Tuesday, July 08, 2008
As Freed US Contractors Speak Out, a Look at the FARC, Colombian Paramilitary Groups and the Generals Being Feted for the Hostage Rescue
Three American military contractors freed from the Colombian jungle have spoken out against their former captors, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell, were among the fifteen hostages including the French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt rescued in an elaborate military operation last week. The Colombian government says it managed to infiltrate FARC command and fool the rebels into thinking they were transferring the hostages to another location.
On Monday, the three Americans spoke publicly for the first time since their release. Marc Gonsalves called his former FARC captors “terrorists” and urged them to release hundreds of remaining hostages. The freed Americans are employees of the military firm Northrop Grumman. They had been captured since 2003 after their surveillance plane crashed in the Colombian jungle.
The rescue operation is widely seen as a major blow to the FARC. The fifteen freed prisoners were the most high-profile of hundreds the FARC has held in the hopes of securing the release of captured rebels and achieving other political demands. The group has already been depleted by the deaths of three senior leaders this year and a series of defections.
Criticism of FARC has come from all sides. Indigenous, peasant and human rights groups have denounced FARC’s kidnappings and armed operations and said they also deflect attention from government abuses.
I am joined now by three guests. Here in the firehouse, Mario Murillo is a professor of Communications at Hofstra University and a producer at Pacifica radio station WBAI here in New York. He is author of the book "Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and Destablization”, and currently finishing another book on the indigenous movement in Colombia and its use of popular media in community organizing.
Joining me from Washington, D.C. is Michael Evans. He is Director of the Colombia Documentation Project at the National Security Archive.
And on the line from New Brunswick, Canada is Manuel Rozental. He is a Colombian Physician, human rights activist, and member the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca in Colombia. He fled to Canada in 2005 following several threats on his life.
Mario Murillo, Professor of communications at Hofstra University and producer at Pacifica radio station WBAI here in New York. He is author of Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and Destabilization and is completing a book on the indigenous movement in Colombia and its use of popular media in community organizing.
Michael Evans, Director of the Colombia Documentation Project at the National Security Archive.
Manuel Rozental, physician, human rights activist, member of the Hemispheric Social Alliance and the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca in Colombia. Fled to Canada in 2005 following several threats on his life.Watch here
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