"CENTER FOR THE INTERNATIONAL POLICY"
By Larry Daley
One of the problems with political theorist is that they are bound too tightly to academia --where combat is limited to words, and death only comes through denial of tenure-- and far from the realities of life in troubled countries --where blood runs in the streets and soaks into the earth-. For instance (full details in footnote):
``He (duly elected President Pastrana of Colombia) has tried to up the ante, tried to appeal to the United States by describing the group as narco-terrorists,'' said Robert White, president for the Center for International Policy, a think-tank in Washington. ``I think it's a grave error. It signals that he's abandoned any serious negotiations.''
And of course a day or so ago I heard CNN echo almost those exact words
The accusation that President Pastrana is making the terror part up is absurd. The horror of what the narco guerrillas of the FARC do, when they are "negotiating" is far too well known. For instance one only has to read another part of the same press report.
"Meanwhile, rebels continue to level attacks, massacres and kidnappings. Last month, government peace worker Mireya Meja Arajo was picked up by FARC rebels in the northern state of Cesar. She was freed after three weeks of detention, but had to relay a message: The FARC's $217,000 ransom demand was dropped on condition that Meja tell the governor of Cesar of the group's concern over the growth of its rival right-wing paramilitary force and about the need for more social spending.
Meja's abduction followed the kidnapping and murder of her aunt, Consuelo Arajo, in September. Arajo, a former culture minister and wife of Colombia's inspector general, was found with two bullet wounds in the head."
Published in Miami Herald Friday, December 7, 2001
Building protects refugees of war
Colombians crowd into haven
BY NANCY SAN MARTIN
BOGOTA, Colombia -- An obscure building, with rifle-toting guards and steel barricades at its entrance, rises alongside expensive boutiques and fancy restaurants where lamp heaters make it warm enough for cigarette-smoking patrons to sit outdoors.
White banners with a Red Cross emblem at the center offer hints of its identity, but the real clue of what's inside comes from a black banner with white lettering that hangs off an abandoned Red Cross trailer parked outside:
No mas violencia contra los desplazados. No more violence against the displaced.
Desplazados , people displaced by war, took over the Red Cross building two years ago this month after fleeing guerrilla and paramilitary violence in various parts of the country, turning the six-story structure into a symbol of one of the most cruel aspects of the war -- the plight of the dispossessed.
More than 200,000 have left behind jobs and land over the past year to escape violence from a 37-year-old conflict that claims thousands of lives each year, according to a report published in the leading newspaper, El Tiempo. They come from the southern, western and northern regions of the country all searching for the same thing -- a life free of bullets and blood.
``I have seen so many people die,'' said Ana, a 37-year-old mother of five children, ages 10 to 18. ``It's not easy here, but we have no place else to go.''
About 60 families, including about 90 children, now live in the former Red Cross building in a Coconut Grove-like section of this capital city known as the Zona Rosa.
``We came because we were told that there was immunity here, that the police couldn't beat us and it's true,'' said Marisela Lenis, 43, who left a small town in Guaviare, south of Bogot, with her mother and four teenage boys. ``Shots were fired all the time, in all directions.
``First the military came after us. Then the guerrillas. Then the paramilitaries. All we could do was run and hide. All sides were fighting, so the only way to survive was to leave. There was no one to protect us,'' Lenis said.
As the government continues to haggle with insurgents over the terms of a cease-fire agreement, those caught in the cross-fire, the desplazados, are forced to migrate so they don't become victims of kidnappings and massacres. If recent events are any indication, their number will only grow.
Taking advantage of the U.S.-led fight against terrorism, President Andrs Pastrana, on a recent visit to Washington and New York, raised the stakes in the conflict at home by asking for more resources to fight what he now calls ``narco-terrorism.''
The term is sure to further complicate a 3-year-old peace process with guerrillas from the country's largest and most powerful leftist guerrilla group -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
``He has tried to up the ante, tried to appeal to the United States by describing the group as narco-terrorists,'' said Robert White, president for the Center for International Policy, a think-tank in Washington. ``I think it's a grave error. It signals that he's abandoned any serious negotiations.''
Rebel leaders have challenged Pastrana to ease security around a 16,200-square-mile truce zone, which has been used as a setting for negotiations, permit foreigners to enter freely into the region and publicly declare that the FARC is not made up of terrorists. Otherwise, they have threatened to abandon the zone and consider the peace process at an end.
The three warring groups in Colombia include the FARC, the National Liberation Army (ELN), another leftist organization, and the rival right-wing paramilitary group, United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
All three are on the U.S. State Department's list of international terrorist organizations and already are targets in the global war against terrorism.
U.S. officials already have revoked the visas of four Colombian citizens who have collaborated with or financially supported the AUC. Another 45 names with suspected links to the AUC have been placed on a watch list to ensure they do not get U.S. visas.
The United States also has provided Colombia with a $1.3 billion counter-drug initiative that includes crop eradication, counter-narcotic training for Colombian forces and an alternative development program for farmers who help produce most of the world's cocaine.
The U.S. contribution to Plan Colombia began last December when crop-dusters sprayed coca plantations in southern Colombia's Putumayo state. The planes have since sprayed elsewhere,as well..
Meanwhile, rebels continue to level attacks, massacres and kidnappings. Last month, government peace worker Mireya Meja Arajo was picked up by FARC rebels in the northern state of Cesar. She was freed after three weeks of detention, but had to relay a message: The FARC's $217,000 ransom demand was dropped on condition that Meja tell the governor of Cesar of the group's concern over the growth of its rival right-wing paramilitary force and about the need for more social spending.
Meja's abduction followed the kidnapping and murder of her aunt, Consuelo Arajo, in September. Arajo, a former culture minister and wife of Colombia's inspector general, was found with two bullet wounds in the head.
Since Mejia's release, the death toll continues to rise.
On a single day last month,Colombian army officials confirmed the executions of 12 villagers in central Colombia and another 17 peasants in various parts of the Antioquia region, bringing to more than 80 the number of people massacred in separate incidents in recent weeks.
The bodies of additional kidnapped victims also have been found in recent days.
Incidents like these create more desplazados every day. Those in the Red Cross building say they prefer to live in cramped quarters where toilets overflow, children fall ill and disputes erupt between neighbors rather than in lush lands where blood flows freely.
Lenis, the 43-year-old single mother, used to live comfortably with well-paying jobs at coca fields and laboratories that process cocaine. Now, she panhandles by day and parks cars in the evenings ``for the rich'' at nearby entertainment spots.
A shack made of tarp, cardboard and plastic sheeting at the parking lot of the former Red Cross building is shared with her four sons, as well as a dog, pigeon and rabbit. The makeshift home is a far cry from the country lifestyle she had back home. But it provides refuge from what appears to be an endless war.
``Peace? I don't think that's possible. The devil has been set loose,'' Lenis said, predicting a grim future for Colombia: ``Muertos y plomo, corpses and lead.''
Este y otros excelentes atículos del mismo AUTOR Larry Daley aparecen en la REVISTA GUARACABUYA con dirección electrónica de: