Monday, March 3, 2008

Hasta Cuando?

I didn’t want to write about this subject because so much of the foreign media perpetuates this stereotype of Colombia: that it is a country where kidnappings and guerilla violence are commonplace. This weekend was like a bad dream, one that you can’t wait to wake up and feel relieved that it wasn’t real. Only this was real.

While walking down the sidewalk Saturday afternoon, I glanced over at the headline of a newspaper a man was reading in a restaurant doorway. It read, “The FARC Doesn’t Kidnap.” (Of course this headline was in Spanish.) That’s some bullshit, I thought. It would be like saying politicians don’t lie.

I spent Saturday night and Sunday with a good friend. I’m not going to say his name because his son was kidnapped in Medellín by the FARC just three days before I had visited Medellín. I hadn’t seen him since this tragedy happened. He and his wife had all of their son’s possessions in their house. They had placed candles, crosses, and a photo of their son on a table near their bedroom. One candle always stayed lit. They said they were waiting for his return.

The Saturday night news added fuel to the fire. Actually, it was like adding gasoline. The Colombian army had raided a FARC camp, killing 17 guerillas, including Raúl Reyes. Experts considered Reyes, 59, to be the No. 2 FARC commander, and possible successor to its boss Manuel Marulanda, 77. The television news showed photos of Reyes’s bloodstained body brought back to Bogotá yesterday. Everything on the television was about the guerillas, the kidnapping, and the violence. I felt awkward watching it with my friend. I didn’t know what to say. I felt depressed. Hopeless. I can only imagine how he and his family felt. They listened to the television loud, clinging onto every word as if it was a clue for their son’s situation.

Some locals were seen celebrating in the streets. It was the biggest blow to the FARC since it was formed in the 1960s as a peasant army fighting for a socialist state. Since then it has evolved into a group that uses drug-trafficking and kidnapping to fund its operations. The FARC is a terrorist group. On the news, Colombia President Álvaro Uribe said, “We have taken another step toward defeating the celebrity of bloody terrorism, which 50 years ago was ideological, but today is a terrorism of mercenaries and drug traffickers.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has rebutted statements like these, saying the FARC should have political representation. He and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa were enraged that Saturday’s attack took place in Ecuador, just one mile from the Colombian border. Both presidents shut down their embassies in Bogota and sent troops to the Colombian borders. Today, Ecuador cut off diplomatic ties with Colombia. Over the weekend Chávez spoke harshly against Colombia. “It would be extremely serious and would be a causa belli, a cause for war, (if there is) a military incursion in Venezuela territory,” Chávez told the media. He continued to threaten Uribe. “President Uribe is a criminal, not only a liar, he is a mafioso, a paramilitary leading a terrorist state,” Chávez told reporters. “He’s a criminal who heads a gang of criminals at the Narino Palace.” The Narino Palace is Colombia’s presidential office. Chávez also said Colombia “had become the Israel of Latin America.”

While the entire situation is depressing, this kind of speech makes me very angry. It is especially disconcerting to me because having lived in Colombia for some time now, I know how warm and friendly the Colombian people are, and that to stand up for a terrorist group is inexcusable. A great deal of the contrasting ideas between Chávez and Uribe have to do with their childhoods. Chávez grew up very poor. Uribe grew up in a wealthy family and his father was murdered by the FARC.

I have to agree with Uribe. Enough is enough. Chávez needs to keep his mouth shut and stop instigating something that is none of his business. Ecuador’s Correa seems to be following Chávez’s lead. Not wise. Because my good friend has been affected by this situation, I feel compelled to do something about it. That is why I am writing this blog. This situation has sort been like a bad headache. You try to make it go away by not thinking about it. It doesn’t work. Fighting doesn’t seem to work either. This includes fighting words. Maybe the supposed “leaders” of these countries can change their tone and show some respect to one another. Until then there will be no definitive solution, for violence only perpetuates violence. And for my good friend, who would give me the shirt off his back, the nightmare continues... hasta cuando?

1 comment:

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