Uribe’s Illegal Cross-Border Raid: Colombian Deaths in Ecuador
By Richard Gott
03/03/08 “The Guardian” — — The deaths of Raúl Reyes and Julián Conrado, two senior figures in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), are clearly a serious blow to the guerrilla organisation. It will now call a halt to the release of hostages held by the Farc in the jungle over many years, a process that had been proceeding slowly under the auspices of the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Freedom in the short term for the former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, in which the French president Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a personal interest, now seems unlikely, and many people believe that she is dying. Hopes of the imminent release of three US defence contractors have also been dashed.
By all accounts, the midnight attack on the camp of the Farc leaders, a mile inside Ecuadorean territory in the jungle region south of the Putumayo river, was a political decision taken by the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, to end the peace process orchestrated by Chávez. Four Colombian politicians, held as hostages by the Farc for the past six years, were released last week and given a royal welcome in Caracas. Reyes had been among those who organised their freedom. Killed at the age of 59, Reyes had long been more of a diplomat than a guerrilla commander, though he was often photographed in military fatigues and carrying a gun.
According to the Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa, the bodies of the Farc commanders and 13 guerrillas were recovered in their pyjamas after being bombed while sleeping in a tent on the Ecuadorean side of the frontier. The Colombian air force, Correa claimed, had used advanced technology “with the collaboration of foreign powers” to locate the camp and “to massacre” its occupants. Uribe’s government is a close ally of the United States and of Israel, whereas Correa belongs to the radical camp led by Chávez. Subsequent to the bombing, Colombian troops crossed the frontier into Ecuador to recover the bodies.
Ever since 9/11, the United States has requested the Colombian government to refer to the Farc as a “terrorist” organisation, a word also now used by the European Union. Yet the Colombian guerrillas are the most long-lasting of all such movements in Latin America, long pre-dating the current obsession with “terrorism”. Their leader, Manuel Marulanda, first led the Farc in the early 1960s and has survived into the 21st century, while Raúl Reyes had run the organisation’s political wing for many years. A well-known negotiator and promoter of the Farc’s cause in meetings in Europe and Latin America, Reyes was a crucial collaborator in the recent efforts by the Venezuelan president and the Colombian senator, Piedad Córdoba, to release some of the Colombian hostages.
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