|Roméo Langlois, a reporter with France 24.|
I only remember one conversation we had - a debate about whether the leader of Germany was conservative or liberal. Langlois was right.
Yesterday, in the midst of a battle between soldiers and FARC guerrilla fighters, Langlois was injured and disappeared into the jungle, according to military reports. Today, he might be lost, injured, held captive by the guerrillas or even, God forbid, dead.
Langlois was with troops covering an anti-drug operation when the soldiers encountered more than 100 FARC guerrilla fighters in civilian dress, according to the military's account. During the battle, which lasted for hours, four soldiers were killed and several wounded, and Langlois was shot in the arm. Perhaps desperate to show that he was a civilian, Langlois pulled off his bullet proof vest and ran toward the guerrilla line, according to soldiers accounts. He has not been seen since.
Let's all hope that Langlois is alright and will soon return to his home and work. If and when he does, he'll surely bring the story of a lifetime back with him. Let's also hope for the best for the injured and the families of those killed in the battle.
Langlois' ordeal provides yet another reason to ask whether drug production should be legalized. If it were, then, rather than armed outlaws, it'd be produced by tax-paying businesses. That would, of course, mean less work for journalists like Langlois, but also a better world.
Langlois' ordeal reminds me of some hairy journalistic times of my own. For example, the time I interviewed a local paramilitary leader late one night along a desolate road outside of Cucuta, near the Venezuelan border. The man told he how evil the FARC and Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez were. He showed me the pistol he carried under his waistband. Afterwards, I asked the taxi driver who'd made the contact for me where the 'para' was going at that hour.
"Oh," the cabbie replied quite mildly, "he's going to the next town to kill people."
The paramilitaries were notorious for the practice of social cleansing, the murdering of 'unwanteds' such as drug addicts, prostitutes and petty criminals.
Another time, I was in Venezuela interviewing peasants who'd been driven out of Colombia by paramilitary violence. One day, my hosts suddenly told me that I needed to go interview someone out in the jungle. We made a long trek there, didn't find the person, and returned the next day after spending a mosquito-infested night in a hammock. Then my hosts explained to me that they had found out that a group of ELN guerilla fighters were searching for me, and so they'd sent me into the jungle to hide me.
It turned out that my host was himself a FARC operative. A few weeks later, he went into town to buy medicines and was gunned down in street.
The FARC should release Langlois, who was a civilian doing his job. They should also stop disguising themselves as civilians, which is a violation of the rules of war. And, while they're at it, the FARC should also give up their futile struggle, which only inflicts more suffering upon Colombia.
Update: On May 6 the guerrillas finally acknowledged that they're holding Langlois, and said they'll releae him 'soon' - but didn't say when.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours