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The FARC and Venezuela's government

by John E.

23.07.05 | The sympathies that the Venezuelan government holds for the Colombian FARC guerillas are well-known. One of the FARC's leaders, Rodrigo Granda, was captured at the beginning of the year while living openly in Caracas; he attended a congress organised by the government, was awarded Venezuelan citizenship in contravention of Venezuelan laws, and voted in last year's referendum. The newly-launched, Chávez-controlled TV network Telesur chose FARC leader Manuel Marulanda as the subject of its first, laudatory broadcast. FARC guerillas cross the border into Venezuela freely and reputedly use Venezuelan territory as a strategic safe haven from which to launch attacks into Colombia.

All of this friendly behaviour by the Venezuelan government is somewhat surprising, given that the FARC is responsible for innumerable kidnappings, murders, drug-trafficking, extortion and countless other crimes in Colombia, where it has been fighting a terrorist war, supposedly for Marxist ideals, during the past four decades.

International observers of Venezuela would do well to judge President Chávez not only by his actions, but also by the company he keeps: in this case, a group of violent, ideologically misguided criminals. It is unlikely that Chávez's choice of friends is the result of an error of judgment: instead, his rhetoric indicates that such is the company he seeks to help implement his revolutionary, "Bolivarian" project both in Venezuela and in the rest of Latin America, be it because of or in spite of its ruthless amorality. In this case as in so many others, the high ideals Chávez proclaims turn out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Here's an insider view of the FARC from three Germans who were kidnapped by the narcoterrorists and held captive for several months in 2001 (their experiences are described on the website, in German):

On its website, the FARC tries to communicate three main points:

- International "respectability"
- Acting as defendants of socially disadvantaged, oppressed people
- Organisational competence and the ability to maintain order

Things look quite different in reality: Our kidnappers called indigenous people "animals". Foreigners are viewed with suspicion and have to prove, as we did, that they are not "enemies of the Colombian people". Even promoting ecological, small-scale coffee farming can be interpreted as a crime, as "imposing backward production methods on the Colombian people". In the meantime, FARC leaders are shown on the Internet eating salmon in Norway in order to falsely create the impression that they receive international recognition. The only thing the "troops" are capable of is shooting. The mental, organisational, and technical incompetence of our kidnappers almost frightened us more than the kidnapping itself.

We got to know our kidnappers above all as violent, helpless and clueless small-time crooks under the leadership of a psychopathic commander.

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