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The Collective
Sunday, July 29, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Farc ‘killed hostages by mistake’

The 11 politicians who died while being held by Farc rebels were killed during an accidental clash between factions, Colombia’s intelligence chief has said.

Andres Penate said intercepted communications showed the left-wing movement had shot dead the hostages after coming across another rebel unit.

Thinking they were security forces, commanders ordered the hostages to be killed rather than let them be rescued.

The Farc said in a statement that they were investigating the incident.

The group had previously insisted the politicians were killed in crossfire when an “unidentified military group” attacked their jungle camp in the western Valle del Cauca region on 18 June.

That is one rather grave mistake. It also demonstrates the ruthlessness of the FARC in regards to kidnapping, as they would prefer to slaughter 11 people instead of letting them be rescued.

The politicians in question were are members of the Departmental Assembly of Valle de Cauca (more or less like a state legislature). They were kidnapped out of the assembly’s chamber in Cali in April of 2002 and had been held until this tragic mistake was made.

This incident may end up having larger ramifications:

The BBC’s Jeremy McDermott in Bogota says that, if it is true, the massacre will pile yet more pressure on the Farc, which after more than 40 years of fighting, has reached its lowest level of public support.

I can see how it might lead to pressure on the FARC to talk to the government, especially since the ELN (the other major guerrilla group) is talking and there has been an ongoing process with the paramilitary group, the AUC. Of course, both sets of talks have some serious issues and it is always dangerous to get overly optimistic about the peace process in Colombia.

Politically this event may redound to the Uribe administration’s advantage as Uribe is suffering some in public opinion over the parapolitica scandal-the linking of the paramilitaries to politicians, including some Uribe appointees. This situation with the FARC diverts, to some degree, a portion of public attention away from the paras situation and also gives Uribe a specific target that he can address with a renewed vigor. Although whether that means expanded military action against the FARC or trying to leverage the situation to try and force talks remains to be seen (the former being an easier route to take).

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Filed under: Latin America, Colombia | |


  1. It’s easy to forget about Columbia, with the bigger fish of American security frying in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Odd because when I was in the 82nd Airborne in 2000 - before 9/11 - a lot of our training anticipated eventual US military intervention in Columbia, and many of our field training events were simulated airfield seizures and follow-on missions against the FARC. At that time there was a great deal of concern about money being allocated by congress to help prop the Columbian government up in the face of growing FARC power, and that allocation started to include things like Blackhawk helicopters. A lot of people saw it as a precursor to direct military intervention.

    I wonder if things might have gone that route if the 9/11 attacks hadn’t happened. At least from a military point of view it seems like south america was dropped like a hot potato and hasn’t been touched since.

    Not saying I’m complaining. The Columbian jungle is not a good place for US paratroopers to be.

    Comment by Captain D. — Monday, July 30, 2007 @ 2:55 am

  2. Grave mistake

    FARC is investigating the deaths of 11 men who died after they kidnapped them. Is Farc pretending to be a government agency? For its normal bureaucratic speak to say ‘we’re investigating’ after a fiasco or tragedy occurs.

    Trackback by The Florida Masochist — Monday, July 30, 2007 @ 9:09 am

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