understand, admire and respect. It lost its way when he tried to export it, using violence and terrorism, but above all when it didn't renew itself with the changed times and reality....

"The fall of the Libyan regime means the end of two dreams which turned out to be utopian: a model of popular democracy and a military-political project of anti-imperialistic battle."

Similarly to Gaddafi, some young, idealistic, leftist Colombians now idealize the M-19, despite their many crimes, including the kidnapping and murder of Afro-Colombian union leader José Raquel Mercado and its 1985 attack on the Palace of Justice.

In the end, Gaddafi's lost his war with Chad (in an episode bizarrely named 'The Toyota War'), which was eventually awarded the Aousou Strip by an international court.

Colombia also has a second, more contemporary, Libya connection: ten Colombian mercenaries have been killed fighting for Gaddafi in Libya.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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