By Gary Ghirardi
The world media story about Hugo Chávez’s recent proclamation on his weekly television show, that the Colombian revolutionary group, FARC, has become historically irrelevant, has surprised many in the U.S. Government and has been interpreted as an act of political expediency to get the U.S. State department off his back as a clandestine supporter of the revolutionary army. In addition to suggesting that armed struggle in Latin America is over, he has suggested that the FARC release all of their 700 sequestered political hostages for free, with no strings, as a humanitarian gesture.
In the U.S. media this is all being played out as a flip flop and a sign of retreat on the part of Chávez providing further proof that what lay on the hard drives of the captured FARC computers incriminated him in moral and financial support against Colombian elites and by proxy the U.S. Plan Colombia. With McCain and Obama both planning trips to Colombia in the next short term to reinforce U.S. political hegemony, the corporate media is playing this as a political victory for the USA and its democratic ally Colombia and a sign of the diminishing influence of Chávez in the region. Added to this proof of good intentions on the part of the U.S. State Department are the extraditions of a cadre of paramilitary leaders to the U.S. for prosecution to face drug trafficking charges, no doubt in closed court sessions.
Actually, Chávez made a similar statement going back to January, before the death of the FARC’s leader Marulanda in March. At that time he elaborated that he did not agree with kidnapping of persons for political purposes and felt that change was now possible through the electoral process. The issue of the alleged “evidence” linking Presidents Correa and Chávez to the FARC, found on recovered computers on an attack against a FARC camp in Ecuador, lost traction when the former U.S. official in charge of the Interpol analysis who claimed for the legitimacy of the files could not adequately account for the process of investigation when questioned about methodologies used to claim authenticity.
The earlier suggestion, By Chávez, for attaining “belligerent status” for the FARC may have been an attempt to give them the legal structure to survive disarmament. Similar negotiations have led to giving resistance “terrorist” groups like Hamas in the Middle East or the IRA in Great Britain an ability to negotiate their grievances without armed struggle.
The grave danger for any kind of disarmament or re-integration of FARC forces into Colombian society is the greater likelihood that there will be false promises for their safety made by the Uribe Government and then mass retaliation against the combatants once they were identified as former FARC soldiers. This happened once. An entire political party, the Patriotic Union, a political offshoot of Las FARC much as Sinn Fein is of the IRA, was destroyed by the paramilitaries in what is now being investigated as a “political genocide”. Paramilitary groups through the mid-1980 assassinated thousands of Patriotic Union members, who had been assured of their rights to participate in the political process. In a country with the worse human rights violations in the hemisphere and where innocent teenage boys from poor rural regions are periodically killed and then dressed as guerrillas to meet interdiction quotas placed on the Colombian Army, FARC combatants would likely be committing suicide to accept any kind of amnesty agreement from the Uribe government.
Another reality for Chávez and Venezuela is the possibility of the U.S. increasing its aggression against the guerrillas in the border regions forcing FARC combatants to cross into Venezuela for political asylum. Venezuela has a history of being a haven for political asylum stemming from the civilian and resistance group atrocities from the 70’s and 80’s all over South America. Many of the people now working in the Socialist government ministries today are former political refugees from that time.
In a time of rabid reactionary political opportunism in the U.S. from the political and military establishment, a mass capitulation of Revolutionary Forces and exodus into Venezuela would be just the political fodder that could be used to demand another coup attempt against Chávez and bring the liberal project back in control of South American Oil.
Gary Ghirardi is a former San Diegan who has set his life up in Venezuela, runs a blog called, and occasionally contributes to the OB Rag blog.