Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Such Ungrateful Victims!

Not victims? FARC hostages in a jungle camp.
Let's get a few things straight:

Ingrid Betancourt and Clara Rojas  are responsible for getting themselves kidnapped for seven years by the FARC guerrillas.

Ingrid Betancourt while in FARC captivity,
enjoying the luxuries of the jungle.
And, Rojas and Betancourt should be grateful to the guerrillas for the wonderful treatment they received while being held for years in cages in the jungle.

And General Luis Mendieta, whom the FARC held in jungle captivity for twelve years far from his friends and family, should be ashamed for "crying like a woman" rather than 'behaving like a man' in captivity.

That, at least, appears to be the view of the FARC guerrillas towards their victims.

Betancourt and Rojas were the Green Party's presidential and vice presidential candidates when, in 2002, they ventured into guerrilla-dominated territory in southern Colombia. A foolish act, perhaps, but they had every right to be there, and the guerrillas had no right to kidnap them.

Clara Rojas with Emmanuel, who was born
while she was in captivity.
The sufferings of Betancourt and Rojas - who attempted to escape and were recaptured and punished, struggled with depression and, in Rojas's case, gave birth to a baby fathered by a guerrilla (which was taken away from her and ended up in a Bogotá orphanage) - became a national drama. The guerrillas released Rojas in 2007 and Betancourt was rescued, along with other hostages, by the military in 2008.

But the FARC were not done with Rojas and Betancourt. Last week, the guerrillas published a text on one of their websites

From the very beginning of the women's captivity, the FARC text makes clear, the women had no reason to complain. After all, "they were never tied up," which gave them the opportunity to make two escape attempts. How unreasonable of them, when they were treated so nicely. But, after their recapture, the women were "placed in prison."

In any case, the guerrillas provided their captives with dental service, hair care, an occasional movie and a library containing literature and guerrilla documents. Why, this was a veritable AirBNB in the jungle. The kidnappees had nothing to complain about!

The FARC kept many of their kidnappees
chained by the neck.
The guerrilla text makes clear that the heroes of the story were the guerrillas, who selflessly kept their prisoners alive and marching "in the rain, in the mud, under implacable sun and in the dark of night," not to mention the military's bombs and machine guns. And if the kidnappees complained, well, that was because they were elitists, accostumed to "certain comforts much greater than the majority of the people."

Despite all of these challenges, the heroic guerrillas still managed to feed their prisoners with yucca, carbohydrates, milk, oil and other stuff. Yet, despite all of these luxuries, the pampered Betancourt very unreasonably organized a hunger strike amongst the other prisoners.

Meanwhile, of course, the kidnappees were exposed to tropical diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and leishmaniasis, as well as diseases like diabetes, heart conditions and gastrointestinal ailments. But suffering from diseases while imprisoned in the jungle and exposed to military attacks was no reason to complain, either, because the guerrillas tried hard to supply their victims with "the necessary medicines."

During Rojas' pregnancy and childbirth, the guerrillas didn't know how to perform a Caesarean section, nor did they have adequate instruments. And, when Rojas - so unreasonably - became depressed and suicidal, it was only thanks to the guerrillas that mother and baby were saved. When Rojas had recovered somewhat, mother and baby were sent back to 'the prison.'

FARC kidnappees penned behind barbed wire in the jungle.
Soon after that, military attacks forced the guerrillas and their prisoners to march thru the jungle, carrying their supplies on their backs. The prisoners - unreasonable as always - went on strike again and refused to march. Betancourt pointed out that she had been living quite comfortably until the guerrillas kidnapped her and held her against her will. General Mendieta "cried like a woman."

Still, the forced marches continued, chopping their way thru the jungle and once even wading all day long thru chest-deep water, where leeches attacked them. Nevertheless, the ungrateful prisoners did not appreciate the courage of the guerrillas who were saving them.

Despite all of this guerrilla kindness, concludes Diana, the guerrilla who wrote the text, Rojas now argues that she was a victim of the FARC - whereas all they wanted to do was to help her.

Rojas "presents herself as our victim. With my hand on my heart, I can tell her that she doesn't have that right."

And the guerrillas' care for their hostages was not exactly altruistic or humanistic. For the guerrillas, the hostages are booty, bargaining chips, tools for extortion, sources or ransom and human shields. They protected them not out of concern for the kidnappees' lives, but to exploit them. The best proof of that is the guerrillas' policy of killing hostages when they feared they'd be rescued - a policy which they murderously put into practice several times.

A few days after 'Is Clara Rojas a Victim of the FARC?' appeared, the FARC leaders seemed to disclaim it - but left it on their FARC-Peace website - in both Spanish and English.

The FARC and the Colombian government are now holding peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba and compensation for victims of the 50-year conflict is one of the outstanding issues.

The FARC's twisted, cynical attitude toward their kidnap victims (whom they label 'prisoners of war') is a clue to their likely attitude towards all their millions of victims when the time comes to make compensation. The victims - the guerrillas will most likely claim - are responsible for their own sufferings, and any complaints they make are only proof of their own weaknesses. The guerrillas, for their own part, were their victims' heroic protectors, according to the guerrilla worldview. This week, victims of the armed conflict are in Havana, Cuba talking with the FARC. I'd like to hear the guerrillas' explanations of how displaced people are at fault for building their houses in the guerrillas' path, and child soldiers are responsible for being recruited for being too young and healthy.

With that concept of good and evil, the millions of people who have been raped, kidnapped, driven off of their land, massacred and forcibly recruited by the FARC stand little chance of compensation, or even an apology, from the guerrillas.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Stuart Oswald said...

I simply cannot enjoy an unjust peace in Colombia knowing that JUSTICE has not an will not be delivered to victims and perpetrators. Time will pass victims will be forgotten and the disgraceful ideology as the cause of this misery will emerge triumphant with little or no resistance as it infects all parts of society. We can all feel guilty for no opposing evil with all our efforts.