Late last year, the ELN guerrillas kidnapped two middle-aged Germans who were hiking near the Venezuelan border, apparently on suspicion of being spies. No matter that it seems hard to believe that a pair of middle-aged Germans would agree to spy for someone on Colombian guerrillas, or that the guerrillas have, evidently, no evidence of these people's spying.
But, despite the lack of any evidence and the plain preposterousness for the accusations, the ELN have held these people for several months, and are now demanding that their families provide evidence that they are not spies. The demand is patently absurd, since, if they were spies, they'd have an ironclad cover ready proving that they were something else. And, in any case, shouldn't the guerrillas have to prove that these people are spies, instead of demanding that they prove they aren't? How many of us could 'prove' that we aren't spies?
Meanwhile, these Germans are captive in some jungle or on a mountaintop.
Then there's today's interview with Andrés París, one of the FARC's negotiators in Havana. El Tiempo's interview persisted in asking the guerrilla leader about civilian victims of guerrilla violence, of which there have been many, including two peasants hit by land mines and others by car bombs in recent days. Fighting for Colombia's poor and disenfranchised is supposedly the guerrillas' reason for being, so you'd expect the guerrillas to condemn this kind of violence.
But that's not what París said.
Instead, París denounced the interviewer for asking questions that "didn't contribute to peace." He also denounced the United States for killing innocents with its drones campaign. Good point, but two wrongs don't make a right.
The FARC man also insisted that, if the government wanted to end civilian victims, then it should agree to a truce. Whether a truce is right or wrong, it would obviously be in the interest of the FARC, who have been taking a beating recently from the Colombian military. Of course, the guerrillas could end the conflict tomorrow by giving up their futile and destructive fight. By insisting that a truce is the only way to prevent civilian victims, the guerrillas are essentially holding civilian lives hostage to their violence.
The interviewer even pointed out that the guerrillas are playing right into the hands of their harshest critics, such as ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe, who opposes the peace negotiations.
París's response: To attack the Colombian state as murderous.
So, Colombian civilians, like the three-year-old girl injured by a guerrilla car bomb in Neiva the other day, will continue suffering and dying at the guerrillas' hands, and and the guerrillas won't take responsibility. And why? Because the US drones kill civilians and because of the Colombian government's human rights violations.
I'd like to watch París try to explain that to the FARC's next civilian victim.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours