Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Two Truths of Miguel Ángel Beltrán

'No more persecution.' A demonstration this week on the
Universidad Nacional's campus in favor of
Beltrán and other 'political prisoners.'
Miguel Ángel Beltrán was a sociology professor at the Universidad Nacional's Bogotá campus. And, unsurprisingly, he was very leftist. But was he also a secret guerrilla agent? Or just a persecuted professor?

When the Colombian military bombed Ecuadorean territory in 2008 and killed FARC 'foreign minister' Raul Reyes, it reported finding documents showing that Beltrán was a FARC agent named Jaime Cienfuegos.

Beltrán was arrested and deported while traveling in Mexico and spent two years in a Colombian prison, accused of writing guerrilla documents and recruiting students for the guerrillas on the university campus. However, in 2011 a judge absolved Beltrán, concluding that the computer documents could have been manipulated and therefore could not be used as evidence in court.

That didn't end suspicions about Beltrán's FARC connections, particularly because when he was
Miguel Angel Beltrán arrested.
arrested in Mexico, authorities reported that he was carrying a flash drive with FARC documents. Those alleged documents included messages between 'Jaime Cienfuegos' and FARC leader Raul Reyes which indicated that Cienfuegos' international travels coincided precisely with Beltrán's own travels.

And the law wasn't thru with Beltrán. Last year, Colombia's Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez ordered Beltrán stripped of his professorship and banned from holding public office. But Ordoñez, an extreme conservative, could hardly be expected to consider Beltrán's case objectively. And this August, while traveling in Panama, authorities detained Beltrán and deported him back to Colombia. Beltrán was quickly freed this time.

Graffiti over a Universidad Nacional entrance says
'We are all Miguel Angel Beltrán.'
Beltrán clearly shares some ideas with the FARC. In contrast with the governments of Colombia, the United States and the European Union, Beltrán refuses to call the FARC terrorists, but rather "political actors" and "a response to state violence."

Such opinions are not, of course, illegal - altho they may cause some right-wing politicians such as Orodñez and ex-Pres. Alvaro Uribe to leap to certain conclusions about Beltrán's allegiances.

Whatever Beltrán's true actions and identity, he's well on his way into the pantheon of heroes and martyrs for the country's left. And another example of how unclear the dividing line can be between combatants and sympathizers in Colombia's long conflict.

Pro-FARC graffiti on the Universidad Nacional's Bogotá campus.
A student walks past a pro-Beltran mural on the Universidad Nacional's Bogotá campus. 
A poster celebrating Beltrán's 'absolution.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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