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How Washington Fails Colombia

Editor's Note: Readers may find it useful to refer to a Washington Post editorial on the same subject. The author references this editorial in his response to reader comments, which is posted directly below the original op-ed text.

By Mark Weisbrot

It has had the makings of a telenovela – a Latin American soap opera: hostages held for years deep in the Colombian jungle, anxious anticipation and tearful reunions, and most spectacular of all, the boy: Emmanuel. Born three and a half years ago in captivity, of a liaison between a FARC guerilla and captive Clara Rojas, his tiny arm broken at birth by a difficult Caesarean under jungle conditions, surviving leishmaniasis and dumped off on a poor rural family that transferred him to the state – he somehow survived and was found in time to reunite with his mother as she savored her long-awaited freedom.

But for those who had the time to look beyond the headlines, there were important political realities that the drama underscored. Most importantly, the Bush Administration has once again staked out a position on a long-running armed conflict that puts Washington outside the mainstream of the international community.

First, the facts: Clara Rojas was a vice-presidential candidate when she was kidnapped by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2002; at the same time, the FARC also kidnapped presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Consuelo Gonzalez, a Colombian Congresswoman, was kidnapped in 2001. The FARC is holding hundreds of other hostages and prisoners, and hopes to exchange at least some of the high-profile ones for prisoners held by the government.

The Colombian government appears to believe that it can win the 40-year war through purely military (and paramilitary) means. The Bush Administration shares this view, and supplies Colombia with more than $600 million annually in military aid, which is sometimes labeled "anti-drug" aid. But there has been increasing pressure for negotiations: from inside Colombia, led by the courageous Senator Piedad Cordoba; from the families of the hostages; and from Europe – where Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen, is well-known and has much sympathy.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela offered to mediate, and in August, President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia accepted his offer. Uribe and Chavez had maintained a mostly cordial relationship for years, despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

But on November 21st, Uribe suddenly withdrew Chavez's authorization to mediate. The move came just after a phone call from President Bush, who clearly did not want Chavez to have an international diplomatic success on the eve of a Venezuelan constitutional referendum (December 2). Chavez was furious at what he saw as a betrayal by Uribe, and suspected Uribe was caving to his most important funder. Uribe's stated reason for sacking Chavez was that the Venezuelan president had, very briefly, talked to one of his generals after Piedad Cordoba had passed the phone to him. It seemed like a flimsy pretext for cutting off the negotiations without even a phone call to Venezuela, and Chavez let loose with a barrage of insults.

But Chavez persisted and by the weekend of New Year's Eve, a mission was assembled to receive the two women and the boy Emmanuel, with representatives of Brazil, Argentina (former President Nestor Kirchner), Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Switzerland and the Red Cross on hand. While the other governments expressed hopes that the release could lead to peace talks, Washington showed no interest in the effort. It failed, and the story took a new twist when it turned out the boy was not in the FARC's custody after all but in foster care in Bogota.

On Friday, the two women hostages were finally released to Venezuelan and Red Cross officials, and on Sunday Clara Rojas was reunited with her son.

Interestingly, the foreign policy establishment here – which includes most of the major media – does not seem to notice that the Bush Administration is the outlier in this situation. For them, Chavez is the enemy, and his intervention is viewed with suspicion, and even as an attempt to side with the FARC.

In the last few days, Chavez has called for the FARC to be recognized as insurgents rather than terrorists. This has been portrayed as "support" for the FARC. However, his position is the same as other governments in the region, which have consistently rebuffed U.S. pressure to officially label the FARC as a "terrorist" organization. Brazil’s government has said that to classify the FARC as “terrorist” organization would likely damage any prospects of negotiating a solution to the country’s civil conflict.

The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings. However, so does the Colombian government, and over the years international human rights groups have found right-wing paramilitaries linked to the government responsible for the vast majority of atrocities. And during the last year, revelations of ties between Uribe's political allies and the death squads have severely damaged the government's reputation, and led to the arrest of more than a dozen legislators.

To label only one side "terrorist" would therefore be seen as adopting the U.S. strategy that favors violence over negotiation as a means of ending the conflict – which is why other governments in the region have refused to do so. For his part, Chavez has stated clearly that he does not support the FARC’s armed struggle or kidnappings, and has offered to try to convince its leadership to put down their arms and pursue a peaceful, electoral route to political change.

The Bush Administration's policy of "no negotiations with terrorists," with the label selectively applied, makes no more sense in this hemisphere than in other parts of the world. It is also a blow to the families of three U.S. military contractors who are currently held by the FARC. The release of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez is progress, and could be a first step toward negotiating an end to this prolonged war. Washington should join with the rest of the hemisphere – including Venezuela – and support a negotiated solution.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. (www.cepr.net).

Response to Comments From Author Mark Weisbrot, 9:30 a.m., January 17, 2008

Let me respond to some of the comments below. First, as a few alert readers pointed out, most of these comments do not apply to anything that I wrote, since I did not say anything at all about the FARC, except that they have engaged in actions which can be considered terrorist. And anyone who reads my op-ed carefully will see, I simply argued that most of the governments of this hemisphere – other than the U.S., Canada, and Colombia – who have refused Washington's requests to officially label the FARC as terrorist, have a valid reason not to do so. They believe it would be counter-productive and do not want to be identified with the U.S. strategy of favoring a military solution. It has nothing to do with whether the FARC commits terrorist acts, which all would agree is true.

In fact, even President Uribe has said that he is willing to drop the label "terrorist" for the FARC "the moment that peace advances."

Several readers cited the Washington Post's January 16 editorial board piece, "Ally to Kidnappers."

The Post's claim that "Mr. Chávez was endorsing groups dedicated to violence and other criminal behavior in a neighboring Latin American democracy, and associating his agenda with theirs," is clearly misleading, as evidenced by his widely reported (but omitted in the editorial) statements against the FARC's armed struggle and kidnappings, etc. The Post also claims that "even governments allied with Mr. Chávez, such as those of Argentina and Ecuador, recoiled from his appeal," but there were no criticisms of him from these governments, and in fact President Rafael Correa of Ecuador praised Chavez for his role in negotiating the hostage release. In short, this editorial is just one of many diatribes against Venezuela from an editorial board that has become one of the most extremist voices, among U.S. newspapers, of hostility towards left-of-center, democratic governments in Latin America.

Finally, with regard to the aborted hostage release mission on New Year’s weekend, Chavez and others claimed that it failed because of Colombian military operations in the area. Uribe claimed that the guerillas were simply lying and had no intention to release anyone, because the FARC did not have the boy. According to one of the released hostages, former Colombian Congresswoman Consuelo Gonzales,

"'On December 21, we began to walk toward the location where they were going to free us and we walked almost 20 days. During that time, we were forced to run several times because the soldiers were very close,' she said. Gonzalez also lamented that on the day that Alvaro Uribe set as a deadline for the release, the Colombian armed forces launched the worst attack on the zone where they were located. 'On the 31st, we realized that there was going to be a very big mobilization and, in the moment that we were ready to be released, there was a huge bombardment and we had to relocate quickly to another place.'"

I could not find any reference to this statement by Gonzalez in the U.S. press.

Mark Weisbrot

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Comments (232)

Caesar Padilla:

OPITA: As you must know by now, on February 4th, 2008, Colombians all over the world from Australia to Afganistan to Africa and to the USA cried out with a single voice - "No more FARC" and also wore t-shirts saying "COLOMBIA - I AM". In Bogota alone nearly two million marched in the streets - men, women and children all united for the same cause. And yes, they expressed their feelings with the sentimentalism and patriotism that you no longer feel for the country that gave you birth. Not that it matters much to you since NOW you consider yourself a citizen of the world - as if that slogan were to make you a better person than the rest of us.

Lina:

To Opita:
Ha! I had not read some of the latest postings. Opita: you are wrong. We are very well informed, we have family in Colombia, we visit Colombia, and we follow all the news. The FARC IS a terrosit group, they HAVE kidnapped hundreds of people for money and for politics. The finance themselves with DRUGS, They HAVE attacked, bombed, killed civilians in Colombia, by design and by accident (this is so because they don't care civilians are close).

They abused the Colombianb govt. hospitality during the Pastrana presidency and used the DMV to kidnap and traffic.

I find it silly that all of you go to the classist argument of being better educated than the other... useless!! no need to go there. The FARC's acts speak by themselves.

BTW the FARC may have officially formed in '64, but the Liberal guerrillas (of which Tirofijo was a member) had already been fighting the conservative govt since Gaitan was killed in... 49? (I may be wrong). The FARC came to be 'cause they followed comunism and they separated from the liberals when these would not support their new ideology.

I love my country, I love the US and I will not take it lightly when somebody who has never set foot in Colombia, dares to write such lies as I have read here.

Colombian residing for 30yrs in US:

Let's not forget that what motivated everyone to write about Mr. Weisbrot article has to do with personal feelings and different opinions. We respond because we care for the future of our country Colombia, we care about everyone suffering in captivity, and injustice from anyone who disturbs the progress of our society. Every Country has its weakness, strong believes and we can still voice our opinions in both Colombian and US. Thank God!

You can accuse me of "sentimentalism, typical Colombian attitude, nationalism, patriotism" What is wrong with that? 100% Colombian. "above all cost no matter how wrong it might be." Please, stop attacking your own roots. You most be talking about criminals. If I could I would go back to my country, I am working on it.

Over 40yrs ago, we Colombians have split, because of unhappiness with our government, but it is sad to see that whatever motivated members of different groups against our government are killing their own people and destroying our hope for a better live in our own Country. This is a reality that needs to be address, it’s all about CONTROL and personal benefit not about what is right for everyone in Colombia. Maybe our government learned the lesson and is willing to work together with citizens of Colombia. Let’s work together, I do feel there are many intelligent and educated Colombians everywhere but we need to work together, with and not against our government.

Colombian residing over 30yrs in US. :

Let's not forget that what motivated everyone to write about Mr. Weisbrot article has to do with personal feelings and different opinions. We respond because we care for the future of our country Colombia, we care about everyone suffering in captivity, and injustice from anyone who disturbs the progress of our society. Every Country has its weakness, strong believes and we can still voice our opinions in both Colombian and US. Thank God!

You can accuse me of "sentimentalism, typical Colombian attitude, nationalism, patriotism" What is wrong with that? 100% Colombian. "above all cost no matter how wrong it might be." Please, stop attacking your own roots. You most be talking about criminals. If I could I would go back to my country, I am working on it.

Over 40yrs ago, we Colombians have split, because of unhappiness with our government, but it is sad to see that whatever motivated members of different groups against our government are killing their own people and destroying our hope for a better live in our own Country. This is a reality that needs to be address, it’s all about CONTROL and personal benefit not about what is right for everyone in Colombia. Maybe our government learned the lesson and is willing to work together with citizens of Colombia. Let’s work together, I do feel there are many intelligent and educated Colombians everywhere but we need to work together, with and not against our government.

Colombian residing over 30yrs in US. :

Let's not forget that what motivated everyone to write about Mr. Weisbrot article has to do with personal feelings and different opinions. We respond because we care for the future of our country Colombia, we care about everyone suffering in captivity, and injustice from anyone who disturbs the progress of our society. Every Country has its weakness, strong believes and we can still voice our opinions in both Colombian and US. Thank God!

You can accuse me of "sentimentalism, typical Colombian attitude, nationalism, patriotism" What is wrong with that? 100% Colombian. "above all cost no matter how wrong it might be." Please, stop attacking your own roots. You most be talking about criminals. If I could I would go back to my country, I am working on it.

Over 40yrs ago, we Colombians have split, because of unhappiness with our government, but it is sad to see that whatever motivated members of different groups against our government are killing their own people and destroying our hope for a better live in our own Country. This is a reality that needs to be address, it’s all about CONTROL and personal benefit not about what is right for everyone in Colombia. Maybe our government learned the lesson and is willing to work together with citizens of Colombia. Let’s work together, I do feel there are many intelligent and educated Colombians everywhere but we need to work together, with and not against our government.

Opita:

In response to Padilla, Odgar, and Larios:

By birth I am a Colombian, by nature and self-indulgence I do not belong to any one country. That should set me apart from you. I have family in Colombia, I travel there often and I have lived in areas that are so called dangerous. My brother is a flying instructor for the armed forces of Colombia. I served in the military during the VietNam war.

Mr. Padilla, I am not uneducated, actually, I have a higher education than you, but that is besides the point, as the article nor my posting was intended as a personal comparison between us.

Mr. Padilla, you claim to have followed the struggle the Colombians have endured with the FARC during the last 60 years. The problem with that statement is that the FARC-EP, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo, was established in 1964 as a military wing of the Colombian Communist party, since then they have been reclassified as a terrorist group by the US and the Colombian puppet government. Either your math or your history is lacking. Which one is it?

I am not surprise that you take offense or annoyance to my posting and I take your challenge to demonstrate that I am smarter than the rest as laughable, that is the typical reaction which I was referring in the first place - you prove my point, your attack is based on sentimental patriotism for a country you don't care about as much as you think you do. Let me ask you, what have you done for Colombia?

You ask, under what premises I believe you are wrong? Well, in your initial post you state: "Although you are correct that there were terrorist acts committed by paramilitary groups that had alleged links with the government, these groups did not commit the vast majority of terrorist acts as you indicate in your commentary. " then in your second post you seem to contradict yourself with: "This is where you commit your biggest mistake since nothing could be further from the truth as attested by the multitude of negative responses to your article." - The funny thing is that you accuse Mr. Weisbrot of not doing a thorough research, Do you really think that you should based your argument on "the multitude of negative responses"? Do you consider that a good research? The problems with you is that you let sentimentalism control your behavior. You have missed the whole point of the article, I suggest you read it again and try to comprehend it.

Mr. Odgar, Self serving? How is my post self serving? Neither do I consider myself arrogant. Bold, yes. I am well educated, but that is besides the point as I told Mr. Padilla.

My opinion should be valued for what it is, an opinion. You are correct I am neither an American nor Colombian as I don't recognize those type of boundaries. The problem with you is that you assume things as reality when in fact they are not. Take for instance your accusation that I have abandoned my Colombian roots, virtues and moral values to be replaced by decadent egotistic and self serving ideologies. Have we met? How do you know so much about me?

The problem is that the Colombians didn't criticize the article as much as they attacked the author with vicious attacks without foundations. It is a typical Colombian attitude, nationalism, patriotism above all cost no matter how wrong it might be.

Mr. Larios, you ask why Colombians kill Colombians? for the same reasons that Costa Ricans kill Costa Ricans, and Americans kill Americans.

You are right, this discussion has become absurd and irrational.

So sad that many people didn't comprehend the original article.

Reluctant Pessimist:

With all the vitriol that has been spewed in the comments, is it any wonder that Colombia is the most violent country in the world? It really makes one wonder, in spite of Mr. Weisbrot's optimism, whether a peaceful solution really is possible. If polite dialogue is impossible between Colombians who disagree on the matter, what hope is there that this conflict will be resolved peacefully in our lifetime?
Colombia may have one of the second oldest 'democracies' in the hemisphere, but the people there have very little to show for it...

Ronnie Larios - Costa Rica:

OPITA, James, Caesar, and some others now let me understand why Colombians kill Colombians...

This discussion forum becomes in something absurd and irrational, with no add value nor smart way to do something for your own people.

I leave this page right now ´cause there are too much Bla-bla-bla with nothing to really help 700+
suffering people in jungle.

I wonder what the future history books will comment about this our time.

My sincere respect for all involved families in this tragedy.

James Odgard:

OPITA:
What an arrogant and self serving indivisual you are.
Why don't you show us how well educated you are and how a better Colombian national you are. Tells us why your opinion should be valued above the others and tell us on what basis you opinion is more insightful than the rest of Colombians who have critisized this article. You are neither an American (Americans do not trash their own people) and neither are you a Colombian because you seem to have abandoned your Colombian roots, virtues and moral values long time ago to be replaced by a decadent egotistic and self serving ideologies. :(

Caesar Padilla:

This is actually a response to one of the commentators called OPITA.

OPITA:
You say that unfortunately Colombians are not well educated as they think they are.
That is quite a boisterous, ignorant and egregious remark to make about your fellow Colombians. Let me tell you why I can say that.

Like you, I also have resided here in the United States for a long time – actually since my childhood in the late 60’s. I graduated from high school and then went to obtain a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from a highly reputable university in the great state of New Jersey. While working for a cosmetic company I also obtained an engineering degree in Vacuum Technology and thereafter I started a career in IT consulting that has taken me all the way into project management for the telecommunications industry and I and not done yet! Although I am a US citizen I still have a lot of family back in Colombia and have visited there frequently during the last six years and have continued to follow closely the struggle that Colombia has endured with the FARC during the last 60 years.
I therefore take umbrage at your callous remarks and challenge you to demonstrate that your are indeed smarter than the rest of us who has criticized Mr. Weisbrot article.
OPITA – Please show us under what premise you believe that we are wrong, make reference to points in fact and site references instead of calling us ignorant. Please let us know what literature you read and what information you have obtained to infer that we do not know what we are talking about. If I did not know better I would say that you are an uneducated individual who despises your own roots – what a shame OPITA

Bandit:

Hilarious of Weisbrot using Argentine websites to substantiate Colombian hostage claims. You mean the author could not find anything in the Colombian press?


This article is full of unsubstantiated assumptions and is carefully written to objuscate and distract from the real and true story.

The question begs, why is Mark Weisbrot so interested in anything related to Hugo Chavez? Is Mark's company CEPR funded by Chavez?

Jules Verne:

Mr Weisbrot, is the Venezuelan government a client of yours? Thank you. //Jules

Opita:

Ricardo, you asked Peter, "Here's a new word I just learned thanks to you: "opining". Who's failing, my English teacher or your indoctrinator? I've never heard that one before."

Apparently, your English teacher should have failed you, but as a typical Colombian you put the blame on others, in this case your English teacher.

opining - Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

Opining \O*pin"ing\, n.
Opinion. [Obs.] --Jer. Taylor.
[1913 Webster]

Opine \O*pine"\, v. t. & i. [imp. & p. p. Opined; p. pr. & vb.
n. Opining.] [L. opinari, p. p. opinatus; akin to opinus
(in comp.) thinking, and perh. to E. apt: cf. F. opiner.]
To have an opinion; to judge; to think; to suppose. --South.
[1913 Webster]

Opita:

I am a Colombian residing in the US most of my life, and I congratulate Mr. Weisbrot for a well thought and written article.
It is unfortunate that Colombians are not as well educated as they think they are, it is obvious that the majority of the people commenting on this article has missed the point - it is useless to repeat it, so I shall not - however, if one is to take these comments seriously, it does show that Colombians are ignorant of their own struggle, not a single comment is based on fact as much as it is based on sentimentalism. Sadly educational progress has not served my countrymen well.

Lucia Vergara:

Wow! Unbelievable!
I would have never expected to find an article of such poor quality in the Washington Post. It's unfounded, misguided, and a total deception for all freedom-loving people. You obviously don't have a clue about how we Colombians feel about the FARC. How would Americans feel if I ask the world to recognize the Osama Bind Laden's movement as one legitimate organization seeking change in the world? Well, that's exactly the message you sent.
Please do us (colombians) a favor, don't write about us. We are alone fighting our "farc-disease". We don't need your intervention. It hurts.

Coomer:

Interesting. Wonder how much of the funding of your organization comes from Venezuela directly or indirectly.

Coomer:

Interesting. Wonder how much of the funding of your organization comes from Venezuela directly or indirectly.

William Harris:

Mark, I am aware of your work for the Venezuelan government. "Shill" is the word I would use to describe you. You make no disclosure about this in your article above when the Venezuelan government is probably your biggest client.

Ricardo:

Peter:

Here's a new word I just learned thanks to you: "opining". Who's failing, my English teacher or your indoctrinator? I've never heard that one before.

In any case, you can have your opinion, I haven't said otherwise. Believe or not, Colombia and the US are free countries and people can say and think and do whatever they please. I'm just saying you are uninformed, naive and even funny -opining... that was hilarious!-

Peter:

Ricardo: If you don't want US Citizens opining on the war in Colombia, then you should petition the Colombian government to stop accepting billions of dollars to fund the war. We have a right to determine where our tax dollars go in a democratic country.

Once more time - Just because I do not support the current policies of both the US and Colombian governments does not mean that we support the FARC.

GRAZZIA COL:

! Mark Weisbrot
Usted esta absolutamente desinformado , se ve que no conoce a nuestro pais.
Venga y se dará cuenta que no todo es sentarse detrás de una pantala de Pc y lanzar juicios
en contra de nuestro pais.
Sea objetivo.....LAS FARC las guerrilas Chavez, Piedad Cordoba y demás secuases no lograrán seguir dañandonos
COLOMBIA adelante!!!!!!!!!!!

PLEASE STOP TO SUPPORT TERROR in Colombia:

I am very unhappy that these kinds of articles published in such "serious" journals around world (mostly by misinformed journalists considered to be serious) affects very dangerously the DEMOCRACY (believe, it exists in Colombia!). Please note YOU ARE replicating the misinformation.
Because of people like you, dollars (from those that believe in social equity) enter OUR country to support kidnapping, extortion, bombs and murder of people. YOU ALL ARE BEING VERY MISINFORMED, all these dollars are not invested in altruist causes. This is more than a political view! It is serious.
I claim you to be careful and ethic when you publish such opinions about a situation in country that you certainly do not know. I can imagine that it is very difficult for someone how had never live under the menace of terror (i.e. bombs, kidnapping), somebody who have no one from your family menaced nor mutilated or kidnapped, how have never seen the explosion of a cylinder or a anti-personal mine, to have these perspectives around OUR problem, and I don’t hope you will never live such abominable situations.
These are the words from a person who does not accept TERRORISM. I can say you, certainly: I KNOW the problem, because I LIVE HERE. You are reproducing a GREAT LIE. It is real TERROR what FARC does. Have no other name.
Finally, I hope the entire WOLRD WILL LISTEN TO US on next 04.02.2008. Our pacific voice will be heard. We don’t want more lies. And hopefully you will publish a newer article clarifying that this is not COMUNISM. It is real TERROR.
PLEASE STOP TO SUPPORT TERRORISM

Marcelo:

In Colombia we hate the FARC. People like Mark Weisbrot and like Oliver Stone spoke about the Colombia situation without the enough knowledge (Its sad but its the reality). I am amazed that in the USA have the same wrong conception of some europeans.

WORLD GUARDIAN:

W regards Chavez' human act as "support to terror"...

And what has W done and said only last week?

In his Ramallah press conference W provided another glorious example of his disdain and contempt of the international community:
"Question: Mr. President George Bush -- you launched war against Iraq after the Iraqi leadership refused to implement the United Nations resolutions. My question now is, what is the problem to ask Israel just to accept and to respect the United Nations resolutions relating to the Palestinian problem, which -- facilitating the achievement of ending the Israeli occupation to the Arab territories and facilitating also the solution between Palestinians and the Israelis?
GWB: look, the U.N. deal didn't work in the past. And so now we're going to have an opportunity to redefine the future by having a state negotiated between an elected leader of the Palestinian people, as well as the Prime Minister of Israel. This is an opportunity to move forward... and the only way to defeat the terrorists in the long run is to offer an alternative vision that is more hopeful. And that's what we're attempting to do, sir.
We can stay stuck in the past, which will yield nothing good for the Palestinians, in my judgment..." -- Said the Lopsided Lord, GWB.

As if it was not the U.S. which continues to stop U.N. resolutions from succeeding, by casting numerous American Unholy VETOES, to "save Israel"? As Weisbrot says:" "The Bush Administration has once again staked out a position on a long-running armed conflict that puts Washington outside the mainstream of the international community".

Didn't W negotiate with EHUD & EHUD, State Terrorists First Class? And did he grant them his permission to attack GAZA, SYRIA and IRAN?

Ricardo:

Peter, there's no question your comments are very naive, uninformed, and even funny:

"Oh and another thing - stop claiming to speak for all Colombians. You tell Weisbrot to visit Colombia, but it is obvious that you have not seen much of your own country."

Coming from someone whose name is 'Peter' and claims to know better than actual Colombian Citizens that LIVE there and SEE with their eyes what's happening there, you'll agree that we have enough reasons to find you amusing.

Just one invitation: don't miss the opportunity to tell the millions of Colombians all over the world that will march on February 4th against FARC (http://colombiasoyyo.org) that they should talk to you for an accurate sense of their reality. Please be there and do it. That will be hilarious.

Paul Escobar says:

"In the real-world, Ingrid Betancourt's mother and daughter completely agree with President Chavez's position on FARC."

They are simply playing the only card they have: They know very well that between FARC and the Colombian government, they have better chances at getting a democratic government to demilitarize Pradera and Florida -2 towns with a population of 120,000 people- than getting a terrorist organization to agree and free Ingrid Betancourt under the reasonable conditions proposed by the Colombian government, which is to demilitarize 140 squared-kilometers rural zone. Putting pressure on the government is easier and more likely to succeed also because they have Chavez support as well as France's president and the opposition party in Colombia (PDA). In fact, by direct petition of president Sarkozy, the Colombian government freed one of the top guerrilla leaders, Norberto Granda.

Asking us to get in line with the French movement for the liberation of Ingrid is very idiotic. People in France are under the impression that THE GOVERNMENT has Ingrid kidnapped. Perhaps you haven't seen the ads in France that ask the Colombian government to free Ingrid...

But at least understand these facts, you moron: There are 120,000 people in Pradera and Florida. FARC kidnapped 6 people right the next day after they liberated 2 hostages! What makes you think that they won't take 120,000 people hostages in a demilitarized zone? They want the government to liberate 500+ criminals in exchange for 42 civilians (aprox proportion 1/10 in case you are not good with Math either). The government has not tried a rescue by force precisely because most families oppose this option. Totally understandable, but if the government has not dared doing this with 42 people's lives at stake, do you think it will do it with 120,042 lives at stake? FARC has gone as far as putting a child in a bicycle loaded with explosives and paying him to ride by a police station so that they can blow the policemen inside it along with the kid... I don't need to go over this again. Read the other 200 comments one more time.

I'll tell you one more thing: HRW seldom mentions these atrocities while they are quick to report on military abuses. They are real and brought to justice, just as happened in the US with the Abu Ghraib scandal. The difference is precisely that THEY DO NOT constitute Government's Policy and therefore equating the Colombian government to FARC, as Mr. Weisbrot and you do, is an insult and a dishonesty beyond belief. I'd like to see Mr. Weisbrot and You equating Al-Qaeda to the Government of the US because, after all, US forces have also violated human rights. Haven't they?

Mr. Weisbrot can push his political agenda all he wants. What we Colombians strongly disagree with, is that he uses our country, and our tragedy to do so. Clearly this is funny to him. So funny, that he thinks this is a 'telenovela'. Or what, if not amuse and entertain, is the purpose of a 'telenovela'?

Mr. Weisbrot article is full of fallacies and many of them have been pointed out already. It's so easy to detect them that 200+ people have already expressed their anger. As far as Peter and Paul, you both can go back to your madrasas and continue your indoctrination but please stay away from Colombia. We don't want you here.

ff:

"I'm not sure where you guys live, but here in the US, everything Chavez says or does is awful, while the motivations of Uribe and the US are hardly scrutinized. "

Unless you're Mark Weisbrot, in which case everything Bush says or does is awful, while the motivations of Chavez and FARC are hardly scrutinized.

Peter:

NOBCENTRAL and JOHN-MICHAEL - Thank you for actually addressing my points.
The term "terrorism" is manipulated cynically by many governments - the US is near the head of that line. But terrorism has both a "layman's" and a legal definition (which is not well-defined). Legally, only a non-state actor can be referred to as a terrorist. But then, what do you call the same exact behavior committed by the military (or paramilitaries with military support)?

I am not alone in being weary of any term that attempts to shut off debate on a given group or political ideology. As the author has said, there is no doubt that the FARC commits terrorist acts. And I do not think taking them off the Colombian list right now is politically viable or necessary.

But that does not mean that when one calls attention to the effectiveness of the military/terrorism strategy of the Colombian and US governments that one supports the FARC.

Many of the people posting here talked about how horrible the FARC is, and how they were solely responsible for the Colombian tragedy. They also implied that the author defended them. I think that is disingenuous and/or ill-informed.

NOBCENTRAL - I agree that the government is made up of various different actors and cannot be grouped together. However, there are many members of the government that are engaged in coca and extortion, or at least in the pockets of right-wing groups that are.

JOHN-MICHAEL - Can you show me the figures that show that the FARC is by far the worst abuser? And are we talking last 5 years or 40? Another 1999 HRW report attributed over 75% of abuses committed in 1997 on the paramilitaries. It is hard to come up with solid numbers, but I would not feel comfortable betting against the violence of the right-wing paramilitaries/military.

There are people that have written here that the paramilitaries are gone.

And I'm not sure what you mean by "reading too much into what people said and ignoring the basic veracity of their complaints."
Many posters ignored the basis of the author's article implying that he defended the FARC and that Uribe is a savior.
I'm not sure where you guys live, but here in the US, everything Chavez says or does is awful, while the motivations of Uribe and the US are hardly scrutinized.
That is one of the points of the article, and also the point of my responses.

ff:

Another difference between FARC and the Colombian government is that, without FARC, the government wouldn't be engaging in violence and tacitly supporting paramilitaries, etc. The converse is not true: without the government, FARC would simply face less resistance in its campaign to violently subsume all of Colombia. Even if you believe that "most" of the abuses have been committed by the government, the point remains: FARC is the aggressor here.

Paul Escobar:

Mr. Weisbrot, thanks for an excellent article.

Nothing you said is wrong. And all of it is backed up by the families of prominent hostages themselves.

The responses are embarrassing, if they are reflective of Colombian public opinion. Off-topic accusations and pro-Uribe campaign slogans do not make up for a lack of factual argument.

No one has yet to prove any of Mr. Weisbrot's points wrong.

In the real-world, Ingrid Betancourt's mother and daughter completely agree with President Chavez's position on FARC.

In the real-world, the recently freed Consuelo Gonzales agreed with President Chavez's accusaion that Colombia attempted to prevent the December release by bombing the nearby area.

When you extremists are done spamming the comments section here, you all can visit the "Free Ingrid" website to "educate" the Betancourts. Chase down Consuelo Gonzales and "educate" her on what she actually saw.

John-Michael:

@Peter

No one has said that the military does not commit any human rights abuses. Instead people point out, and rightly so, that farc is the worst abuser by far.

No one has said that the paramilitaries are gone but that Uribe is the first president to make significant progress dismantling them.

You just cannot equate the abuses of the military versus the abuses of farc. I think you are the one with the bias issue for reading too much into what people said and ignoring the basic veracity of their complaints.

Nobcentral:

Peter - there is a clear difference between an organization whose SOLE goal is to inflict violence and terror on innocents and a government that is complicit with extrajudicial violence against its own. Perhaps I'm splitting hairs you wouldn't be comfortable with, but you wouldn't call the Colombian Government a Terrorist Organization because it wouldn't make sense - only a very small portion of the actual military is involved in human rights abuses and violence and while the central gov't has shown a reluctance to prosecute or admit culpability, that shouldn't be an indict on every agency and branch of the govt. If it were, we would call the US Gov a terrorist org and the term would lose all meaning.

I strongly agree with HRW and Amnesty on this issue and it is an outrage that the government allows this sort of thing to go on unchecked. But there IS a difference between the two. The FARC's battle plan is to attack, forcibly recruit, and kidnap innocents. That makes them a de facto terrorist group. Not to mention the fact that the legitimate, democractically elected gov't doesn't engage in coca cultivation or extortion.

Finally, the point of democracy can not be understated. The people, the citizens, have within thier power to change the government and put and end to its (in)direct involvement in extrajudicial violence. There is no such recourse available for the FARC.

Peter:

October 17, 2007 - (3 months ago for the small-minded posting on this site)

"Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch are calling on members of Congress to question Colombian Defense Secretary Juan Manuel Santos during his two-day trip to Washington about the steep rise in reports of extrajudicial executions by the Colombian military."
Reports of extrajudicial executions are thought to be in the hundreds annually. Various reports show a pattern of soldiers allegedly killing civilians and presenting them as guerrillas killed in combat. Investigations, when pursued, are often done under military jurisdiction, and more often than not, are inadequate."
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/10/18/colomb17131.htm

Are you idiots going to go after Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International (who have for years also condemned FARC and ELN abuses) as supporters of the FARC?
Are you going to continue to distort the message of this article?
Are you going to continue to pretend that the FARC is the only evil in Colombia?

It is obvious that many of you are blinded by your ideological bias.

Oh and another thing - stop claiming to speak for all Colombians. You tell Weisbrot to visit Colombia, but it is obvious that you have not seen much of your own country.

Peter:

Stop accusing the author of not doing their research, when it is you who choose to ignore overwhelming evidence of continued human rights abuses by the military and paramilitaries. Or wait they're all demobilized! Yeah right.

Example - San José de Apartadó - Military kills 8 men, women, and CHILDREN (ages 11, 5, and 18 months) with MACHETES on February 21-22, 2005. Uribe blamed it on the FARC until November. They could no longer IGNORE the 160 witnesses.
http://www.elespectador.com/elespectador/Secciones/Detalles.aspx?idNoticia=18109&idSeccion=22

John:

Mr. Weisbrot did not answer my question. Are he and his Center financed by opponests of the US-Colombia free trade agreement? Readers have a right to this information and the Post has an obligation to find out and disclose if Weisbrot will not.

Caesar Padilla - New Jersey:

Mr. Weisbrot,

By reading your response to the commentaries of your article, I see that you still don’t get the message. Let us (I am speaking in behalf of many readers) therefore be more specific.
In your article you write:
“The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings. However, so does the Colombian government, and over the years international human rights groups have found right-wing paramilitaries linked to the government responsible for the vast majority of atrocities. And during the last year, revelations of ties between Uribe's political allies and the death squads have severely damaged the government's reputation, and led to the arrest of more than a dozen legislators. “
The first objection that we have here is that you say that the FARC has committed acts that can be considered terrorist as if there could be room for these criminals acts to be considered something else besides what they are - terrorist acts.

Then you say within the same paragraph that the Colombian government is guilty of the same acts and that they are in fact guilty of the “majority of atrocities”. This is where you commit your biggest mistake since nothing could be further from the truth as attested by the multitude of negative responses to your article. (Please read them again)

Then you procure to insinuate that the current government in Colombia has ties to death squads. Here again you seem to be in grave error since all of that turned out to be mere allegations by the opposition of our current president. Yet you write as if these things were facts.

Then you write about the courageous acts of a senator called "Piedad Cordoba". The fact is that this senator has declared her sympathy for the FARC and has publicly called for the FARC to be given a political voice despite all of their terrorist acts. For your information Mr. Weisbrot this courageous senator (as you call her) is now being recalled back to Bogota by members of her own party where she will most likely be admonished for her anti-patriotic conduct and outrageous comments made abroad and possibly be asked to resign her senatorial seat.

Mr. Weisbrot, you should verify your sources more carefully before writing such incriminating acusations especially since you have little understanding of our political history and of our social goals. It is quite apparent that you have never visited our country or read about our history and that all you have come to know of our conflict has come third handed from sources that apparently have nothing more than an agenda against our government.

Please read the commentaries of the readers again, may be this time you will get it right.
One last piece of advice – Do a thorough research before writing and article on the political affairs of another country that is foreign to you. And if you venture that far, please do not bring with you the venom and contempt that you have for your own government.

It will do you better if you write a detraction to your article rather than make excuses for your errors.

Nobcentral:

The claim that the rest of latin america is not on board with the "Farc are terrorists" strategy is false. Weisbrot either made that up or is talking about the past. There is virtual unity (excluding Ven, Cuba, and Nicaragua) that the FARC are terrorists and should be labeled as such.

Fundamentally, Weisbrot is wrong in his premise that giving gifts to the FARC will further a peace process. The terrorist list is something to be negotiated out after sufficient confidence has been built into both sides and that FARC commits to becoming a legitimate political force. It's really quite simple - the PLO stopped being a terrorist org when it stopped using violent means and entered into a legitimate political process. Why should the FARC be any different?

ff:

"And anyone who reads my op-ed carefully will see, I simply argued that most of the governments of this hemisphere – other than the U.S., Canada, and Colombia – who have refused Washington's requests to officially label the FARC as terrorist, have a valid reason not to do so. They believe it would be counter-productive and do not want to be identified with the U.S. strategy of favoring a military solution."

Except, of course, that this is also a Colombian strategy. That various Latin governments are more interested in poking Bush in the eye than in showing solidarity with the Colombian people says more about them (and you) than it does about America, Colombia or anything else relevant to the situation. Also, in your original post, you referred to America being outside the "international community," which language has now been amended to "the hemisphere." Could it be that you noticed that the EU also classifies FARC as a terrorist group, and you wish to avoid calling attention to this fact, as it undermines your thesis of American isolation and intransigence?

"It has nothing to do with whether the FARC commits terrorist acts, which all would agree is true."

Funny, just a moment ago you were employing weasel words about how they "could be considered terrorist." But, anyway, thanks for explicitly admitting that regional resistance to the terrorism label for FARC has everything to do with cynical geopolitical posturing, and nothing to do with the undisputed facts of the situation.

"In fact, even President Uribe has said that he is willing to drop the label "terrorist" for the FARC "the moment that peace advances." "

Yes, if they stop committing terror attacks, they'll cease to be terrorists, and their designation will reflect that. That doesn't mean that rushing to molly-coddle a group of child-slavers and drug traffickers is going to get them to act nicely, and suggeting otherwise makes it abundantly clear that, like many Latin states, you're more interested in pushing a pacifist agenda onto the United States than actually coming to grips with real problems.

One thing the posts on this board have made abundantly clear to me is that America is on the right side of this issue. When and if the Colombian people decide they want a different approach, that's when we should consider changes. In the meantime, the rest of the governments in Latin America can mind their own business or, better yet, show some spine and get on board.

Angie:

Mr. Mark Weisbrot;

I don’t think you had any bad intention writting about a country that, obviously you have no idea what is going on there.
I just want to give you an advice that I am pretty sure you received when you went to college:
Prepare yourself, read, learn and do a very good research before doing wrong statements like the ones you did about Colombia.
The FARC group doesn’t have any goals at all and the only thing that they have done all these years is bringing violence, sadness, dead and a lot of poverty in my country.
I wish you go down there and visit my country. Please go an interview the people, interview the government and interview FARC people and I am pretty sure your point of view will change 180 degrees.

Your comments more that show bad intentions, they show a lot of ignorance and lack of judgment from your side. I feel very sorry for you but I hope you do better next time.

Tala Diaz:

How dare you Mr. Weisbrot??

How dare you give an opinion with no information on the situation of our country?

Calling piedad cordoba (whose name I wouldn't even dare writting in caps) a "courageous senator" is an insult to every Colombian who has been a victim of the violence of farc. She is not a courageous senator, what she is is a member of the guerrillas herself, she's their toy in the senate. She has expressed support for those terrorists who have been killing us, kidnapping us, bombing our cities, and recruiting our children amongst many other crimes.

I do not support Mr. Bush, in fact I think very little of him as a person and as a president. However, this is not about Washington giving orders to our president. Mr Hugo Chavez had no right to be intervining in our internal matters, he has expressed his support to the guerrillas (if you had in fact done your research you may have found out about that, i.e.: his goverment minister shaking hands with the guerrillas and telling them to keep fighting, that they had the support of the venezuelan government- but it seems like research is not really your thing), and we Colombians cannot accept anyone who defends our vicitmaries, who have caused us so much suffering and have pushed us out of our country.

Mr. Chavez was not "mediating" he was in fact just getting a favor from his friends, which would help him look like the good guy to everyone with little information on our situation (like yourself). I realize that you have not researched mr. chavez's plans for the region, he calls Bush an imperailist when he himself is planning on being the head of the south american "Bolivarian" empire. Next time please do your research before posting an article such as this one.

We Colombians do not believe in military rescue as an option to end our conflict, as it would mean death of all our inocent kidnapees. That is why we are organizing a world wide march to protest against farc and to let the world know that we need help from the outside to rescue our kidnapees and put an end to this non-sense violence. But again, since you didn't do your research you said the exact same opposite in your article...

Regardless of our agreement/ disagreement with our president's policies, I think most of us agree on the fact that his government is not terrorist, our men and women of the public forces are fighting to defend our country. We elected our president democratically with over 60% of the votes, so please do not insult us by implying that we are inflicting more pain on ourselves.

Last but not least, I'd like to express how proud I feel of all the colombians who have replied to your misinformed article. We need to let the world know of the truth of our situation.

JAC:

Mr. Weisbrot wrote: "since I did not say anything at all about the FARC, except that they have engaged in actions which can be considered terrorist."
So 9/11 can be considered a terrorist act? but in reality wasn't?
Also you never talked about what Chavez is doing to support the FARC and what about the release of Granda? did the Frac did some kind of gesture towards the Colombian Government? I didn't see anyone held by the FARC released.
And isn't it obvious that the FARC had promissed to release three people but since they did not have the small boy they had to come up with some kind of excuse/lie. And you are just feeding off the hate that Chavez has for Bush.

Nobcentral:

In fact, to date, the only government to support Chavez's desire to remove the FARC from the terrorist list is Nicaragua which is kind of a joke since they're good buddies and President Ortega is still smarting from the recent ICJ ruling that kept San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina in the hands of Colombia.

Nobcentral:

Since my last post has been "held" for some reason, let me just state that your claim that South America doesn't support keeping the FARC on the terrorist list is simply false.

"La propuesta de Chávez, hecha el pasado viernes, al día siguiente de que con su mediación las FARC liberasen a dos políticas colombianas que tenían retenidas desde hace más de seis años, no ha concitado siquiera el apoyo de sus aliados, como Argentina, Bolivia y Ecuador."

and

El Gobierno de Perú también mostró su negativa a secundar la idea de Chávez y a través de su primer ministro, Jorge del Castillo, señaló que las FARC "no pueden pretender pasar a una situación de calificación distinta como precondición para liberar a los secuestrados".

http://www.cronica.com.mx/nota.php?id_nota=342509

Get your facts straight.

Anonymous:

Mr. Weisbrot

After reading your response it is evident that you are having trouble comprehending why so many were angered by your piece. I will try to show you where your words cause consternation.

"The Colombian government appears to believe that it can win the 40-year war through purely military (and paramilitary) means. The Bush Administration shares this view, and supplies Colombia with more than $600 million annually in military aid, which is sometimes labeled "anti-drug" aid. But there has been increasing pressure for negotiations: from inside Colombia, led by the courageous Senator Piedad Cordoba; from the families of the hostages; and from Europe – where Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen, is well-known and has much sympathy."

What Colombians and many others that keep a close eye on the conflict in Colombia realize is that negotiation with Farc is folly. They have only used past truces to regroup and refit. President Uribe has done an excellent job of weakening Farc through military means. There will be no honest negotiation until the Farc are beaten. They have no popular support. They are made wealthy by the drug trade which they have to a large extent usurped from the traditional cartels. They have no incentive to give up their trade unless all hope is lost. Agitating for premature talks can only serve to prolong the conflict. Oh, "the courageous Senator Piedad Cordoba" is viewed by most Colombians as a Chavez hack and not terribly courageous.


"But on November 21st, Uribe suddenly withdrew Chavez's authorization to mediate. The move came just after a phone call from President Bush, who clearly did not want Chavez to have an international diplomatic success on the eve of a Venezuelan constitutional referendum (December 2). Chavez was furious at what he saw as a betrayal by Uribe, and suspected Uribe was caving to his most important funder. Uribe's stated reason for sacking Chavez was that the Venezuelan president had, very briefly, talked to one of his generals after Piedad Cordoba had passed the phone to him. It seemed like a flimsy pretext for cutting off the negotiations without even a phone call to Venezuela, and Chavez let loose with a barrage of insults."

Certainly Bush did not want a propaganda victory for Chavez, but what business does Chavez have speaking with members of the Colombian military without the knowledge and approval of Uribe? That just does not happen.

"But Chavez persisted and by the weekend of New Year's Eve, a mission was assembled to receive the two women and the boy Emmanuel"

Yes, and he also lined Farc's coffers with a cool mil that will doubtlessly be used to terrorize still more Colombians.


"In the last few days, Chavez has called for the FARC to be recognized as insurgents rather than terrorists. This has been portrayed as "support" for the FARC. However, his position is the same as other governments in the region, which have consistently rebuffed U.S. pressure to officially label the FARC as a "terrorist" organization. Brazil’s government has said that to classify the FARC as “terrorist” organization would likely damage any prospects of negotiating a solution to the country’s civil conflict."

Two questions: How is taking off the terrorist label not aiding and abetting Farc? It makes it a lot easier for them to operate financially for one thing.
And, how does having them labeled as terrorists hurt chances for peace? It is just one more piece of leverage the government of Colombia has or wouldn't have if they shared your world view. Do you think they will be so offended as to not want to negotiate?


"To label only one side "terrorist" would therefore be seen as adopting the U.S. strategy that favors violence over negotiation as a means of ending the conflict – which is why other governments in the region have refused to do so. For his part, Chavez has stated clearly that he does not support the FARC’s armed struggle or kidnappings, and has offered to try to convince its leadership to put down their arms and pursue a peaceful, electoral route to political change."

For your information the AUC is also labeled as a terrorist organization. Both sides have been labeled as terrorists and rightly so. Your reference to Farc's "armed struggle" would be humorous if it was not so tragic. Colombia is fighting an army of narco terrorists. The words armed struggle and kidnapping bring to mind a much more sanitary picture then the reality of the situation that might include a justified cause for Farc. We are talking about murder, assassination, rape, kidnapping (resulting in murder if no ransom can be found), forced prostitution, the enslavement of child soldiers and the accompanying and often permanent psychological damage that entails, and on and on; all in the name of perpetuating the immensely enriching trade in narcotics and hopefully achieving a stable situation in which the dollars can keep coming indefinitely.

"The Bush Administration's policy of "no negotiations with terrorists," with the label selectively applied, makes no more sense in this hemisphere than in other parts of the world. It is also a blow to the families of three U.S. military contractors who are currently held by the FARC. The release of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez is progress, and could be a first step toward negotiating an end to this prolonged war. Washington should join with the rest of the hemisphere – including Venezuela – and support a negotiated solution."

As far as I know the label is applied pretty generally. Like I said the AUC is on the list as well as pretty much every other terrorist organization I know of. I am sure there are a few, particularly smaller groups, not there that should be, perhaps you could enlighten us. And yeah, it is real progress when you release two people for $1,000,000 to one of your biggest propaganda cheerleaders, immediately kidnap six more, and still hold 700. The Colombian people have voted for an actual solution and continue to support that solution very popularly. Perhaps you think that that the hopelessly naive of the world should decide Colombian policy despite the fact that it contradicts the wishes of a strong majority of Colombians.

p.s.
What intellectual contortions, as an economist, did you need to do to decide that Chavez's state controlled economy is a good idea? They have worked so well in the past.


Alvaro Eduardo:

It is difficult to suppress the nuisance
and the sadness that I feel for with the Mr. Weisbrot for his ignorance of the reality of my country; for the irresponsible of writing on something for unknown him and without importing the consequences for the victims.

You invite the public to debate the ideas, but I wonder since the ignorance and the omnipotence defy of someone to whom the power to write has been given?, would be to enter a game without purpose and for benefit of whom ......?.

felipe:

Here is the direct link for the protest: http://www.colombiasoyyo.org/

felipe:

Colombianos y amigos de Colombia, excelentes respuestas a este artículo tan mal investigado y nocivo. Unámonos a la marcha mundial del 4 de febrero contra las Farc. http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/2008-01-17/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR-3923388.html

Colombians and friends of Colombia, these were excellent replies to a biased and corrosive article. Let's all take part in the protest against Farc on February 4th. Check the Facebook group or e-mail for information for your city, available at this link: http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/2008-01-17/ARTICULO-WEB-NOTA_INTERIOR-3923388.html

US $1,000,000.00:

I understand that Chavez paid US$1,000,000.00 of his country's oil reserves to FARC for the release of these hostages in order to place himself as the key player and savor of these victims. I wonder how many AK47 they can now buy...

J:

Unfortunate support that hurts an entire nation

Please inform your self about the reality of the FARC actions. Your implied support to such group harms many innocent people that are living a crude reality of kidnapping, murder, land mines, forced displacement, recruitment of children, etc. There are many proofs available to demonstrate that the FARC are terrorist, just read the letters that the kidnapped victims are sending to their families, many of them are posted on the internet, look to the drug trafficking record of the FARC.

You are ignoring millions of people pain of a war that is no longer motivated for a change in power but for the selfish greed of FARC commanders that are getting their financing out of illegal drug traffic, ransoms and extortion of field workers, entrepreneurs and many other hard workers that had no other option than paid the extortion or abandon their homes and jobs.

Please think about what would you do if a fellow writer is bias to Al Qaeda, what would you say to the families of the firefighters that died on September 11? What would you say to the families of the innocent people that died that terrible day? What would you do if you had lost somebody from your family on that day? Or had a family member kidnapped for years? September 11 repeats in Colombia every day that the FARC bombs a school, a market, a plaza, a police station or a neighborhood.

Think about it. This is not a war, is a country of innocent and hardworking people fitting their rights to live a modest life against a terrorist group that grows power with articles like yours.

the Saldaña´s :

Mr.Weisbrot

Close your eyes and imagine that you are in a jungle and that you have not seen your family for six years. Somebody chained you and you can´t run away because you don´t know where you are and because you will surely die if you try to escape.
Will you say that the responsable of this is not a terrorist?

Please Mr.Weisbrot, maybe a lot of people read in your country what you write and might think that is true but you certainly need more information about the complex situation we are living in Colombia.

Andre Hollis:

Pardon my french, but what crap. From 2001 to 2003, I served as the Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counternarcotics. In that role, I was responsible (and honored) to serve as a senior civilian responsible for funding and overseeing the Department's counternarcotics, counternarco-terrorism and other programs. I worked closely with colleagues within the US Government, Congress, NGO community and representatives of security services in Colombia and other countries.

I started that job with no predetermined view of the issues -- including the FARC. What I learned, however, unlike the author of this dribble, is that, the Colombian people WANT peace and security for their Nation. Their citizens want their children to be safe, to grow up in peace with education and opportunity and for their parents, neighbors and friends to have the same. As a father and husband, myself, I share that desire.

I spent a great deal of time in Colombia. No, not just in briefings with Government folks but, as well, in towns, villages and in the jungle with Colombians who did not know who I was and without Governmental protection.

I saw absolute horror. I saw -- with my own eyes -- FARC efforts to terrorize people by wantonly killing innocent children, priests, teachers and farmers. Innocents. I saw the FARC do things to civilians that even Al Quaeda does not do (including acts of horror in houses of worship).

Play the moral equivalency game all you want. When you kill police and soldiers, I think you are heinous. But those public servants know the risk when they put on the uniform.

When you kill innocent children, rape innocent women (as what happened to Senora Rojas) and threaten (and kill) priests -- men of God -- for trying to help people, you CROSS THE LINE.

For that, you deserve what the Government gives you.

If you kill innocents to scare the people and maintain your drug profits, you are a terrorist. As simple as that.

No amount of moralizing and attempting to make Government look as bad passes the smell test.

Jaime Raich:

Mr. Weisbrot: You completely missed the Latinamerican soap opera... Chavez´s declarations just showed his primary intentions explicitely supporting a terrorist group which has killed tens of thousands of colombians and has kidnapped thousands. He plans to walk together with Farc terrorists pursuing his objective to expand his "revolution" to the region. He is positively the main threat to region stability...

JC From Tampa Bay:

Thank you for your time on the telephone today. I'm most appreciative for listening to my complaints and for my request for retraction of Mark Weisbrot's absurd article that prompted my call and the angry comments of hundreds of similar responses on your website. We must challenge your columnist and your organization to pay closer attention to the Colombian conflict, its motives and the Governments intentions to bring peace to this beautiful country.

There is an abysmal information gap between what Mr. Weisbrot wrote in today's article (and also other articles) and the true reality of what goes on in Colombia. It is obvious that he has no clue what he is talking about. To comment about this conflict you most go there and not expect to get it right from the comfort of his office. I think I speak for millions of Colombians who are tired of the cruel rural violence caused by terrorist groups such as FARC and ELN. It is inconceivable that his views are so one-sided that leave no room for journalistic balance. I could easily take apart each of his points of view with tangible facts, but I will only mention a few points.

I would first begin with his tasteless idea to compare such horrible conflict with a "telenovela". These colorful comments are unfortunately inappropriate for such extremely serious situation that has cost the freedom of hundreds, the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions of families. He fails to illustrate his readers that al this entanglement was caused by FARC, whose lies during the incident delegitimized them once more.

I must also clarify the Colombian Government's intentions to bring peace to this country. I was perplexed to read that Mr. Weisbrot states that this administration's intentions are strictly military. I believe he needs to read up the news or better yet, interview President Alvaro Uribe before making such absurd claims. Several administrations have tried to bring about peace talks, all to no avail. One of them went as far a to demilitarize an area bigger than Switzerland in order to hold peace talks, and in turn all FARC did was to straighten their terrorist offensive and expand their cocaine empire. Just this week, President Uribe invited FARC once more to the negotiation table; he will not be fooled to give them territory this time, as it has been demonstrated that it is possible to release hostages without a demilitarized zone.

He falsely states that Uribe is inline with paramilitary groups. Again, he needs to read the news. Alvaro Uribe is the first president that has dismantled most paramilitary groups, and jailed or extradited many of their leaders. But he has not stopped there, he has jailed and has open investigation of several politicians involved in "parapolitica" backing up paramilitary groups and death squads. Yet he fails to mention any of these efforts.

Then is the subject of controversial President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and his involvement in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. It is obvious that his populist rhetoric is not the same as Uribe, but it is unfair to say that Uribe's withdrawn to authorize Chavez to mediate was due to US pressure. Your writer simply seems to faithfully echo Chavez's rhetoric without giving any credit to President Uribe. Lets remember that Uribe is characterized for his prudence and that is precisely the only condition he gave Chavez to engage in these negociations. But Mr. Chavez had to open his big mouth and create a spectacle to create a new spin in early December, amid a popular voting process in Venezuela to consolidate his monopolistic political power. Despite the controversy, Uribe's government has open to the realease of hostages, even if it is through Chavez.

I did not quite understand why Mr. Weisbrot labels Senator Piedad Cordoba as "courageous" when everyone knows she is a close ally to Chavez and FARC. If anyone is courageous in this conflict, that is the military men and women of Colombia who fight every day in the jungle for democratic freedom against narco-terrorism that threatens one of the most stable democracies in the Americas and best US ally.

Then your columnist casts doubts as to Chavez support to FARC. I wonder what the US media and politicians would say if the president of Canada states that Al Qaeda is a legitimate army with clearly defined political objectives. Mr. Chavez's statement in front of Congress in support of FARC was so out of tune just about every Latin American neighbor rejected it, even close allies such as Ecuador and Argentina. But yet your columnist states that it was supported by other governments in the region and omits this fact.

Then Mr. Weisbrot states that the label of "terrorist" given to FARC is only one-sided. He fails to mention FARC's atrocities that for decades Colombians have had to endure; the thousands of kidnappings made, some held in chains and shackles for decades, the thousands of children they recruit for their terrorist "cause", the millions of families displaced, not to mention the hundreds of people they burned alive, including children, in a church while going to Mass in 2002. Or the thousands of lives here in the United States ruined to addiction to cocaine harvested and exported by FARC.

Lastly, your columnist seems to dismiss the overwhelming efforts of a democratically-ellect president whose approval ratings surpass 70%+ (even through his second term); no politician that I know has this kind of support. No other president in recent years has ever done so much good for the people in Colombia, as evident in such wide support.

Thank you once more for listening to my complaint and for encouraging me to write this. I don't have to remind you the importance of balance journalism and the damage that articles like these can do for the democracy of Colombia. I am sure that if you contact President Uribe (he is very open) and other members of his cabinet, you will get many answers to what his cherished administration is trying to do to obtain peace in the region.

RealChoices:

Peter, of course the hostages who were released are gratified at whomever facilitated their release, if I were them, I would be as well. However, the FARC holds innocent hostages. The Colombian government's prisoners were mostly armbed combatants. The Colombian government would be foolish to release them so they can take up arms again.

No country would accept a demand by foreign demagogue that it treat at terrorist group as legitimate. Further, Chavez condemns US in the affairs of other countries, but he routinely engages in it himself. He is flaming hypocrite.

RealChoices:

Peter, of course the hostages who were released are gratified at whomever facilitated their release, if I were them, I would be as well. However, the FARC holds innocent hostages. The Colombian government's prisoners were mostly armbed combatants. The Colombian government would be foolish to release them so they can take up arms again.

No country would accept a demand by foreign demagogue that it treat at terrorist group as legitimate. Further, Chavez condemns US in the affairs of other countries, but he routinely engages in it himself. He is flaming hypocrite.

Peter:

Still people try to portray this article as defending the FARC.

The author is not trying to speak for Colombian policy, but US policy, which has so much influence on what happens in Colombia. Does the US not have a say to where his billions of dollars go?

The point is that attempting negotiations is a better way to end the war. How else are you going to get the hostages released? Rescue missions? When those have been tried, the FARC murders the hostages.

Hostage-taking is despicable - but pretending that military might will eventually end the war and win the hostages release is foolish and unproductive.

Why do the hostages and their families support Chavez, so?

A.:

Sir,

I have lived my 32 years in Colombia, and as a proud citizen of my country I can tell you this about FARC:
They are not fighting for the people, they don't have a marxist ideology, and certainly they dont have a new vision for our country.
They finance their "peaceful ideology" with the revenues of narcotrafic, the same drugs that are killing your people in the USA.

I lived my childhood scared of being kidnapped, of killed just because. I have lost friends to FARC: they assasinated them, kidnapped them, and threatened them.
I will tell you this: Before you write something about anythig you must be well informed, don't repeat what you hear. INVESTIGATE!!!

You are hurting us, as they have done for the last 50 years.!!!!

jac:

to Low Class Mary.
I can't believe some one like you puts the Colombian government in the same sentence as the FARC, granted the Colombian Goverment is not perfect just like the Bush administration. But Uribe's government has done more for Colombia then any other previuous administration. you need to go back to Colombia just like Mr. Weisbrot needs to adventure himself and see the country for what it is and what it stands for and poll Colombians on the street and get a lesson from the people that have lived thru the atrocity that the FARC has caused.

Peter:

To Dan and the others attacking Mr. Weisbrot,

You need to go back to high school and be taught proper reading comprehension.

No where in the article does Weisbrot defend the FARC or their tactics, which he states are terroristic. So why give try to focus on the FARC?

Instead Weisbrot points to the role that the US plays in this horrible conflict. They provide billions and billions of dollars to a government and military that has been connected to the paramilitaries and their human rights abuses. Do you deny this? What does Uribe's popularity have anything to do with this?

The point of the article is that the US media does not examine it's government's role in the affair. As pointed out in an earlier comment, the White House admits that Bush and Uribe spoke on the 31st about the hostage negotiation. What did Uribe do right after he talked to his main funder? Cut off the hostage exchange, boy or no boy.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071231-3.html

"Also this morning the President spoke with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. They spoke this morning to exchange New Year's best wishes. President Uribe also updated the President on the situation involving the possible release of three Colombian nationals held by the FARC, noting that various issues are still being worked out. The two leaders reaffirmed the strong relationship between the United States and Colombia. And the President reiterated his strong support for gaining the approval of the Free Trade Agreement between our two countries."

Adriana:

Well, Mr. You are cordially invited to visit my beautiful country, full of very nice and funny things. You can go there, and see, happy people all the time, working people, doing the best for their families. You are, like a lot of people in the world, You can't see good things, like stable economy, all the president effors to keep our country safe. I know we have a lot of problems, but Colombia is more than that... remember the words that our president URIBE said to all the world: Colombia is a country in suffering, but is a country that never give up.. WE NEVER GIVE UP AGAINTS TERRORISTS, DRUGS, AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU!

Hector Pardo:

Mark, This is a very ignorant and irresponsible article. I'll like to invite you,to take a vacation trip to the "junglas de Colombia" (Colombia is located to the South of the Unated States, riht next of Panama).
What a shame Washingtonpost !

Gabriel Cisneros:

It appers that the overwhelming response to this article from people within Colombia is that it is either misinformed or simply biased against the Uribe government and Bush by extension. Let me just say first: I hate Bush. A lot. He has done more to damage our ability to be a moral force in the world than any other president in living memory. Having said that, our aid to Colombia is taken willingly by a country sick of civil war. It is quite possible that there cannot be a military victory, but that is not the same as to say that Uribe "wants" war or that the US does, either. Depending on who you ask, the FARC is either in its last throes, or merely at the start of a political offensive funded and coordinated by Hugo Chavez. In any event, they do not need to be deemed insurgents in order to talk of peace. ETA didn't. The IRA didn't.

The proof that Chavez was "inserting" himself in Colombian internal matters when he took the phone from Piedad is his freshly minted belligerent statements before the National Assembly and his continued assertions that Uribe is merely a mouthpiece for Bush and "does not speak for the Colombian people." This is sable rattling in its most blatant form. Willingly or not, Mark, you are giving cover to a communist expansionist project run from Fidel's death bed. That is what most thoughtful Venezuelans and Colombians know from reading the daily news. You would be advised to do the same before you fall into the flippant stable of the likes of Oliver Stone who remarked that "he didn't know that much about the FARC but believed Chavez to be a great man." Is that a responsible preamble to making a comment on such an inflamatory issue?

Juliana R:

Mr, Mark Weisbrot:
You are not accurate at all and you should write a new article after you make a good research of Colombia and get well informed.
It is annoying to read an article that is not based in the reality of our Country.
This misinformation is so harmful

"The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings. However, so does the Colombian government... "

For God sake!!
1) CAN BE CONSIDERED?
Do you remember September 11th? What did you feel that terrible day?
WE LIVE SEPTEMBER 11TH EVERY DAY, because of the terrorists actions of FARC!!!

and do you know why? because of COCAINE. They are drug dealers as Pablo escobar was. The only difference is that they hide in the jungle and keep hostages. And from Colombian mountains, they plan where to place the next bomb,who to kidnapp, how many mines they will need to mutilate more children, and of coarse they decide which will be the next country town to take by force.

2) If you dislike your President, that´s fine. I do not like your President either, but It is a total disrespect to compare our democratic government with the actions of a Terrorist Group. The Government is not killing and kidnapping civilians everywhere. Is not placing bombs and anti-personal mines.

You must come to Colombia and write about real facts not based on feeling and anti-bush perpective.

Mr Weisbrot: As you are so bad informed, I would like to let you know f some recent news:
Do you know that FARC kidnapped 5 more Colombian civilians and a citizen this week??

Do you know that militars that are captive by FARC terrorist are ill to death (after 9 years of lack of human rights?)

Mr Weisbrot: Please check the following link: www.colombiasoyyo.org
or check you Tube video "proof of survival" (proof of terrorist) from Cap. Mendieta to his family. Let someone translate this letter to you. After that you will apologize to Colombia. We will be waiting for your apologies.

WE COLOMBIANS ARE AGAINST FARC´S TERRORISM!!!

ANGELA:

Mr Writer: You have to be careful about writing such a serious theme. It is obvious you are against President Bush, but this does not mean you have the right to hurt Colombia and its people by telling lies. This a serious topic which is causing a great damage to Colombians. So I hope you have the opportunity to find out what really is hapening in Colombia and be professional.

Maria Andrea:

Mark Weisbrot,

I was shocked by the level of misinformation present in this article. It is offensive to Colombian democracy.

Your point on the difficulty of determining what is terrorism or not is valid, extensive literature can be found on this subject. Because terrorism provokes such extreme emotions, partly as a reaction to the horrors associated with it and partly because of its ideological context, the search for a precise enough definition is fraught with difficulty. Reference abounds to the famous phrase ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,’ and it is legitimate to wonder whether this is applicable to the Colombian war.

Often the definition of terrorism is predicated on the assumption that some classes of political violence are justifiable, whereas others are not, but a true definition that will aid to explain the violence perceptible in the Colombian struggle for independence must transcend a behavioural description to include individual motivation, social milieu, and political purpose.

I agree with you that there seems to be an even-handed application of the term ‘terrorist’ to non-state actors and to those with whose cause one does not agree. Even though government and insurgent acts of violence may have same net effect, there is a perceptive property, real or imagined, of legitimacy attributed to governments that leads to categorize violent attacks by non-state actors as terrorism, as if the latter ascribed to a different set of moral boundaries.

My biggest objection to your article, and where you are most misinformed, is that the FARC and the ELN do not have any motivation other than money proceeding from kidnappings, torture and drug traffic, while the Colombian government has done everything in its power to end the war, especially during Uribe's time.

It is repulsive to see such a misinformed article. I strongly suggest a revision.

Kevin Broom:

You are an idiot. i do not like personal insults as a rule, but this is truely the worst piece of journalism I have ever read. Your lack of insight into the country and its history is reckless and neglegent. I only hope you read the tone and facts from the Colombians on this and consider a retraction. This is not credible journalism. My wife is Colombian, I have travelled there regularly for 13 years. The concessions made to the FARC over that period yielded nothing. They controlled areas the size of switzerland up until Uribe's administration. They have never honoured commitments to come to the peace table, they hold 750 people without any regard for human rights, they are the richest terrorist organisation in the world gleaning all of their revenue from protecting drug crops. Any credibility in their socialist cause expired decades ago. They are thugs that are committing and protecting criminal activity. The progress made in the last 5 years is astounding. I have seen more of the Country. The streets and cities are safer, the economy is stable, inflation is under control, the Paramilitary is disarming and many are in jail. Their behaviour is about protecting a revenue stream at the expense of the youth they force into serving them and the untold lives they impact through their killing and kidnapping. The US has made mistakes, multiple administrations have had questionable policy, but that does not change the brutal and dishonourable history of this TERRORIST organisation.

Kevin Broom:

You are an idiot. i do not like personal insults as a rule, but this is truely the worst piece of journalism I have ever read. Your lack of insight into the country and its history is reckless and neglegent. I only hope you read the tone and facts from the Colombians on this and consider a retraction. This is not credible journalism. My wife is Colombian, I have travelled there regularly for 13 years. The concessions made to the FARC over that period yielded nothing. They controlled areas the size of switzerland up until Uribe's administration. They have never honoured commitments to come to the peace table, they hold 750 people without any regard for human rights, they are the richest terrorist organisation in the world gleaning all of their revenue from protecting drug crops. Any credibility in their socialist cause expired decades ago. They are thugs that are committing and protecting criminal activity. The progress made in the last 5 years is astounding. I have seen more of the Country. The streets and cities are safer, the economy is stable, inflation is under control, the Paramilitary is disarming and many are in jail. Their behaviour is about protecting a revenue stream at the expense of the youth they force into serving them and the untold lives they impact through their killing and kidnapping. The US has made mistakes, multiple administrations have had questionable policy, but that does not change the brutal and dishonourable history of this TERRORIST organisation.

Colombia Without FARC:

Please notice our response to you Mr. Weisbrot

I could not believe what I read on the news regarding FARC. Then I though... hey, perhaps I should send him a note. To my surprise I notice the hundreds of responses that had already been posted requesting Mr. Wisbrot's retraction.

Let's keep it simple: Nobody in Colombia likes FARC... and I mean NOBODY!!!

Perhpas Mr. Wisbrot should take a better look at what really happens in Colombia before defending these thugs. Please consider President Alvaro Uribe whose policies could eventually get rid of the menace once and for all and whose support by his constituency surpasses the 70%+ mark, even in his second term. This kind of approval rating is any politician's dream; no one in the US has this kind of approval ratings.

The violent groups of Colombia are terrorists because they kidnap, place bombs indiscriminately, recruit and murder children, murder pregnant women, murder the elderly and use antipersonnel mines that leave in their wake thousands of innocent victims. FARC burned hundreds of families, including children while attending church in 2002.

Please Mr. Weisbrot, take a serious look at our response to your article. We beseech your clear understanding of what really goes on in Colombia. Some one like you could do good instead of evil. Please open your eyes and see the overwhelming response of violence-weary Colombians who could use your help instead of your condemnation.

Miguel:

It is very troublesome that a respected publication doesn't check the level of knowledge on a subject of a writer before it is published. It is troublesome to think that people who don't know about the reality in Colombia will be misinformed by a misinformed writer.

Ronnie Larios - Costa Rica:

I'm totally agree with Juan C Nader FOR ALMOST EVERYBODY: "where did you learn to read and comprehend reading"? Most of you are focused on the ignorance of the writer more than the ignorance of the readers...
FOCUS ON HOW CAN WORLD HELP 700+ COLOMBIAN PEOPLE TO GET FREEDOM !!!
Use your brain to construct a way to help, not your hypothalamus or your liver to vomit your frustrations in this forum.

Respect is the base of a real civilization.
Negotiation is the only way, no matter who is the medium or bridge. We are talking about human lives claimin us for HELP!

Elkin:

Wow, it's really impressing to see that a magazine such this, can post such a thing like this. It's unbearable for me as a Colombian to see this misinformation. A lot of the recent history has proven that FARC aren't good for the country and the neighboring ones neither, they are like a infectious fungus, they are trying to spread out they have gone to Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela where they have also kidnapped people. There have been several attempts to negotiate a peace deal with them, but all the times, they failed because they don't have a clue of their goals, they only know about drugs, kidnappings and killing people. The government is not like a bunch of angels, for sure, but it's been the same people the ones who started to arm themselves trying to get rid of this problem, due of this the paramilitaries arose . And a final thing, I know that is quite difficult but everything is about the US, they're powerful and plenty of money, but the world was spinning before the America was discovered, and after it'll be.

Mauricio Rincon:

Having lived in the US for more than twenty years and experienced the suffering of friends and family members victims of FARC atrocities, including my own sister's inlaws; I join the outcry for more informed reporting. The editorial board seems to have failed their duty for accuracy, sadly.

JRLR:

"Washington Fails Colombia"?

True, but Washington has failed and still fails the whole of Latin America.

As a modest beginning and for one's edification, any reader can watch, on YouTube, John Pilger's 10 part series "War on Democracy", followed by his "Freedom Next Time". That should suffice to give one some perspective on "What Uncle Sam Really Wants", for Latin America.

Andrés M. Ramírez:

Thanks to God England, Spain, France, Argentina, Ecuador, Brasil, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica,the Organization of American States, Germany , Japan and the Washington Post Editorial (Ally to Kidnappers, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/15/AR2008011503223.html)
shows that your article tell lies.
Lie as Chavez do it when afirm that Emmanuel, the boy who born in captivity was into custody of FARC, lie because the only one responsable of hostage crisis is the guerrillas group, the same organizations that Chavez, Mrs Corboda and the president of Nicaragua wants to reconogzied as legal armys, with the right of infringe the human rights and international humanitary law.

Thaks to God, Uribe is the President of Colombia

Nobcentral:

Placing the FARC on the terrorist list means that the US government can effectively crack down on international funding efforts that support the organization. To take them off the list would freely enable Chavez to establish a Swiss Bank account and fill it with blood money for the FARC to use at their leisure. All talk of taking the FARC off the list is pure fantasy and a horrible, horrible idea.

What's really surprising is the sense that there is something wrong about calling a terrorist group a terrorist group. When and if the FARC prove they are a real political organization (ala PLO) then maybe they can be taken off the list. But until they decide to actually sit at the table, in good faith, it would be suicide to free them from the constraints of international sanctions.

People who advocate that are advocating for a better armed, better funded FARC - whether they know it or not.

Juan C Nader PARA GUSTAVO LEON:

I wonder where you learn to read and comprehend reading.

Carlos de Aragon:


Who is this "Low Class Mary"

You got to be kidding me...

I have been in areas with the real class that you call "Low Class" and you are totally out of the loop here...

I suggest, if you are who you say you are, to get in touch with the others, to come down from those dreams or to get off whatever it is that is affecting your brain.

Eliana:

Dear Mark, I want to tell you in a very respectfull way that I am Colombian, and my family has been touched by the living evil called FARC, they are terrorists and there is not discussion about that, and what you say about negotiating with those terrorist is a situation all colombians have already been through. President Pastrana about nine years ago try to negotiate with that group they had a big area at aouth colombia just for them, and they used that place to hide their captives and to grow the cocaine busines, besisdes they kidnapped an airplane where a congress man was traveling and that was the end of that negotiation. Now the guerrilla wants to negotiate only if the place to do that are two towns at the south of colombia, the president has rejected to do that, but has offer another place under certain conditions, like: it has to be a rural area, of certain size, where there are not police or army stations to be removed and the most important issue, where there is not civilian population who could be affected by the situation, besides Pesident Uribe released a lot of members of the FARC who were in jail without any conditions and that terrorist group didn't respond, so I want to let you know that there are negotiation intentions but under our conditions not under the FARC conditions because we alredy had a very bad experince with that.

Javier Morales:

Juan from Colombia:

Where does the author claim that anyone supports the FARC?
The only claim is that other governments support not classifying the FARC as a terrorist group. Period.

Don't put words in the author's article. That is the problem with the Colombia debate. When one person says maybe this is the wrong tactic, they are accused of supporting kidnappings and executions.

Do you deny that the US does not influence Uribe's handling of the situation? Does not the US hate Chavez like few others?

It was reported in the press that Uribe did talk to Bush on both November 21 and December 31, the day he called off the imminent rescue mission. Here the White House confirms the latter:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071231-3.html

And to say that the paramilitaries are now not operating is lie. Either way, the military continues to slaughter innocent civilians as well. This is reported by Human Rights Watch and others.

You are living in a fantasy world if you blame only the FARC for Colombia's problems. Narco-trafficking and murder are not exclusively their doing.

DieGoth:

Wow, Low Class Mary comming from the lowest social class in Colombia can write and read! She has also a computer and Internet. Is Colombia a paradise or what?

Or is actually Low Class Mary a really high class lady linked to anti-Uribe political parties and that is why she is almost the only one here supporting the worse article that I've ever read in the WP?

Ricardo:

I was going to second opinions expressed by the majority of the commentators on this forum, but rather I'd like to call your attention to Ms. Low Class Mary's comments:

Don't you agree that this kind of thinking is precisely representative of a criminal? What kind of person claims that because there are poor people in some place, the only means to restore equality is taking up arms, kidnapping children, putting bombs, blowing infrastructure, forcing girls into prostitution, etc?

Leaving Ms Low Class Mary aside, I disagree with some people that claim that there's a Civil War going on in Colombia. Nothing farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is that FARC only have an estimate of 30,000 mercenaries and don't even reach the support of 0.5% of the Colombian population which surpasses 42 million people, then how can this be called a Civil war? A reading of the definition of Civil War on Wikipedia, at least, might help clarifying the concept for these people. I'm sure that you'll agree that a better term for what's going on in Colombia is "Terrorist Threat" because that's what FARC are: a terrorist organization which keeping proportions with Al-Qaeda -FARC are worse but they have killed only a few Americans compared to the thousands Al-Qaeda has killed- that has transcended the limits of cruelty and I myself find even difficult to call them human beings anymore.

Finally, I would change the title of this disgraceful article to "How the Washington Post fails Colombia."

completly disagree:

i suggest to you to investigate more before write such a trascendental opinion. wich i consider is the most ignorant opinion i have ever seen in such an important newspaper as washington post. you dont really know the situation between Colombia and venezuela, you dont have any right to discourage the Colombian goverment. i also suggest you to retract what you said and start watching more news...!!!!

DieGoth:

Mark, you are a big liar. How can you lie so much about Colombia? If you hate Bush, that is ok for me. Hate Bush, but keep that hate for yourself. Don't lie about Colombia!

You are an ignorant and a liar. Uribe did not called off Chavez because Bush called him first. Don't lie! Uribe called off Chavez because Chavez called a Colombian General after Uribe disallowed him to do so. You say that Uribe wants to defeat the Farc with paramilitaries but you lie again! Paramilitars are demobilized and they actually are not fighting against Farc. So, don't lie anymore. Respect the readers.

Your ethics when writing are less than acceptable. Now I am distrusting more than ever the Washington Post. God, it is incredible that you have been published here!

Juan from Colombia:

This article is simply ridicule, and shows a total lack of research and objectivity. Here are some facts that contradict all this:
1. According to polls 70 % of people in Colombia support Uribe, but 99.99% hate FARC, that means that even the opposition hates FARC.
2. It's a lie that Uribe withdrew Chavez from mediation after Bush called him, it was after Chavez started calling the Colombian Military, even though this was strictly prohibited by Uribe. This fact was in the press all over the region.
3. When Chavez announced to his Congress that he supported FARC's cause, all entities, institutions and parties in Colombia (even those from the leftist opposition) rejected this and supported Uribe.
4. Justice in Colombia (a separate power) is criminalizing the paramilitaries and its allies, including politicians close to Uribe. Many of them are in jail. There are people close to Uribe in Jail, but no one has shown or proven a direct involvement by Uribe himself.
5. Uribe's Government has confronted and killed more paramilitaries than any other Government before.
6. Colombia is not the poorest country in the world, nor the one with the highest social inequality, others with worst records in these areas don't have Guerillas, the fact is tha FARC have the Cocaine business in their hands.
7. FARC kills innocent people, kidnaps, places bombs, they are a Terrorists group under any rational and civilized definition.
8. There is no civil war in Colombia. FARC represent 0.034 % of our population and are dispersed and hidden in the jungle and the plains, which conform an area 5 times the size of England. They are just a bunch of drug dealers in camouflage, a bunch of criminals fighting a democratic government and its people.

Andrés Niño Peñuela:

“The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist {…}”

Can be considered?! How about this: Osama Bin Laden, occasionally, sometimes, when he is bored, ‘does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist.’ Bin Laden IS a terrorist. The Farc ARE terrorists. The Farc actually has killed more innocent civilians than Al Qaeda, and Bin Laden is more likely to change his mind with talks than the Farc (see the peace process six years ago as evidence).

It is difficult to understand the ignorance around the barbaric nature of the FARC. They are so far removed from reality, so hermetic (reminds one of Kim Jong-il) that they have missed the fact that Colombia has completely changed since they started this violence over 44 years ago.

Colombia may had been a country full of injustices back then but now, despite the shortcomings of a third-world country, it has a strong and very diverse democracy. The president has the support of over 70% of the 42 million Colombians, yet there is such freedom of expression that the second most important political post in the country is held by the opposition party (and a very young movement too) and such post, the Mayor of Bogota, was previously held by a former union leader. And other guerrilla movements that have realized the change and the fact that killings and kidnapping are not the way towards peace, prosperity and equality have been pardoned and have been able to freely participate and win democratic elections for many posts in local and the central government.

It is because of this diversity in political alternatives, because of the belief in democracy and peaceful change, that the Farc do NOT enjoy any support from Colombians, especially when their means are not ideas but indiscriminate bombs and kidnappings. Out of the 42 million Colombians you will not find any supporters for the Farc outside their ranks of 10,000 (you may find more support for the freedom-cause of someone like Timothy McVeigh and his Oklahoma City bombing than for the Farc’s causes and means).

This article is an ill-researched one that does not try to contribute ideas to solve the violence in Colombia but simply one which portrays the Bush administration and any ally as wrong-headed hawks. (And I could not dislike the Bush administration much more; they will pass in history as the most inept and cruel in decades).

But it is irresponsible and mostly disrespectful with those that are kidnapped, with those that have been killed by the Farc, and their families, to trample reality simply to criticize Bush. The guy is an idiot, his policies have proven to be wrong at every turn, but do not use the pain of Colombia for a political gain. And to top it all, the current US policy in Colombia is a legacy of Clinton and Andres Pastrana, not Bush. How irresponsible, misinformed can this article be?

If you want to understand about the violence in Colombia (be it Farc or paramilitaries) look for a better source, try The Economist!

www.economist.com

Juan Barbosa:

Wow, here is one misinformed writer. I always believed this was a trustworthy source. Evidently I was wrong. I am impressed this got published.

The person who wrote this article needs to update his references and be more objective about the situation.

Try reading the news worldwide. That will get you started.

Good Luck!

Andrew:

i cannot believe what i just read... how its possible a person in your position has that incorrect view of the facts..
Colombian people need more respect..

Francisco:

Dear Mr. Mark Weisbrot: As a Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policicy Research in Washington, D.C. may have the the expertise of so many of the so called "Experts" in the administration which I call "ignorant arrogance". I t is a shame that the Washington Post may be used to disseminate so many lies and inaccurate information. Question for you Mr Weisbrot: Do you smoke? If youdo, it will be easy to retract.

Francisco:

Dear Mr. Mark Weisbrot: As a Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policicy Research in Washington, D.C. may have the the expertise of so many of the so called "Experts" in the administration which I call "ignorant arrogance". I t is a shame that the Washington Post may be used to disseminate so many lies and inaccurate information. Question for you Mr Weisbrot: Do you smoke? If youdo, it will be easy to retract.

Warren Wolfman:

Hey, Just a simple question:

Have you talked to Oliver Stone lately? because it seems so (I am sure I heard him say somnething real close to what I just read). In that case I agree with the colombians that wrote in this page, this article is very poor on investigative work.

OD:

Many of us, Europeans and Americans, who are condemning the FARC here consider ourselves on the left of the political spectrum.

I loathe Bush and distrust the US govt deeply, but American involvement in Colombia has mostly been benign. Colombia needs the help.

There is no military solution to the situation in Iraq, because the US occupation is hated by the great majority of Iraqis.

There IS a military solution to the FARC: killing or capturing them all. It can be done, and ultimately it will, because they have no popular support. It's the depth of the jungle that keeps them safe, not the support of locals.

As for Chavez, this will be the last straw for many fence-sitters. By interfering in another country's security, he is committing the very sin for which he lambasts GW Bush.

HUMBERTO DE VENEZUELA:

i'm amazed at the article and posts! here's a little something noone has mentioned- i'm a venezuelan from el Zulia(look it out in google maps, it's right next to colombia) and as far a FARC goes, i've been seen them all over the border and in Venezuela and in MY city for more than a decate! Chavez finances the FARC, plus i dont see him doing any efforts whatsoever to rescue hundreds of venezuelans kipnapped by the FARC! oh sure, let's help Colombians but not our own people! dont get me wrong, im all for the freeing of hostages, no matter where they're from, but i could spect a little more interest from our own goverment! which i repeat helps, keeps, mantains, and finances the FARC!

tomas urdaneta:

i cannot imagine how someone so serious as the editor of the washington post even considers to publish this article full of half-truths and outrageous lies!!!

i'm a colombian citizen, 50 years old, having lived in most of colombia and can only say that the truth down here is entirely different: just two facts:

first: the actual president uribe was elected by a overwhelming majority, and, just a year ago, was reelected in the same manner... and he still counts with a popularity of around 70%!!!

second: president uribe is the only president who has been able to demobilize most of colombia's paramilitary forces. do you really think that someone prosecuting paramilitary forces is a part of them?

please, mr. editor, know a bit more about what your writers want to sell you. your credibility and that of your newspaper are at stake here, for god's sake!

Ocampo:

I agree with you that Washington has failed not only Colombia but Venezuela and for the most part, all of South America. If anything, Washington should make a more concerted effort at srenghting economic and, in this case, political ties with thier neighbors to the south. A stronger united alliance in this western hemesphere would be a positive for future stability and growth for all (including the United States).

Now, when it comes to the FARC and the other group not mentioned, the ELN, please revisit the topic. I believe, having lived recently in Colombia myself for 10 years, that the classification of terrorists fits them well. Not to mention kidnappers and drug traffickers. As for the Paramilitary, it might be easy to classify them similarly. Unfortunatley, this is pretty much a civil war without the official title. With that said, the Paramilitary groups were engaged to prevent the guerrilas from having a larger and more dominant geographic presence. Once again, please take the time to understand better the very difficult situation that Colombia has endured over the years before trivializing it in an article for the Washington Post. The readers who are unfamiliar with the topic deserve to know the truth. This is no Soap Opera!

Lastly, the guerrilas have a supposedly communist agenda, others like myself would somewhat disagree considering the money they are capitalizing on from drug trafficking and extortion. Nevertheless, their supposed cause is very appealing to Chavez since he seems to be implementing it very hard in Venezuela and trying to push it on other South American countries. I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. Don't make this man seem like the good guy....unless ofcourse you are a supporter of Fidel Castro and what he represents. If that were the case, your article would make perfect sense!!

Todd Dohlin:

I´m from the United States and have been living in Colombia for the last 20 year and consider myself quite to the left of the political spectrum, but feel outraged by the ignorance of this Mark Weibrot geezer. As you can see by the responses, I´m not the only one who feels this way. Please be more careful with your "guest" writers in the future. I feel ceratin 99% of Colombians would be in total disagreement with Mark. These are the kind of useful idiots that the FARC, Chavez and the rest of their ilk love. I feel ashamed to be a US citizen and see such a piece in such a prestigious newspaper

Medardo Restrepo:

I ask me how many money is possible to earn telling about something on which really knowledge is not had. I don´t know many things and I can tell of them by less money than the Mister Weisbrot. Please excuse my bad English, but I don´t really know it in the same way in which to mister Weisbrot does not know the Colombian problem. For this reason I am as clumsy as when he speech of Colombia. Nevertheless, my bad English does not compare itself with the stupidity to say that Piedad Cordoba is a encourage woman. Hay que ser muy bruto para decir eso y gracias a Dios yo no lo soy!

remberto nader:

Mr.Weisbrot: I am here in from of the computer thinking about what to commnt,but really you don't have the most vague idea of the colombia conflict and most important you do not have any idea of who the farc are and what political goals the have because simple they DO NOT HAVE ANY POLITICAL GOAL; THEY ARE NARCOTERRORIST! WITH MAYBE A FEW GOAL: GETTING RICH FROM NARCODOLLARS,KIDNAPPING,TERRORIZING COLOMBIANS,KILLINGS AND VIOLATING ANY CIVIL RIGHT ANY HUMAN CAN HAVE. YOU LIKE MANY OTHERS IN CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS ARE BLINDS,NAIVE,AND MISGUIDED. I JUST PRAY AND HOPE YOU ARE NOT ANY ADVISER OF ANY GOVERNMENT,SENATORS, ELECTED OFFICIAL,INTERNATIONAL GROUPS, THAT IN THE FUTURE COULD HELP COLOMBIA. FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART I FORGIVE YOU BUT YOU ARE NAIVE.
THANK YOU.

Carlos de Aragon:

Gustavo....

What are you talking about? can you imagine where the democracy would be in Colombia if the American government would not send any money to support the democracy?
Have you forgotten about all the millions that the old drug cartels got and how they were able to influence in the government?
Can you imagine how much money comes into the FARC from the drug dealing nowadays?

How can you say that there is no defense of the FARC when this guy is trying to take away from them the terrorist title?

Is not it clear to you what Chavez is doing?

Do you think that his actions come from the bottom of his heart and good soul?

Do you think that the FARC do not have influences in the Colombian government?

Do lie to yourself, do not be naive and open your eyes...

Is Chavez that hurt?? who cares, have you forgotten all the insults that Chavez broadcasts every time he has an opportunity to insult the president of this country...!

I invite you to talk to the majority of the Venezuelans and learn how their country is going down the toilette thanks to chavez economic plans?

FYI, when chavez came to the presidency, there were around 13000 middle and small companies... do you know how many are there now? less than 5000....
Let me remind you that the middle and small companies are the ones that actually move the economy in every country....

Chavez is a tragedy for his country and of course for latin america.

About the paras, well they are a consecuence to the FARC, people got sick of them and tried to defend themselves. I do not support them but you have to look at this from a wide angle and not with myopia.

Please respect our democracy and our great president, I can assure you that many countries will like to have a president like the Colombian president.!

Eval:

Mr. Weisbrot:

Many wrong decissions around the world are taken only based on wrong point views like that one that you defend...

You should't justify the crime done by ones (Farc) with the crime done by others (Paramiltares). The Farc EP is a real terrorist group since they are interested only in getting their own benefit through the violence and murder with out any respect for the humanity and for the right to be alive.

John :

I agree with the comments of the great majority of Colombians and other informed readers (and the great majority of Colombian voters) that this article is nonsense. The FARC are stone-cold murderers, thugs and criminals.
The previous Colombian adminstration bent over backwards to negoiate with and appease the FARC and all they got was more kidnappings, crime and violence.
I write then to comment on Mr. Wiesbrot's motives in wiritng this piece. I have no idea what the Mr. Weisbrot's Center for Economic and Policy Research is or who funds it but I stongly suspect that Mr. Weisbrot's sole purpose in writing such a clueless, naive piece is to impede the pending US-Colombia free trade agreement. Most Americans have no idea of what goes on in Colombia. Articles like this are intended to give politicians cover to appease those who oppsed to the free trade agreement for their own purtposes. If the Post is going to publish this kind of tripe, I call upon the Post to explain the sources of funding for the so-called Center for Economic and Policy Research. Unions opposed to free trade maybe?
If Mr. Weisbrot has a policy argument against the agreement, fine, make the argument. But don't put out specious claptrap like this, which,if taken seriously, could threaten a legitimate democracy in favor of murderous totalitarian thugs.
BTW, I am also a life-long Democrat with no use at all for George Bush.

John :

I agree with the comments of the great majority of Colombians and other informed readers (and the great majority of Colombian voters) that this article is nonsense. The FARC are stone-cold murderers, thugs and criminals.
The previous Colombian adminstration bent over backwards to negoiate with and appease the FARC and all they got was more kidnappings, crime and violence.
I write then to comment on Mr. Wiesbrot's motives in wiritng this piece. I have no idea what the Mr. Weisbrot's Center for Economic and Policy Research is or who funds it but I stongly suspect that Mr. Weisbrot's sole purpose in writing such a clueless, naive piece is to impede the pending US-Colombia free trade agreement. Most Americans have no idea of what goes on in Colombia. Articles like this are intended to give politicians cover to appease those who oppsed to the free trade agreement for their own purtposes. If the Post is going to publish this kind of tripe, I call upon the Post to explain the sources of funding for the so-called Center for Economic and Policy Research. Unions opposed to free trade maybe?
If Mr. Weisbrot has a policy argument against the agreement, fine, make the argument. But don't put out specious claptrap like this, which,if taken seriously, could threaten a legitimate democracy in favor of murderous totalitarian thugs.
BTW, I am also a life-long Democrat with no use at all for George Bush.

Bichuf:

The author's credentials can be viewed here:

http://www.cepr.net/content/view/18/40/

Yeah, a real "expert". You can also check out all the leftie pro Venezuela/Chavez and anti-Bush articles put out by this organization. That way you can begin to understand all this ignorance on Colombia. How sad for Fortune 500 companies, news organizations and TV news channels paying these "experts" for material! Guess making a quick buck doesn't include any respect for more than 40 million Colombians and over 700 in FARC concentration camps.

Gustavo Leon:

What article are you people reading?
There is no defense of the FARC. There is only saying that US policy is misguided and influences Uribe in order to try to embarrass Chavez.
I have lived in Colombia. People want peace and hostage releases in any way. The US sends $ billions and what is result?
The FARC are not good, but neither are the paras who still have many government connections.

A. Lozada:

Para "Low Class Mary" Se nota que no eres de clase baja mentirosa... nisiquiera seras colombiana... que manejo del ingles para ser de clase baja... y que punto de vista tan desacertado...

TO Low Class Mary" It is clear you are not from "the lowest economic class in Colombia" LIAR I am sure you are not even from Colombia... nice english skills for somebody crying aloud for education in Colombia... And your point of view is all wrong

George R:

The writer is offensive whit his idiotic comments to most of colombians and all those people who really know the reality of the colombian conflict. Wake up!, the Farc and other illegal groups in colombia are military strong not because of popular support but because they are fueled by drug money.

Bichufo:

Jeez! I hope they make you read all the comments to your absolutely clueless article! One would expect the Washington Post to do more background checking on their "journalists". They could for example, look for "total ignorance" on the stories they write. But it seems to be a plague in the U.S. and Europe. If not, read up on all the stupidities Oliver Stone came to say here in Colombia. Even insulted our president! Could be all that cocaine exported by the FARC narcoterrorists has corroded your brain. Man, what a hosing you got from all of us who read your totally misinformed article!

John:

Mark,
It seems that your understanding of the colombian situation is completely inaccurate. First of all, you imply that the Colombian government labels FARC as terrorist, and does not do so with the paramilitaries, which is incorrect. They are also labeled as terrorists.
I believe that it is unfair to blame the bush administration for the issues in Colombia, the only cause of this problem is the FARC itself.
You are correct, however, by saying that the Bush Administration has not helped in this situation. This administration has done nothing, but throw money at the problem, which seems to be a recurring "solution". You are also correct by saying that the actual cause of the stop to the chavez negotiations were mainly pressure from the Bush administration, however, wouldn't it be fair to mention, how damaging it would have been to Colombia to provide Chavez with more protagonism and give him more power to aid the FARC in their "fight" agains the government? I believe that as a journalist, you play the role of informer and not an attacker. I believe that the people of Colombia would appreciate a little bit more homework before even pretending to understand the reality of this country.

Low Class Mary:

I am from the lowest economic class in Colombia. Mark is absolutly right about his article. Both groups (the FARC and the government) are terrorists; the government has done more damage to the country than the FARC. The government kidnaps, kills and tortures through both groups (military and paramilitaries). Yes, it is terrible that the FARC kipnaps wealthy people, but remember that the high class created the FARC; it is time the wealthy share with the poor; if poor people are given even only up to secondary education; then more poor have a better chance in making decisions. Poor children like myself could not even get a secondary education in Colombia, and this makes us more angry with no future and rebellious against the government and the high class. Hurray to Piedad Cordoba for trying to help Colombia. Uribe must stop supporting the paramilitary groups and give the poor people economic and educational opportunities. This is the main solution to the civil conflict.

John-Michael :

@210

If by "Chavez's shrewd negotiating skills" you are referring to the fact that Chavez is knee deep in their terror campaign, seeks to legitimize it, and used this release as a propaganda piece to help accomplish that goal, I completely agree with you. People are upset just because of that kind of ideologically driven idiocy. You say Weisbrot was not arguing that Farc is not a terrorist organization, but he very clearly does not want them to be called a terrorist organization.

Farc has been negotiated with ad nauseum. They have only used times of truce to refit and replenish. People like you seem to only be able to say there is no military solution. Thank goodness no one that matters will ever take those attitudes seriously. There is either a primarily military based solution where Farc is weakened the point that they consider amnesty and failure better than death and failure, or there is the defeat of the vast majority of Colombian will and giving in to a group that has used the most despicable tactics. That second option by the way would create a Narco state in our hemisphere posing untold risks to the region.

The Farc campaign is not a popular insurgency. They are a criminal organization with an army that kills and otherwise abuses innocents as their modus operandi. What kind of negotiated settlement do you imagine?

Lina:

As a Colombian citizen, I can't do anything but laugh at this article. You are sooo uninformed about the FARC, the Colombian government and the people in Colombia, that it is just too funny!!!!

Please "google" the international reaction to Chavez' request to provide political status to the FARC and you will see that not a single Latin or global government supported it.

A few facts:
In 2007, the Colombian government unilaterally freed a few hundred guerrillas from jail (including an important leader,Granda, at the beheast of the French governemnt), but this was unacceptable to the FARC because THEY had not been "consulted" by the government.

This week after liberating the 2 women, they kidnapped 6 tourists in the Pacific coast, one of the a Colombo-danish citizen.

For 3.5 years, during the Pastrana administration, the FARC were given politcal status and a huge geographical area (the demilitarized Zone - DMV", where they could reside in order to negotiate the peace process with the Colombian government. The result? they used the terriotry to kidnap many of today's hostages and to produce/export cocaine, while never even getting past developing the "agenda" for the negotiation. During this period they attacked and kidnapped many Colombian citizens always taking refuge in the DMV, where the government could not pursue them.

They have kept hostages chained for 10 years!! ten years!! can you imagine what that is? the liberation of the 3 hostages failed in December because the FARC lied to Chavez and to the world about having all 3 of them (the boy was thankfully, if unknowingly, in the hands of the Colombian government social services network. They only freed the other 2 hostages to gain Chavez trust again. In the meantime, Chavez labeled President Uribe a liar who could not be trusted? Who IS/ARE the liars here??

Unfortunately, I don't think they will liberate the other hostages any time soon. Why would they? specially Ingrid Betancourt? there would not be any more reason for them to be in the news in France any more. Chavez would not pay attention to them any more (again, because of the lack of press exposure).

I heard today that Colombia has requested the FARC receive a Red Cross contingent with doctors to provide medical assistance to the hostages. We will see if they ever agree to this... what do you think?

I want to see the FARC set free the soldiers they have kept for 10 years. Free all the hostages... now!

Please talk to the other 39.9MM Colombians next time you think about writing about our country and our government.

Oh! Thank you, US government for the financial support to our armed forces, the attorney office, and other programs. This has allowed the government to invest the few resources it has in social enterprises such as that which helped the hostage boy. To the Democrats: we need the Free Trade Agreement to be able to continue investing in social programs in our country, as it is able to progress economically! this is more important to 40MM people than an election.

John:

You can tell this mediocre journalist is on Hugo Chavez pay roll, like many others......

Samuel Guinet:

This article naively or intentionally forgets to mention that Uribe’s government is fighting the paramilitarists groups as well as the guerrillas. Peace talks are going on with the paramilitarists and some of its leaders are currently behind bars; Uribe’s former political allies, that had ties with these groups, are also in jail; the ELN, a leftist guerrilla group, is also starting peace talks with the government. In addition to these, Uribe, unilaterally, freed more than 500 guerrilla combatants from Colombian jails with the condition that they would not go back to the guerrilla; and it has implemented the biggest clean-up of Colombian armed forces in recent history.
The article labels the government as terrorist for previous links of its armed forces with right wing paramilitarist –accusations that go back before Uribe’s presidential term-. I don’t think anybody can say that NOW the Colombian government kidnaps, kills civilians, or uses any terrorist tactics in its fight against the guerrillas. The guerrilla continues with all these practices, as an example, two days ago, they kidnapped six people, including a Swedish citizen, in the west of Colombia, all of them simple tourists in the area.
FARC will be considered a terrorist organization until the release of all its 750 kidnap victims (not only the 44 they want to include in a humanitarian exchange) from its concentration camps and they stop putting bombs indiscriminately against civilians. After that, they will be no longer terrorists, just drug dealers (I doubt they will give up this business).
Colombia has a reasonably successful leftist political party (also naively or intentionally left out of the article). The last two majors of Bogota (the second most important political position in the country) belong to this party and several of the governors of its states or majors of other cities belong to the same party. There is no need to continue fighting for something already achieved politically, unless what FARC are fighting for is to maintain their drug trade and keep its profits.

Fede:

Mark,
By comparing Colombia's suffering with a melodramatic scene of a Telenovela, you just insulted all Colombians, especially those that have been victims of both right-wing and left-wing terrorist organizations.

The Washington Post should not have you as a guest any longer. This issue deserves better analysis and respect from professional journalists.

Andrew:

Isn't Mark Weisbrot allegedly an American Leading Economist, whith a number of accolades? Sad day in the man's life.

JohnVA:

Mark,
Maybe your point about the Bush Administration's involvement here is right but everything else you said is just way off base from the reality of the Colombian conflict.

In the future, if you are not going to research a complex foreign situation well enough; just write the American political side and stay out of international issues.

JohnVA

Bourassa:

Genuinely popular guerrilla movements, like the Sandinistas, never had to resort to the cruel methods used by the FARC.

The fact that they must bully and intimidate Colombians only shows how little support they really have.

I wish the Colombian people every success in prosecuting those paramilitaries who've committed crimes, and in WIPING OUT the FARC terrorists.

Tim Madigan:

Mark's views are a full sign of either his ignorance of what's really happening in Colombia or he's so entrenched with his dislike/hatred of the Bush administration, he's willing to side with FARC just to oppose them.

Either way, it scary to know someone like this has say over a number of people and is in a position of authority to have his views taken as realistic.

but I'm glad the Post has published them and kept them here (DON'T RETRACT IT). We need to know that there are people out there who are like this so we can react to them when they speak their ignorance to an unknowing group. Otherwise, people may come to believe their stories out of ignorance.

JJ:

I agree with Craig. As long as we keep sucking up coke like rabid vacuum cleaners, people will continue to be butchered in Colombia.

Betsey:

This article brings a false picture of what the true conflict is. THE FARC is a NARCO-TERRORIST group.
The FARC kidnaps, tortures, rapes,puts land mines, kills; not only government officials, but yes civilians as well. The reason why Chavez is so concern about this conflict is because he is loosing favor from his own people and the world, that he needs to portray as the good guy who cares. WE have eyes to see that this is all a political agenda for him. Chavez has links with drug trafficking, therefore he needs the FARC to do his dirty work, to built his empire on the cause of human lives; and he has his laborers,like Piedad Cordoba, to try to create divisions and doubt against the Colombian government and the Colombian people.
There has never been such a firm hand against this TERRORIST group then now; since the current president of Colombia has come into office. He is trying to bring peace in the country and is not afraid to go full force and attack this disease which is FARC.Since this government took office there has been an increase on security. This is one of the many reasons why Uribe gets critize by Chavez and people like Chavez, because he always seems to be one step ahead of them that sympatize with this TERRORIST group. Chavez is not only a threat to LAtin America, but to the United States and the world. With his statements he seems to be a Hitler of these times. I am not for any political group, but I do commend the United States government and the Colombian government in confronting these TERRORISTS. The Farc do not want peace. They have lied time after time. Many times in the pass they have gotten what they wanted, and yet continued with their Terrorist acts. The FARC does not want to leave their terrorist agenda because this would mean giving up their DRUG-TRADE. This is why they continue to kill innocent people and hold hostage people so they can create a barrier of protection and manipulation. We should continue in being firm with TERRORism. Governments should implement their terms and not the other way around. Freedom has a high price, and yes unfortunatley human lives, but we all know if we continue to be divided and pacify these TERRORists, they will continue bringing a blood shed to a country. Let us never forget our 3 mericans, being held hostage, as well as all the other hostages. We must demand their freedom. The only ones to blame for the inhuman conditions of the hostages are the FARC, no one else. The FARC were the ones that kidnapped them, now the FARC are the ones who have to set them free.
As common citizens of the United States we demand for Mr. MArk Weisbort to clarify his comments on this article. Journalism that paints a pretty picture on the reality of terrorism, should not be allowed. Terrorism is simply this, "Terrorism". Colombia is probbaly one of the few countries remaining that is a friend to the U.S.A. Let us show our support not only in words, but in action. Congress should not forget the threat that Chavez is to the the neiboring countries as well as the United States, and help pass this commerce bill; which would allow Colombia and the USA to depend less on doing trade with their enemy- CHAVEZ. Once again it would be good if clarifications would be made regarding this article. I believe the Colombian people and people around the world are so sick and tired of comments, articles that blames the innocent and protects the terrorist. People are so fed up with it that they have decided to take a stand on FEBRUARY 4th, around the world. To shout in one voice, LET THE HOSTAGES FREE! NO ONE IS TO BLAME BUT THE FARC! WE DON't WANT CONDITIONS, BUT FREEDOM FOR ALL THE HOSTAGES!!
In all of this I pray that God will be the guide. That the hostages would not loose hope, and that a miracle would occur just like it did when God send his Son JESUS into this world, so we could have a chance of a new life, if we believe. Let us continue to pray for all of the hostages. "We came into this world free, and free we should stay"

Betsey:

This article brings a false picture of what the true conflict is. THE FARC is a NARCO-TERRORIST group.
The FARC kidnaps, tortures, rapes,puts land mines, kills; not only government officials, but yes civilians as well. The reason why Chavez is so concern about this conflict is because he is loosing favor from his own people and the world, that he needs to portray as the good guy who cares. WE have eyes to see that this is all a political agenda for him. Chavez has links with drug trafficking, therefore he needs the FARC to do his dirty work, to built his empire on the cause of human lives; and he has his laborers,like Piedad Cordoba, to try to create divisions and doubt against the Colombian government and the Colombian people.
There has never been such a firm hand against this TERRORIST group then now; since the current president of Colombia has come into office. He is trying to bring peace in the country and is not afraid to go full force and attack this disease which is FARC.Since this government took office there has been an increase on security. This is one of the many reasons why Uribe gets critize by Chavez and people like Chavez, because he always seems to be one step ahead of them that sympatize with this TERRORIST group. Chavez is not only a threat to LAtin America, but to the United States and the world. With his statements he seems to be a Hitler of these times. I am not for any political group, but I do commend the United States government and the Colombian government in confronting these TERRORISTS. The Farc do not want peace. They have lied time after time. Many times in the pass they have gotten what they wanted, and yet continued with their Terrorist acts. The FARC does not want to leave their terrorist agenda because this would mean giving up their DRUG-TRADE. This is why they continue to kill innocent people and hold hostage people so they can create a barrier of protection and manipulation. We should continue in being firm with TERRORism. Governments should implement their terms and not the other way around. Freedom has a high price, and yes unfortunatley human lives, but we all know if we continue to be divided and pacify these TERRORists, they will continue bringing a blood shed to a country. Let us never forget our 3 mericans, being held hostage, as well as all the other hostages. We must demand their freedom. The only ones to blame for the inhuman conditions of the hostages are the FARC, no one else. The FARC were the ones that kidnapped them, now the FARC are the ones who have to set them free.
As common citizens of the United States we demand for Mr. MArk Weisbort to clarify his comments on this article. Journalism that paints a pretty picture on the reality of terrorism, should not be allowed. Terrorism is simply this, "Terrorism". Colombia is probbaly one of the few countries remaining that is a friend to the U.S.A. Let us show our support not only in words, but in action. Congress should not forget the threat that Chavez is to the the neiboring countries as well as the United States, and help pass this commerce bill; which would allow Colombia and the USA to depend less on doing trade with their enemy- CHAVEZ. Once again it would be good if clarifications would be made regarding this article. I believe the Colombian people and people around the world are so sick and tired of comments, articles that blames the innocent and protects the terrorist. People are so fed up with it that they have decided to take a stand on FEBRUARY 4th, around the world. To shout in one voice, LET THE HOSTAGES FREE! NO ONE IS TO BLAME BUT THE FARC! WE DON't WANT CONDITIONS, BUT FREEDOM FOR ALL THE HOSTAGES!!
In all of this I pray that God will be the guide. That the hostages would not loose hope, and that a miracle would occur just like it did when God send his Son JESUS into this world, so we could have a chance of a new life, if we believe. Let us continue to pray for all of the hostages. "We came into this world free, and free we should stay"

Joana:

This article was excellent, and it accurately portrayed FARC and the conflict in Colombia as well as the role of international actors. I was so glad to see this alternative, and very informed, point of view.

Javier Morales:

People want proof that Bush has spoken to Uribe regarding the FARC/Chavez/hostages. He spoke to Uribe the day he called off the New Year's rescue - according to the White House itself.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071231-3.html

"Also this morning the President spoke with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. They spoke this morning to exchange New Year's best wishes. President Uribe also updated the President on the situation involving the possible release of three Colombian nationals held by the FARC, noting that various issues are still being worked out. The two leaders reaffirmed the strong relationship between the United States and Colombia. And the President reiterated his strong support for gaining the approval of the Free Trade Agreement between our two countries."

This was widely reported on in the Colombian press, but not here, as was Bush's conversation w/ Uribe the day he broke off Chavez's mediation in November.

Want more proof? Here's the paragraph from an IPS article describing both the November and December Bush-Uribe phone calls.

"Interestingly, just before Uribe called off Chávez's mediation efforts, and just before he announced the appearance of 'Emmanuel II', he received phone calls from the same source: U.S. President George W. Bush. "

OD:

Peace, not revolution, is the path to social justice in Colombia.

And - since they won't lay down their arms and come in - the only road to peace lies over the dead bodies of the evil FARC.

Paulo Emilio:

Based on the response from my Colombian brothers and sisters on this message board, it clearly shows how ignorant the author is about Colombia. It is articles like these, and the lunacy of people like Oliver Stone that perpetuate the myth that Colombia is run by right wing death squads and that the real heros are the FARC. I love the idea of one poster - if Chavez loves the FARC so much, why doesn't he take them?

The fact is, Uribe enjoys a 70% approval rating. He has made Colombia safer, a fact for which all Colombians are grateful. And the international community is lining up one by one to denounce Chavez. I agree that Mr. Weisbrot needs to learn more about Colombia before spouting off.

I have stated before that knee jerk reactions like Mr. Weisbrots are probably deep rooted in an anti Bush mentality. Please don't let your feelings for Mr. Bush cloud your understanding of the situation in Colombia. I can't stand George Bush either, but you don't have to condemn Uribe or support the FARC or Chavez just to get back at Mr. Bush. All you do is prolong Colombia's suffering.

Colombia llora pero Colombia no se rinde. Adelante mis hermanos y hermanas colombianos y juntos derotamos a las FARC. Deje que su voz se escuche el 4 de febrero. DENUNCIA LAS FARC. VIVA COLOMBIA!

www.colombiasoyyo.org

Vecino:

Sorry Colombians but your country's still messed up, now if love your country so much then leave your cushy positions here in Wash DC (IDB, WB anyone?), leave your nice horses stables and do something over there, repopulate the middle class. Most latinoamericans know how entrenched narcotraffic is within Colombia's society, that's how it's been. Both FARC and right-wing paras still roam free and there is too many powerful interests and money to let this war being stopped for good.

Liliana:

This column is offensive to a democratically elected government and to the people of Colombia. Colombia is a sovereign country and by raising such petitions, Chavez has disrespected the president who was elected by the vast majority of the Colombians.

I wonder why Mr. Weisbrot thinks we should support initiatives that may undermine the strength of our democracy and if he has given any thoughts about the legitimacy of these petitions.

I am surprised by either his naiveness or ignorance (or both).

SA:

You just cannot equal a terrorist group with a democratic state and its government. The mistakes of the latter are undeniable, but you just can't equal them. Though imperfect, we're talking about a state that has a long history of stable democracy (contrary to its neighbors), a clear separation of powers and where many of the abuses by government officials have been prosecuted domestically and internationally. You may not be aware that this terrorist group is holding some of the hostages in concentration camps. Hostages are kept with chains to their necks and wrists and within cages built in barb wire.
http://www.educweb.org/webnews/ColNews-Feb06/French/Press/ELSECUESTROUNALENTAAGONIA.html
It's NOT 1940s, Germany. It IS 2008, Colombia.

OD:

I have been to Colombia, and I hope American readers are noticing the unanimous rejection of the FARC by the Colombians posting here.

I loathe GW Bush and his policies, but the FARC are mass kidnappers. What does that say about the way they would govern Colombia if somehow they won their unwinnable war?

Chavez went much further than saying they aren't terrorists. He said they had a "Bolivarian" project, which in Latin America is tantamount to saying they are legitimate.

Well, Colombia is a real democracy. So if the FARC are legitimate, why can't they win an election?

Because everyone in Colombia hates them, that's why. Wake up. Sheesh.

Daniel O'Sullivan:

Mark writes:

"For his part, Chavez has stated clearly that he does not support the FARC’s armed struggle or kidnappings, and has offered to try to convince its leadership to put down their arms and pursue a peaceful, electoral route to political change."

jajajaja!! Are you kidding me?

Juan Diego Borda:

Dear Mr.Weisbrot

Please wake up.You seem to have a dreamland perspective of this situation. FARC will not negotiate any peace. They have millions of dollars of income from drug traffic. Who is going to drop that? Specially when you are backed up in your operation by a" Democratic Goverment (Venezuela)". Have you seen a map? The Orinoco River has become The Free-Way of cocaine. Please see the map, it is self explanatory. This criminal organizations have no idological map anymore this is about money and power . Wake up.

After 40 years of attempts to negotiate with these people, they make fun of everyone everytime. You may have to read a little bit more about " El Caguan" an effort from Pastrana's administration in 2000, with a de-militarized area, that intended to to create the conditions to free the all hostages and begin a peace process. They did not even showed up at the meeting leaving Mr Pastrana like a stupid. They said they would stay for 3 months and became 3 years. The area became a training camp, full of cocaine labs, thousands of kidnapped innocent Colombians, and gave them the muscle to make us fear the end of all.

Please stop reading Robin Hood and put you feet on the ground. You have a big responsability with these space you have been given.The pressure should go agaist the violent, the undemocratic ones. Not against democratic governments . Bush and freinds are also terrorist if you will but that does not authorize the rest of the world us to be like him.

Mr Uribe could be whatever you want (bush friend, empire protector, bla, bla,bla, that sound like 60's rethoric) It might be true but he returned to Colombians their country, that was this close to become a failed state.

i respectfully encourage you to research a little bit more and talk to average Colombians before daring to speak out,

Greetings

Juan Diego Borda

BERRACO:

Mark, how about a response to our comments, and an apology to the Colombian people you have insulted by writing this post.
Personally, I am very worried on what kind of research your organization conducts.
Is this organization for real? Because any of this people writing on this blog have more information than you.
And I said “worried” because if you are providing this erroneous information to people that make decisions, you are going to make matters worst for all the innocent people that are left behind.

Nobcentral:

It's "Colombia" not "Columbia". Columbia is a city in South Carolina and a University in NY.

And, let me just suggest that the author of this piece has gone way far off the deep end. Next time someone comes at you with a kitchen knife to perform a C-section to extract the baby that was raped into your stomach, keep telling yourself, "They're not terrorists, they're not terrorists."

Further, to the "even terrorists can negotiate" claim, let's remember 2 things: 1. Uribe has a proposal on the table to establish a DMZ for negotiations that the FARC has rejected and 2. The last time the Colombian government gave the FARC a large, DMZ (like they want now), they used the land to rebuild their strength and violated the accord they were a party to. It's up to the FARC to demonstrate that they are serious about a peace process - not the Colombian government.

Finally, while I agree that the Bush Doctrine is fundamentally stupid, it doesn't make sense to throw caution to the wind and run to Chavez in hopes that he will miraculously save the day. Remember, Chavez is a virtual dictator who sides with the FARC at a philosophical level and claims that no Venezuelans are being held by the terrorist org (a claim resoundely refuted yesterday). He's no more of an "honest broker" than George Bush would be. But by all means, let's get a dialogue going. Maybe the Church can play a role. And maybe the FARC will show a sign of humanity and let the ICRC into their "country prisons" to treat the victims of this terrible insurgency.

But I wouldn't hold your breath or anything while you wait. Could prove hazardous to your health.

Julian P.:

Funny how everybody seems to disagree with the article... but there in is the reason why I treat the post like a tabloid - it's not worth reading, all they do is publish poorly researched rubbish.

Also a great threat to Americans:

Mr. Weisbort also is also naif about negotiating with hostage takers. Can someone imagine how many Americans would be kidnapped and taken hostage if word spread out that Washington negotiated with terrorists/insurgents/rebels however you want to call them?

COLOMBIAN GIRL:

OYE NI ERES COLOMBIANO NI VIVES AQUI PARA SABER ALGO D LA CRUDA REALIDAD D ESTA GUERRA..Y SABES ESPAÑOL? ..AL MENOS COMPRENDE Q LAS COSAS EN ESTE PAIS.. SON EXTREMO Y LAS FARC ES UN EXTREMO ABSURDO Y DESPIADADO..SON UNOS TERRORISTAS , COMO LOS PARAMILITARES, AQUI NADIE ES BUENO, Y LOS UNICOS Q SUFREN ES LA POBLACON CAMPESINA Y LA POBLACION CIVIL..

Mauricio Rodriguez:

It is disheartening to anyone with hope for a better future to read comments such as Mr. Weisbrot's. They are, to say the least, an insult and a slap on the face to anyone who wishes for peace and prosperity in this troubled region.

We can read a truly informed opinion regarding this issue from The Washington Post Editorial
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/15/AR2008011503223.html)

"...the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an organization that in the past decade has kidnapped more than 750 people who remain missing..."
"...The FARC, which decades ago discarded the Marxist ideology it wielded in the 1960s for the mercenary causes of abduction and drug trafficking, is anything but an altruistic movement..."
"Mr. Chávez described the FARC and another Colombian group, the Army of National Liberation (ELN), as "not terrorists" but "genuine armies." He claimed that they possessed "a Bolivarian political project that is respected here," ..."
"It was encouraging to see the revulsion this statement instantly produced in Latin America, where terrorism has caused incalculable damage..."
"...No wonder even governments allied with Mr. Chávez, such as those of Argentina and Ecuador, recoiled from his appeal...."
"The answer to this logic was provided by the press office of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who has been waging what is, in fact, a heroic battle against the brutal gangs that for decades have plagued his country. "The violent groups of Colombia are terrorists because they finance themselves through a business that is lethal to humanity: drug trafficking," the press office said. (The FARC exports hundreds of tons of cocaine annually, and an increasing portion of it passes through Venezuela.) "The violent groups of Colombia are terrorists because they kidnap, place bombs indiscriminately, recruit and murder children, murder pregnant women, murder the elderly and use antipersonnel mines that leave in their wake thousands of innocent victims." All these assertions have been well documented by Western human rights groups that are otherwise hostile to Mr. Uribe's government."

Carlos Bernal:

Is there any link to report offensive articles? Im Colombian (and i think that more than 90% of Colombians will agree with me) and im offended with this article!

Craig:

The sad situation in Columbia demands a much higher level of insight and restraint than you have shown in your article. What's even sadder is that George Bush and Hugo Chavez are exploiting Columbia's misery for gain. As an American, I would prefer us not to bank roll military operations we really can no longer afford (i.e. $20k per US household for Iraq). As a believer in Democracy, I cannot side with terrorists who reak havoc for financial gain. If someone could pull some of the money out of the cocaine and weapons trade I think Columbia's internal war would eventually collapse out of disinterest. Perhaps the US should go on a diet when it comes to cocaine consumption and our politicians should get a little stingier with military spending. With all the money we'd save we could help Columbia build better schools, a stronger economy, and the rule of law.

Lorenzo Morales:

Mark,
The day after the well-publicized liberation of the two hostages, the FARC kidnapped six people in the western province of Chocó. They were not politicians, bussinesmen nor representants of the "oligarchy".

Two of them were young teachers. One a mathematicain and his wife a biologist. Is this how the FARC pretend to defend el pueblo?

It's nice to strat a piece saying "for those who had the time to look beyond the headlines..." Make sure you make part of them.

Tim Taylor:

Mark, It's so sad to see an american news man so deep in the pockets of Mr. Chavez, how much is he paying you to give this unreal portrait of the Colombian Conflict? I'm sorry for suggesting it if it's not the case but your investigation and knowledge of the real facts is so lame that one can only assume that you have been paid to write this propaganda in favor of Chavez, Piedad Cordoba and farc, and of course against President Alvaro Uribe.
Money goes a long way for Mr chavez!, wow.

Felipe Gonzalez:

M Mark Weisbrot is misinformed and has an outsiders' naive vision of Latin America. Hugo Chavez wants the FARC off the EU terrorist lists so it can be legal again to finance them from nostalgic Che Guevara T-Sirt leftists from the Old Continent, and use them as a now "legitimate "Bolivarian" paramilitary force in his quest for dominance in South America. Mr. Weisbrot also "forgets" to mention that FARC is the largest drug cartel in the world (which makes the US its bigger financier!), or that they just kidnapped 6 tourists a couple of days ago. Shame on you Mr. Weisbrot! Your intentions are probably noble. But as someone who has been a direct victim of FARC crimes, I can assure that, if put in practice your views would help perpetuate the suffering and pain of all Colombians. Please read the editorial page of this dairy, Mr. Weisbrot.

Alejandro:

How much money did you get from Chavez for this one?

Juan C Nader Cali Colombia:

About profanity, which it is all this outrageus article have, disguised in proper words. Profanity against the dignity of the Colombian people and profanity against every victim and their relatives, which have been murdered, kidnapped, mutilated, extorsionated or removed from their lands and homes, by this miserable terrorist and killers. Shame on you! You are a liar! 42 millions of Colombians are horrified for what you are writing and saying. We are sick of them! You should vist www. colombiasoyyo.org and see what´s really happening.

Juan C Nader Cali Colombia:

About profanity, which it is all this outrageus article have, disguised in proper words. Profanity against the dignity of the Colombian people and profanity against every victim and their relatives, which have been murdered, kidnapped, mutilated, extorsionated or removed from their lands and homes, by this miserable terrorist and killers. Shame on you! You are a liar! 42 millions of Colombians are horrified for what you are writing and saying. We are sick of them! You should vist www. colombiasoyyo.org and see what´s really happening.

Hernan Restrepo:

Mr. Weisbrot,
Why do not you do yourself a favor and read today's (Wednesday, January 16, 2008; Page A14)Washington Post editorial:

Ally to Kidnappers
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez endorses Colombian groups known for abductions, drug trafficking and mass murder.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/15/AR2008011503223.html

And after doing your homework you can let us know if your disagreement with the Bush administration is bigger than your subjective way to represent the Colombian conflict.

Colombiano Indignado:

Mr. Mark.

I think most of the comments in here show the how teh majority of colombians and venezuelans feel. Pleas do not miss inform the American people. I think an article of the same length is appropriate to show the progress of the Colombian government and its people in the las years. LETS ALL ASK FOR AN ARTICLE SHOWN THE PROGRESS IN COLOMBIA AS IT IS THE CUSTOM WHEN THE PRESS MISS INFORMS.

210:

Please, people; stop frothing at the mount and read the article more carefully. The author is clearly not arguing that the FARC is not a terrorist organization. Instead, he is describing Chavez's shrewd diplomatic skills that secured release of hostages. That is no mean feat now, is it? In addition, he is exposing the Bush administration's hypocrisy and ulterior motives. Read again and see if you can transcend your own prejudice.

Vanessa:

I'm Venezuelan and I lived for most of my life in the state of Tachira, right in the border with Colombia. I am VERY proud of my President Chavez for taking the great courage of dealing with the internal conflict of Colombia that has affected Venezuelans. I also agree that the FARC, who I DO NOT SUPPORT, needs to stop using kidnaps as a political weapon while their level of terrorist is also vanished. Let's be real, after 9/11 they were labeled as terrorist because of the Bush Administration, the biggest funder of Uribe,

Javier Morales:

Many of you have missed the point of the article. NO WHERE in the article does the author defend the FARC. Actually, Weisbrot writes, "The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings."
The point is that placing the legal term "terrorists" on the group may be a hindrance to a peace plan, as a military victory is impossible. If a military solution was possible, why has the war now lasted over 43 years? This is a view held by not only Chavez, but by many Latin American leaders.
The FARC as well as the AUC and other paramilitaries (with extensive government ties) have used these horrendous tactics for decades, but were not previously labeled terrorists.
How can one deny that many cynically manipulate the term "terrorism" to describe groups one ideologically opposes?
And to you who say that the FARC are the only perpetrators of these acts for the last 6 years or over time - You need to do your research. Recent reports by Human Rights Watch and other NGOs indicate that the Colombian military is clearly still involved in killing innocent civilians.
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/10/18/colomb17131.htm
Are they terrorists? Are they only not because they wear government uniforms?
Also - the ties between the Uribe government and the AUC and other paramilitaries are extensive and well-documented. To say that the FARC is the only problem reveals your ideological bias.

As the BBC reported in November:
"Human rights groups say the line between the war on drugs and the war on rebels is increasingly blurred. They say Colombia's rebels have been disproportionately targeted in Plan Colombia, though it is the paramilitaries who have been most involved in drug-trafficking."

Colombian in SF:

I would like to know where is the documentation of the alleged phone call Bush made to Uribe to drop Chavez from the negotiations with FARC? I am not asking this to support one side or the other, but its this kind of undocumented statements the ones you can just through on the table to create more controversy, its irresponsible and it hurts Colombians! Why don't you take a trip down to Colombia Mr. Weisbrot and go into the jungles, better yet announce that you will be there and experience for 6 or 9 years the attrocities this FARC bastards will do to you! Did you even take the time to read any of the letters the hostages sent to their families? Do you have a heart?

Colombian in SF:

I would like to know where is the documentation of the alleged phone call Bush made to Uribe to drop Chavez from the negotiations with FARC? I am not asking this to support one side or the other, but its this kind of undocumented statements the ones you can just through on the table to create more controversy, its irresponsible and it hurts Colombians! Why don't you take a trip down to Colombia Mr. Weisbrot and go into the jungles, better yet announce that you will be there and experience for 6 or 9 years the attrocities this FARC bastards will do to you! Did you even take the time to read any of the letters the hostages sent to their families? Do you have a heart?

Frank in DC.:

Mark,

Clearly you don't understand the Colombian reality or you've been watching too many soup operas (pardon me!). The Colombian reality is much too serious and complicated, and writing from your desk thousand miles way in DC is very hard to understand. Your facts are wrong! I don't believe 40MM Colombians are delirious when they support their President Uribe and reject the FARC terrorist and its partner Chavez. Please be respectful to President Uribe an 40MM Colombians by speaking the truth.

Jairo:

PLEASE! Do your resaerch. The colombian people, 44 million, freely and democratically elected and then re-elected Uribe specifically bc of his hard line with these murderers, kidnappers, and drug trafficers. The dont have an ounce of credibility with the colombian people, and do not want Uribe to re-treat one step from his plan for their total annihilation. There is a military solution to the conflict, as is clear to those of us who in Colombia; the kidnappings are down exponentially, the country is safer since 1964, and international investments have the economy growing at over 7%. the thugs are either dying, hiding in holes in the jungle, and the cappos of this mafia, once called the FARC, are living under protection by Chavez in the suburbs of Caracas, the venezuelan capital.
The european and international community that you mention are fully aware that Mr. Chaves and Ms. Cordoba are communists who want to set up a Cuban-style dictatiorship in Northern South America, and are up to their earlobes in drug-trafficking to finance their expansionist political ambitions.

God save president Uribe, and lets hope for a successful war and end to this evil known to Colombians as the "FARC."

Richard:

You forgot to mention in your article that FARC controls most of the cocaine and drug business in Colombia. Do you really think they are willnig to negotiate and give up the millions of dollars they make every year from this business. This conflict is not going to end until either drugs are legalized or people (mostly Europeans and Americans) stop snorting cocaine up their noses.

Alex Garcia:

This statement is so politically correct:
"The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings." FARC is a terrorist group period!!
They kill and kidnap innocent people, including women and children. No ideal can support this group! Only people from Colombia and Venezuela can understand the pain and suiffering caused by this terrorist group. I wish that you as a Journalist would educate yourself more and travel down there to learn first hand how this terrorist group has damaged Colombia for so long. Please talk to a former hostage or the family of victims to understand the real situation.


Alex Garcia:

This statement is so politically correct:
"The FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings." FARC is a terrorist group period!!
They kill and kidnap inocent people, including women and children. No ideal can support this group! Only people from Colombia and Venezuela can understand the pain and suiffering caused by this terrorist group. I wish that you as a Journalist would educate yourself more and travel down there to learn first hand how this terrorist group has damaged Colombia for so long. Please talk to a former hostage or the family of victims to understand the real situation.


Chris O:

It think there are about 3 posters repeating the same basic message under different names. "I am from Columbia, you don't know my country. You do a great dis-service, you owe us an apology" etc. etc.

Colombian :

This is incredible!,

You have no idea about the real situation, you must retract!

Marco From Venezuela:

oh and i forgot to mention.. chavez paid FARC $500 million dollars for the Release of the hostages... the operation cost $30million...


incredible... and here in venezuela he dont have milk, oil, meats, chicken, eggs, margarine, rice, sugar, and so many more things...

people have to do 6hr lines just for 2lbs of powdered milk..

i beleive venezuela is the Nº 1 most corrupt country on the planet

Mario M.:

Mark, As some of the people who posted their opinions on this article, I, very respectfully want to ask you not to talk about an issue, if you don't have a complete knowledge of the theme.
Very delicate political themes like the FARC and the things going on in a country you probably haven't been at, requires a deep study, including visits, interviews, taks with "the stars", and most of all: Living there for a while to get the feeling.
I found your opinions about the FARC, The kidnapped people, Colombia, and even Venezuelan President Chavez with all his stupidity, Very out of line and lacking of the main Ingredient which is the want we call Indigenous malice.
An excellent and deep writer like you, should be talking about Martha Stewart...maybe Britney Spears. Thank you.

Javier:

How can you say that Piedad Corcoba is a coreageous woman when all she does is trash the goverment of Colombia. also she supports this criminal group. you need to get your facts more clear and perhaps go to Colombia and investigate before you write from your little office and go by what people that support the FARC say. The president of Colombia has his hands tied because if he is aggresive with the FARC than the international community will attack him on grounds of violations of human rights but yet the FARC are doing worse things taking 10 year old kids from their families and turning them into assassins having the women have forced abortions. why aren't you reporting about this? I do not agree with the US war in irak but you don't seem to report on that. I guess you are a big supporter of the venezuelan goverment. why aren't you reporting about the kidanpping of venezuelans by the FARC and why isn't Chavez doing anything about it? I'm sorry that the washington post let some one like you write about something that has little or none knowledge about Colombia.

JOVANY:

Sr Mark,

I invite you: please come to Colombia and know our reality

more than 98.% of Colombian people are against the FARC because they are killers. They love money from cocaine trade. A lot of its soldiers are children. Etc, etc, etc.

I from Colombia, I don't like Uribe Govermment, but I can see clearly that FARC are monsters.

PLEASE MARK OPEN YOUR EYES

CARLOS G. :

MARK.
I'M SURPISED ABOUT YOUR ARTICLE. MAJORITY OF YOUR OPINIONS ARE WRONG. I SUGGEST TO INVESTIGATE MORE ABOUT THIS PROBLEM.

CARLOS G. :

MARK.
I'M SURPISED ABOUT YOUR ARTICLE. MAJORITY OF YOUR OPINIONS ARE WRONG. I SUGGEST TO INVESTIGATE MORE ABOUT THIS. PROBLEM.

Berraco:

I just realized that Mark is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

REALLY MARK YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER!!!!

Berraco:

Four words to start "Mark has No Clue"
although Mark probably meant well, he wrote from his heart guided by his hate for Bush and armed with his ignorance.
Colombia has had this conflict for decades and simple negotiation will not help.
When a snake attacks you, you don't try to reason with it you kill it before it attacks the rest of your love ones.
FARC is a terrorist organization, and Chavez is a Snake. Negotiating with them is like negotiating with Al-kaida. they are not moved by the original beliefs of doing good for their people, they are now moved by their own interests. Chavez is using this conflict to drive Colombians against their government.
Colombians are noble people and deserve much better.
Mark, try to get some basic information before writing about something that is so important.
Miss information and miss understanding is the mother of most conflicts.

Francisco Gomez:

Dear Mr. Weisbrot:

I am astounded with your article. I find it not only irresponsible, but also offensive to the Colombian people. I do not understand how such an important publication as the Washington Post, allows this article to be published; you are obviously ignorant about what is going on in Colombia. This article was visibly based on your opinion rather than a thorough investigation of the facts. Let me clarify some issues for your understanding:

1. Piedad Cordoba is not a “courageous senator”. She has proved to be Chavez’ spokes woman in Colombia and an unconditional friend of FARC.
2. President Uribe did not withdraw Chavez authorization to mediate because of a phone call from President Bush like you said. President Uribe did so because Chavez was going beyond the scope of his role and interfering in internal issues of Colombia. He was not authorized to speak with the Colombian Army and he knowingly did so challenging the Colombian authorities.
3. No other government supports Chavez’ ridiculous idea of recognizing FARC as insurgents. Even his closest allies (Ecuador, France, etc…) have said that FARC are terrorists and should continue to be considered terrorists. Where did you come up with the idea that other governments support such and absurd proposition?
4. How do you dare to call the Colombian government terrorists or even compare them to FARC? As a Colombian I have lived years of tragedy, terror, pain, suffering, and devastation because of the actions of FARC. They put bombs on churches, buses, schools, malls, killing thousands of people. They kidnap and keep hostages tied to polls with chains under horrifying conditions. They rape women, recruit children for the war, forcing them to leave their families afraid that something could happen to them. They destroy our infrastructure and attack innocent civilians every day. In the mean time, the government fights to provide dignity and safety to its citizens, struggles to feed the poor, and deals with ignorant enemies like yourself that speak without knowing the truth damaging the country’s reputation and empowering the terrorist group of FARC to keep doing what they do best, killing innocent people. If you had done your homework, you would have found that 10 years ago, people in Colombia were not even safe in the cities. Civilians were afraid to go to a mall, a concert, or even a soccer game in fear that a bomb would kill them or they could be kidnapped. Thanks to that government that you disrespectfully call terrorist, the Colombian people live a different reality and believe in a better future. You cannot compare our government with FARC simply because you are in disagreement with the Bush administration. That is simply disrespectful and irresponsible.
5. You need only to speak with a Colombian or a Venezuelan citizen to find out that Hugo Chavez is a supporter of FARC. He openly said that FARC were “an army operating in Colombian territory, who deserve to be recognized as insurgents”. Furthermore, he said that “ FARC have a political ideology that is coherent with the Bolivarian revolution of Venezuela and is welcomed here (meaning Venezuela)”. Anyone that is a friend of FARC is an enemy of Colombia. You need to understand that 95% or more of the Colombian people are against FARC. They do not have an ideology, they are simply a group of mercenaries, experts on drug trafficking and killing innocent people.
6. The Bush administration, as did the Clinton administration in the past has supported Colombian efforts to put an end to this war. Never did Bush or Clinton say that their support was conditioned to military actions. In the opposite, both Bush and Clinton have supported multiple negotiation efforts that have been unsuccessful. Not only during President Uribe’s term, but also under Pastrana’s presidency, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate, but FARC have lied and cheated so no negotiation has ever been successful. Not to go any further, you speak about the liberation of the two women as an act of good faith by FARC, but you seem to forget that only a couple days later, the same terrorist organization kidnapped 6 people in Choco.

I do not know what motivated you to take such an ignorant position regarding Colombia. I do agree that there is a need for some negotiation since military actions alone will not be enough. However, it is an insult to compare the good people of Colombia (represented on its government) with their internal enemies. Those who have killed our families and kidnapped our friends, and who have taken part of our territory by force. Those we Colombians don’t want in our country. I hope the next time you venture to write an article on Colombia, you get enough information and base it on real issues rather than a romantic opinion.

C: Hernandez Amaya:

THe fact of a right wing of armed force make voilation of Human Righs not allow to anybody to bretray the pain of thousand of victims of Farc saying: the farc is not a terrorist organization. You can say Stalin was a respecful of the human rights because hitler was engagen in the extermination of the jews? is the same logic you put in your toughts now.
The Farc is a narcoterrist with or without Bush or any other foreing governement politic.

S. Ospina:

Mr. Weisbrot clearly is misinformed, but the real problem is that he is misinforming the readers too.

The truth is the FARC heads are narcoterrorist whose only interest is to take control of an "strategic corridor" to continue with its very profitable business no matter what. (Look at the map)

Please don´t be confused, FARC will never be interested in peace talks with this or any future president (or any other president as the history showed), they are just asking for a demilitarized area so they can go ahead with the drug export business.
Honestly and respectfully Mark, please make some more research and perhaps you can really understand Colombia´s reality.
Of course not everyone supports the current goberment of Colombia or the USA but surely 99.9% are against FARC.
PS: There is a iniciative by the Colombian civil organizations to "march" against FARC in February hope you can comment on that.

Marco from Venezuela:

Mark, you clearly had no clue to the reality in colombia or Chavez, i advise you to not write BS. did you know that chavez funds the FARC?
did you know the guerillas that released Clara and consuelo, their weapons belong to the venezuelan armed force? and the leader had a Kalashnikov assault riffle, one of the ones chavez bought from Russia...


i could got writing all day long with all the corruption and so on about chavez and Farc.

David Arroyo:

The Colombian Government should go to the mountain burn everything downthere, so you will see how those FARC soldier come out from that jungle and they can arrest them, they have to cover the whole jungle with colombian soldier then place a fire all over until they came out and the soldier can catch all of them that is the end of the history about the FARC, in the place like that country isn't suppose to be people thinking like the Tiro fijo La FARC comander because they have the right for election and democracy, The only country need las FARC is venezuela and Cuba so they can fight to finished that kind of government in there.
David

Rodrigo Sandoval:

As a Colombian I am surprise on how stupid the writer of this article is. I am sorryl, but Chávez's intervention on the humanitarian interchange only showed the world he likes better a terrorist organization that kills civilians, put bombs, kidnapp over 700 people for economic and "political" reasons and keep young military guys on concentration camps in Colombia's tropical forest over 10 years, than a democratic government. Yes Mr. Uribe's administration does not want to have a serious talk with guerrillas, but if you read any of his appeareances on both presidential campaigns, he called people to vote on that, an military-based victory over guerrillas, and both times he won by a huge gap, on open elections where participated candidates from the left and the right winds of politics.
I do believe the government has to negociate, but only if FARC shows a serious comminment to celebrate a peace treaty, otherwise they most keep fighting and getting colombian people to hate them.
One last thing, if you read or hear any of the hostages letters or the press conferences of Clara Rojas and Consuelo González you will find the torture they have suffered from FARC. And The ICBF (The Foster-Parents program in Colombia) has showed the government does a great job taking care of those who need it the most, as they did with Emmanuel.

Paula Osorio:

Mr. Writer,

I can only forgive you for your lack of information about the real situation in my beloved country, that I think for you, is just another third world country that doesn't know how to manage their own way. However it is not nice at all, to read this kind of articles in a news paper as the Washington Post, not only because I know most of the americans read it, and I am sure they are having a mislead point of view, but because the Washignton Post should encourage their journalist to at least read more o watch tv more, or in fact investigate more, before writing something that favors a group of killers, and their allies.

Next time, Mr. Mark, please at least do your homework.

Alberto:

A country has a civil war when the whole country is divided in two oposite fighting bands. That is not colombian situation. FARC is a terrorist 20.000 members group from a 40 million people country. If you ask any person in Colombia about FARC, you will see that 99% hates them. I disagree with your article because it doesn´t reflects the colombian reality.

David :

Another writer that seems blind to the suffering of the Colombian people, victims of the FARC mafia business for 40+ years.

It's incredible (inmoral?) to put the Colombian government, even with all it's faults, at the same level of the FARC. The former represents the law and the Colombian people, while the latter, even if it ever had some ideals, has become a drug trafficking business, fueled by the U.S. and European drug consumption.

If the U.S. and other nations want to help, then stop consuming drugs.

Colombian in USA:

Dear Mark:

It is very sad to see an article like this being published in a prestigious diary as "The Washington Post". I am very proud to be a USA citizen and I am willing to fight for USA if necessary. However, as a colombian, I can not ignore what is going on in there. I am very close to the suffering of friends held captive by the FARC in the jungles in Colombia. One of the big leassons taught by living in USA is the fairness of US citizens when facing reality.... I just read fromyour article that you do not have either the information nor the fairness neccesary to judge the situation in Colombia. I invite you to travel to Colombia and spent some time there and document all stories of released hostages, interview ex-FARC combatients and show the world the reality of what is happening in Colombia.... you may make the difference in your life and life of others by doing a balance work on facts and reality.

You can hurt more by miscommunicating the world than by fighting with a gun for the wrong ideas.

George Seals :

I will be the first to admit that I am not well informed about this matter. I will take the word of everyone that the FARC are bad folks, the clear lesser of two evils given that the Uribe government is not wonderful either. But this conflict has been ongoing for decades with no end in sight. Why do the the well informed believe that a continued military conflict with the FARC will result in victory for the Uribe government or their successor(s)? To the extent that the FARC controls much of the cocaine traffic, the military conflict seems to be working for them. They are probably okay with the status quo. A different approach does seem to be in order regardless of whether or not Mr. Weisbrot is well informed or not.

Fernando:

I fully adhere to previous commentaries. It is because of ignorant biased people like Mark that this country has not been able to defeat terrorism once and for all.
The FARC are the most violent, disgusting, repulsive, inhuman assasins, as well as torturers, drug dealers, kidnappers, etc. ¿Placing bombs in a shopping mall is not terrorism? ¿Killing kidnapped individuals, tied to a tree, with sticks and then cutting their throats because they could not afford the ransom is not terrorism? ¿Negotiating the head or the corpse of an murdered kidnapped victim is not terrorism? ¿Placing booby trap bombs in the fields to create panic among peasants is not terrorism? ¿Displacing whole families, recruiting infants, torturing innocent people, using teenage girls as sex toys cannot be labeled as terrorism? ¿Sending a little boy on top of an explosive loaded donkey into a small town to detonate it and create panic is not terrorism? Give me a break!!! All these atrocities are what the FARC has made us live with for the last 40 years. Maybe Mark should take a boy scout hike with these idealist peace lovers through the jungle to see for himself.
Chávez is one of the greatest dangers to peace in latin america. The fact that he is loaded with petro dollars makes him even more dangerous to democracy in the region. The FARC still exist because Venezuela is their safe haven. On the other hand, President Uribe is the only one that has rescued this country from the hands of the terrorists.
Please, Mark, show some respect to the thousands of victims of these ferocious animals, and also to such an important and meaningful institution as the Washington Post.

veneco:

Dear Mark;
I really disapointed with your article. We in Venezuela know by sure that Chavez the comunist, pay journalist to make lobby to their ideas in USA and the world. He has petrodollar to pay . Who knows..... ? My solidarity and Venezuela's to the Colombian democratic people. We are going to be free and democratics.

Fede:

Mark,
Your analysis is vague and superficial. Although my political views are liberal and I lean to the left, I also like to view my self as rational and objective, specially for issues that matter the most, like human life. The facts are irrefutable. The FARC is an organization that seeks power through violence, kidnapping, murdering, extortion, drug-trafficking and lies. The Paramilitaries are the same, if not worse. Nothing justifies these acts, regardless of the enemy you are fighting, this is not negotiable. If you think otherwise, then you are also justifying the acts of suicide bombers in civilian populations as a response to your government’s unlawful invasion of IRAK. Another difference you should consider is that Colombia’s president fought the Paramilitaries and encouraged the detention of politicians linked to these groups. Things can be done better, but so far, Uribe’s actions make me believe that he realizes that violence and its corruption needs to be fought regardless of the political spectrum. Also, you should consider that Colombia’s government has the ability to change and improve through political action, the FARC does not have this ability, and their actions in the past and present talk for themselves. Last week, as the FARC liberated Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, they also kidnapped 5 more Colombian civilians and a citizen of Norway. How do you negotiate with this? I don’t like to be taken for a fool, apparently you do.

Fede:

Mark,
Your analysis is vague and superficial. Although my political views are liberal and I lean to the left, I also like to view my self as rational and objective, specially for issues that matter the most, like human life. The facts are irrefutable. The FARC is an organization that seeks power through violence, kidnapping, murdering, extortion, drug-trafficking and lies. The Paramilitaries are the same, if not worse. Nothing justifies these acts, regardless of the enemy you are fighting, this is not negotiable. If you think otherwise, then you are also justifying the acts of suicide bombers in civilian populations as a response to your government’s unlawful invasion of IRAK. Another difference you should consider is that Colombia’s president fought the Paramilitaries and encouraged the detention of politicians linked to these groups. Things can be done better, but so far, Uribe’s actions make me believe that he realizes that violence and its corruption needs to be fought regardless of the political spectrum. Also, you should consider that Colombia’s government has the ability to change and improve through political action, the FARC does not have this ability, and their actions in the past and present talk for themselves. Last week, as the FARC liberated Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, they also kidnapped 5 more Colombian civilians and a citizen of Norway. How do you negotiate with this? I don’t like to be taken for a fool, apparently you do?

Jose Botero:

Dear Mark:
The FARC is a terrorist group because: It kidnaps innocent people (including women and children), it has deliberetly assasinated thousands of innocent people, it has forcefully recruited minors (as young as 13 year old) to fight on their front, and it now exports most of the cocaine traffic out of Colombia.
You don´t have any idea of Colombia´s reality: You seem to share Oliver Stone´s and other naive or ignorant people -generally from Europe- who still believe the FARC is a peasant army, fighting for romantic ideals.
People like you contribute to a big an unfair misunderstanding towards Colombians, to the extend that many European think that the poor Ingrid Betancourt was kidnaped by the Colombian goverment and they should put pressure to the Colombian goverment to release her.
You don´t see that more than 66% of colombians support Mr. Uribe who was democratically elected twice, and more than 99% of them are against the FARC.

Javier Diaz:

Mark,

You rightly point out that the Bush administration has used the 'terrorism' label selectively (even deceptively). However, regarding the FARC, even the terrorism label falls short in describing their atrocities. They hold men, women and children in captivity under the most inhumane conditions imaginable. If you care to investigate further you will realize that the FARC run concentration camps, keep their hostages chained to the neck, force children into combat, and finance their atrocities through the drug trade (just to name a few of their methods). The FARC torture and murder their victims, make no mistake.

It is outright flawed to justify any of these actions on the grounds that the Colombian establishment has its share of faults. Yes, Colombia has a history of inept and corrupt politicians, but the Uribe government should not be vilified for this and certainly the FARC should not be cast as freedom fighters. For all its shortcomings, the Uribe administration has rescued the country from years of decline and lawlessness. The vast majority of Colombians back Uribe, not the FARC.

Please inform yourself better next time you write about Colombia's armed conflict. In doing so you might learn that keeping the right perspective matters: justifying criminal ways is unacceptable from any point of view.

berry, ecuador:

Mark Weisbrot is a long-time defender of criminal cartels disguised as leftist organizations in Latin America.

The FARC is a group of CRIMINALS: they don't only kidnap innocent, decent politicians like Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez. Their daily lifestyle consists on such criminal activities as: drug trafficking, arms trafficking, kidnapping and blackmailing politicians and businesspeople, bombing infrastructure, forcing farmers to grow coca for them, forcing peasants to produce cocain in jungle laboratories.

Clara Rojas was raped by those gangsters; she gave birth to a boy in captivity. Then, those gangsters took the boy away from her mother, dragged him around the jungle. Finally, the FARC abandoned the child to some guy in the jungle. The boy was almost dead of malnourishment, many diseases, and had a broken arm. This guy took the child to a health center.

FARC's ATROCITIES include kidnapping children and forcing them to kill their own teenage brothers if they refuse to become part of the FARC.

Colombia's current Foreign Relations Minister was also a hostage of FARC. He escaped when the Colombian Armed Forces attacked the camp where he was held. He said he was willing to die trying to escape rathern than being a prisoner of those criminals.

Last week, Hugo Chavez (Weistbrot's close friend) just asked Colombia and other countries NOT TO CALL the FARC "terrorists" because, he said, those FARC guys share Chavez's bolivarian project. NOW THE ENTIRE WORLD KNOWS THAT CHAVEZ IS NOTHING BUT ANOTHER CRIMINAL.

* * *

I doubt the Washington Post would ever allow an spokesman for Osama Bin Laden publish an article defending 9/11 as a noble and decent action by idealist guys.

But the Washington Post publish this Mark Weisbrot's vomiting piece of s***


Critical Colombian:

Mr Weisbrot:
You are naive, FARC and ELN are degenerated remnants of the cold War. No ideology, no purpose rather than the simple fact of keeping in their business (drug trafficking) to survive as senseless organizations about which few people believe in or care about.
Without a driving zeal, they are just aimless groups whose leaders do not know of other way of life. Many recruits are held against their will (underage and very young) by menacing their families in remote areas of the country.
To extinguish them we could benefit from USA's expertise (involve the FBI?, after all there are two Americans among the hostages) to "follow the money" as Deepthroat said 30 years ago. If the money trail is identified and controlled, without money they will just wither away.I am sure that it is cheaper than the $600M given as aid, and will produce much more benefits for Colombia and the USA.
Other than getting Mr Chavez recognize and support their old ideological line, the release of these two hostages is nothing more.
It is a tragedy for the 744 other Colombians subject to senseless and hopeless seclusion by FARC, nothing will make them be released.

PS: Don't get me wrong, Paramilitary groups are also terrorists, and fortunately more and more of their supporters are getting jail. Than some mainstream politicians have been tolerant or supportive does not remove their terrorist nature either.

RETRACTION:

If you feel this article is inaccurate and offensive to you or your country Colombia, please request a retraction at:

The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071
202.334.6000

Ruben Rodriguez
Public Relations Manager

John-Michael:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=4594

Copy and paste the above link if you would like to read Mark Weisbrot's interview with Chavez.

Carlos T:

Dear Mark, 99.9 % of the Colombians disagree with you,Your comments are clearly biased, the fact that you are co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C, don't give you any moral authority over the rest of the Colombians. We feel insulted by your comments, as we feel insulted by the comments of your personalities like Oliver Stone, Bruce Willies and others.

J. Blanco:

Mark,
you obviously have been disinformed. Any 'people's army'the world has ever seen, had the support at least of a representative minority of the citizens. But in Colombia, perhaps the 1% is the only support the farc has actually. Could it be named 'insurgent'?. They don't have any political background, but terror, pushing to displacement of thousands of peasants, they claim to represent.As many others, you also fall in the error of recalling sistematically the atrocities also committed by the paramilitary , whenever anyone accuses the colombian guerrilla. Both are terrorists and should be internationally prosecuted.

Jenny:

Dear Mark,
First thanks to the Post, you do not know how great it is to express you without fear of being punished in some way. I live in Venezuela, and we are afraid of the guerrila. I have stopped going to country, stopped going to fish, and getting away from cities. Some farms have been let alone because people is afraid to be gotten by the guerrila. The use to fish people as they say. The peasant have to move up to other places because the guerrilas order to them to farm coca and kill them like a ill dogs.

Marthace:

You do not know anything about our Country Colombia. FARC are just terrorist, Narcos and killers.. they put them in freedom because Chavez paid for it, not because they are thinking in change their minds... they continue killing kidnapping and negociating with drugs (the biggest business they have) and do you forgot the bombs how many people died every time..
Álvaro Uribe is a great president, he's just trying to build a better country in peace

hold on:

Most of you are missing Weisbrot's big point here: negotiation works, even with a terrorist group. Brute force only inflames terrorist impulses. Think about it, ok? This is an important lesson not only for Latin America but for the rest of the world (Iraq, anyone??).

Molina:

Mr. Mark.

As I see You do not know anything about my country Colombia, people like you are a disgrace to the journalism community... So please do not show your ignorance by writing so easy when you have not been there enough to get the reality into your brain.

I am totally insulted by your comments and I am pretty sure that there are another 25.000.000 (million) Colombians that are insulted too.

Jairo G:

I don´t know the reason that makes people think Colombia has a CIVIL WAR going on.. A CIVIL WAR is when the country is totaly divided, that doesnt happens in Colombia, so it is funny when some journalist say "40 years Civil War".. they dont even know what is happening here.... I agree with most of the other Commentaries, so I am not writing any more....

Carlos Guerra B.:


Dear Mark

Under any circunstances it wll be good to allow that comunist president Chavez to deal in the Colombian process to release hostages, because what he wants is to expand his Marxist doctrine all over central and South America and he also wants together with the Narco- Farcs, to put out our president who has put in jail almost all the para-politics and have trid to submit them to the law. You should go to Colombia and to Venezuela also to see the big differences. Those farc people don't know and don't have respect for HR , and Human Right Watch should say something about the big masacres and violations this farc is doing with our people.

Andres D:

THE TITLE OF THE ARTICLE SHOUL BE:

HOW WASHINGTON POST FAILS COLOMBIA!!!!!!!!!!

Marthace:

You do not know anything about our Country Colombia. FARC are just terrorist, Narcos and killers.. they put them in freedom because Chavez paid for it, not because they are thinking in change their minds... they continue killing kidnapping and negociating with drugs (the biggest business they have) and do you forgot the bombs how many people died every time..
Álvaro Uribe is a great president, he's just trying to build a better country in peace

John-Michael:

How about it Mark? Can we expect a retraction, or has your ideology deigned you to keep the lie alive?

Jorge Alonso:

I strongly disagree with your views on the issue, as many other Colombians here do. You seem to want to portray the Colombian government as criminal while, in a way, giving leeway to FARC. You clearly state that "FARC clearly does engage in actions that can be considered terrorist, including kidnappings" but also suggest that the label of terrorist is one-sided.

If you have CONCRETE information about terrorist policies from the Colombian government, which are not being addressed by the Colombian administration, I suggest you come forward with your allegations. This government, while not perfect, has done more than any of its precedecessors to bring those responsible for human-right violations in front of the judges. Why do you think we have so many congresspeople in jail? If our system was as weak as you suggest, the executive could coerce the judiciary into acquiting, but that is not the case. As a matter of fact, while you were writing this lines, judges were sentencing former congresspeople to prison terms.

Your analysis seems very similar to those made in certain European countries. It is very evident that you have a dose of dislike for George W Bush. However, to use Colombia as a platform to criticize your president seems a little coward-like to me. I am not going to be the one to endorse Bush on his "conquests' around the world, but I see things from the reality of the Colombian conflict, where thousands have died at the hands of FARC (inluding a member of my family) and hundreds remain kidnapped with chains around their necks and crawling in the mud just to relieve themselves. I recommend you to read the lastest series of articles on the proof-of-life recently received in Colombia.

It still amazes me that writers such as yourself ignore that 98% of Colombians are against FARC, while over 60% support president Uribe. Colombian has the sencond longest running democracy in the hemisphere for a reason. And that is not, as you suggest, state-sponsored terrorism.

Lastly, I want to make clear that I do not support nor endorse practices such as those of AUC. To me, they are just as criminal as FARC and need to be fought against to the fullest extent of the law. Many now accuse us, supporters of the current administration, of being yuppies. I have fought hard for what I have and I would not want it destroyed by a band of thieves, druge dealers, terrorists and human-life merchants like FARC.

Michelle:

Does this publication have an editor or an editorial board??

I call the media and the international community in general to make an effort to better understand Colombian reality before writting such an article, or opinion piece. All the comments here expreesed are enought to explain why the FARC are terrorists and why Colombian situation has nothing to do with U.S. international policy.

Charles:

I just wanted to thank all of the commenters. It is wonderful to see a writer taken to task for publishing articles of this ilk.

Adolf:

Dear Mark,
How do you call people? who put a collar bomb in a woman and exploted her head in front of their family, or recruit against their will your teeangers, or use the raqueting to taxi'driver, secretary's, bus's drivers etc according to their income. There is a local name for the raqueting Guerrilla's vaccination. Please, tell me How do we call them?. People who get into a town and kill all the civilian women, men and kids. They have 700 civilian against their will in the jungle. How may you call them? And their narcotrafic links ???

Anne:

I am a US that has visited Colombia for pleasure several times; it is a great country, without the farc a Paradise! It is clear why we Americans are not liked around the world, ignorance! Mark Weisbrot should be fired immediately; he is truly misinformed and sounds tremendously ignorant.
Truly a shameful!

Carlos de Aragon:

It is because things like this article that people are totally misled about this terrorist group that has been killing, raping, kidnapping and pretty much committing every single crime against humanity since 1960.

How is it possible that you say what you say when you have never lived in Colombia.

My father was kidnapped by this terrorist group 2 times, the first time we paid, the second time he died!

When he was in their camps he saw horrible things like somebody's finger being cut just because he did not want to say something about his finances.
My father also saw how, just for fun, this group forced a guy to have sex with a guerrilla woman. tell me if this is not a torture, you being forced to have an erection with an AK47 pointing to your head!

I am totally insulted by your comments and I am pretty sure that there are another 40.000.000 (million) Colombians that are insulted too.

It is incredible how easy you laugh about all the people that has died, is dying of will dye because of this TERRORIST group.

I do not want to start talking about other terrorist techniques that they use like using gas cylinder to blow up police stations.

This group even act as a terrorist group, they come into this little towns which are being protected by only 20 police officers and attack them with 400 o 500 of theirs (do not forget about the gas cylinders). then they burn the banks, steal the supermarkets, kidnap people and sometimes they even rape. Do you think that they come and confront the Colombia army? THEY DON'T. they are a group of cowards that hit and run!

So please do not show your ignorance by writing so easy when you have not been there enough to get the reality into your brain.

ps/ by the way, they control more than 50% of the cocaine that is being consumed in the United States.

Ronnie Larios - Costa Rica:

As human beings we still use Hypothalamus instead our "evolutioned brain" to resolve our conflicts.. What a shame!! .. Please imagine just for a while you (or yours) has been kidnaped like more than 700 like you and I... Forget it all... the only way is to NEGOTIATE to free those people. Then you can point to an end-of-conflict way. Chavez is not the desirable person to mediate in this matter; however, and despite his personal intentions of "agenda-rebuilding", he gets what Bush really doesn't care to get ! Just think about it, but do not use you primitive brain.

Francisco:

Clearly Mr. Weisbrot has no understanding of the Colombian situation. The Nazi style prison camps and the inhuman condition the hostages are being kept is not the conduct of an insurgent group fitting for a better country.

As some of the other comments to this article, I suggest Mr. Weisbrot spend sometime studying the Colombian conflict before giving into lies so easily.

Caesar Padilla:

Although you are correct that there were terrorist acts committed by paramilitary groups that had alleged links with the government, these groups did not commit the vast majority of terrorist acts as you indicate in your commentary. Much has changed in Colombia since we had this type of paramilitary activity that now is in the process of being dismantled. For the past six years the majority of atrocities against the people of Colombia have been committed almost exclusively by the group know as FARC.
I do not know if for some reason you have purposely concealed certain facts about the FARC or the truth has simply eluded you due to a lack of proper research and a lack of understanding of what is currently happening in the country of Colombia. You fail to mention that the FARC besides being an extremely violent group also deals in the trafficking of drugs including the growing and processing of cocaine, and that this group extortions money from the general public through “protection payments” they call vaccinations. You also fail to mention that The FARC attacks civilians not involved in the conflict, plants land-mines, recruit underage boys and girls (according to the FARC any child over 11 years old is fit to fight), maintains hostages (not only Colombian nationals but also people for eight other countries) for ransom and political leverage some of them for as much as 10 years and is responsible for many of the civilians displaced by the conflict.
It is interesting that you make mention of human rights groups critical of the government supported paramilitary groups and yet you fail to mention that the Human Rights Watch estimates that the FARC has the majority of child combatants in Colombia, estimating that approximately 20 to 30% of the guerrillas are children under 18 years of age. Girl members are subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, including non-consent abortion. Children who try to escape the ranks of the guerrillas can be punished with torture and death by firing squad.
Now please Mr. Weisbrot, explain why the Colombian Government who according to you engages in terrorist endeavors against its own citizens this same government now has the overwhelming support of the Colombian people. Better yet – please explain to your readers why the FARC does not deserve the label of terrorists.!
Furthermore you state in your article that “The FARC clearly engage in actions that can be considered terrorist” – To that I say – No Mr. Weisbrot, the crimes committed by the FARC are not to be defined in a public forum such as this to be items for consideration. The acts committed by the FARC are what they are – TERRORISM.

Andrea :

Mr Mark i'm a colombian citizen and i have lived in this country all my life, i can tell you that the position of the goverment it´s not a result of the presure of pres bush administration, it's the position of the majority of colombian people, we have suffer the FARC horrible actions for more than 40 years, we can not accept that others countries give them the label of political group, because they are not. They kidnapp, they destroy towns, they put bombs in public places hurting the civils, they put mines that mutilated children, they commit massacres against innocents, they are the biggest narcodealers. And we as colombians feel indignation when somebody, some country says they support their actions, and share they ideals. The FARC don't have any political or social ideals, they are moved only by the money that drugs dealing gave them.
Colombia do want peace, but we are not going to allow that Chavez use our pain to expand his bolivarian politic where the only purpuose its to lead latinamerica from venezuela to left ideals and poverty, and convert as in irak or cuba.

Julio Tomas:

Mr. Weisbrot's views are shared by more than 90% of the population in Latin America.

It would be great if the U.S. took a constructive policy path instead of acting as the world cop.

M.Maldonado:

You do not know nothing about my beatiful country Colombia. Please be more serious about writing a article, go to Colombia see by yourself the truth, and then write something that help people to leave the ignorance about terrorims in my country. The Washington Post needs well capacitated journalists, professionals, not like you that write without knowlege.

Eduardo:

Ignorance

Julio Tomas:

Mr. Weisbrot's views are shared by more than 90% of the population in Latin America.

It would be great if the U.S. took a constructive policy path instead of acting as the world cop.

Paul Juan:

Mr Weisbrot: Your article is correct except for the part in which you state that the colombian government performs terrorist actions. The paramilitary phenomenon was a response from society to the feeling of unprotection from before Uribe governments. Uribe has pursued all violent groups, paramilitary and guerrilla indistictively. Some politicians have already been convicted for being supporters of the paramilitary. And most of the heads of the paramilitary, have voluntarily surrendered to the authorities and confesed their crimes.
The sistematic lie about Uribe being paramilitary and that his goverment uses "official" violence has been an efective tool of the FARC to gain supporters around the world. Please dont fall into the category of fools who beleive that.
Paul Juan, from Cartagena, Colombia. pauljuan@gmail.com

Andres:

Mark: I have an experiment for you! If Chavez likes the farc, supports the farc, thinks they have a just purpuse, HE CAN HAVE THEM!! IS THE COLOMBIAN'S PRESENT FOR ALL HIS HELP.
I would like to see how many Venezuelans reply "thank you for the present" in this forum. Let's see.

Miguel:

Dear Mark,

Before writing an article in such a well respected publication it is imperative for one to be well informed about the issue.

marco:

my friend was 14 when he was tortured and beheaded by the FARC in the province of Tolima and elderly witnesses to the crime were also killed when they spoke out. so you'll understand that it makes me retch to read your article because you seem to make your observations and questionable interpretations from the security of a distant and policy-oriented reality.

too many people have suffered, the Pastrana negotiations were a real opportunity but used by FARC to consolidate. in my opinion the FARC are hedging and stalling until Uribe's term expires in 3 years.

I support Uribe's confrontational approach because we feel safer now, because his approach also provides demobilization programs for paramilitary and FARC combatants.

hoping for peace, but not at any cost - m

Juan Jose Jaramillo:

I, as a colombian, feel this article is biased. After reading it, it seems the colombian government is the only one to blame and that we need to give a political status to the FARC to end the long-lasting conflict in Colombia. The truth is, previous governments gave many benefits to the FARC in order to spur a peace process, but time after time the guerilla group has lied over its intentions to colombians, only trying to gain benefit increasing its military mighty and its drug business.

There is one thing that is not mentioned in the article: president Uribe's popularity is the highest a colombian president has had in many years, due to its success in incresing our security and helping dismantle the paramilitary groups. Uribe has gave us something no other president could: hope.

Granted, the final solution will lie on peace negotiations, but it will not be achieved until both parts -specially the FARC- agree that peace is the goal, not just a bargaining chip that can be used to blackmail an entire country.

Luis:

Hi mark,

FARC are just terrorist, like juan said, they aren't peasants, FARC is only a Narcoterrorist group, they hide drug business under "Revolutionary Ideals" but all Colombian people know who they are and we are getting tired of all that trash, they kill peopple, they kidnap people, they use bombs against civilians, just this past weekend they put in freedom 2 persons and then kidnap 6 other persons, so?? aren´t they terrorist??? Álvaro Uribe is a great president, most of colombian people love it, he's just trying to build a better country in peace

Jack Peckham:

What a pack of lies Weisbrod shovels. The government of Colombia is not attacking civilians, but the FARC has been doing it for 40 years. President Uribe is profoundly committed to democracy. The decision to pull Chavez from the negotiations was not because of any phone call from President Bush. This is an outrageous lie, not documented by anyone perhaps except from the delusional Chavez, who says any idiotic thing to get himself more press. Anybody who actually lives in Colombia (like myself)and listens to all sides of the debate here has a far better grasp of what's going on. To claim that neighboring governments (other than Chavez) disagree with Uribe and support the Chavez line about the terrorist FARC is an outrageous lie. President Uribe DOES support a peaceful negotation, conditioned on the FARC's releasing of its hostages and ceasing its violent actions. Where is the evidence that anybody but Chavez endorses the FARC? What a slap in the face to all people who love democracy and care about the truth. Any organization like Weisbrod's that paints the terrorist FARC as some kind of political movement is a disgrace and an insult to all Colombians and democracy-loving Americans. You should be ashamed of yourself. Are you taking money from Chavez?

Lucas:

You are putting a democratic-elected government -elected twice by more than 60% the votes- on the same level as a infamous terrorist group.
That´s an insult to intelligence and to all Colombians!

R.Rocha:

This gentleman writes about something he doesn't knows. To start with the Farc kidnap persons of every way of life, including kids as young as 12 years old. Where is writen that kidnaping people is an act of justice? Mr. Weisbort equate the action of this criminal band with those that the government exercise to protects the people from actions such as the attack on Bojaya where more than 30 peasant including childrens were killed by a bomb Farc hurled against a catholic temple. Maim and kill is not an act to demand justice in U.S as it is not in Colombia. All people have the right to hate a government if they considered no democratic, unjust or abussive, but nobody have the right to ask for the sacrifice of a whole nation to satisfy a bunch of criminals like Farc. If Mr. Weisbort think that Farc is a kind of William Tell why not bring them to USA where we have some injustices to redress?

Andres Duarte:

What should be the objective? the release of the hostages or the end of violence in Colombia? US and EU should have a big picture, history base approach here. And not play the guerrila game making inapropiete demands of unilateral concesions from the Colombian government.

Even the strongest supporters of peace talks acknowledge that only after the guerrila has been militarily weaken can talks have a real opportunity to show results.

The problem is that the guerrila does not have a political agenda, they have become drugdealers making any negotiation harder.

J Fombona:

"Flimsy pretext"? Uribe's decision was the right one, as past December histrionics by Chávez showed. It seems that Mr. Weisbrot wants to ignore any possibility of a hidden agenda from the Venezuelans in this case.

Not terrorists? Mr. Weisbrot deftly ignores that none of the governments in the region has backed Chávez proposal, and as for negotiating anything with the FARC and ELN (a player he also forgets to mention) history has shown that the good faith needed to negotiate is never there.

A Disheartened Colombian:

As a Colombian I can say articles like these perpetuate the conflict. Very misinformed writers that I can assure you have never visited Colombia. These and many liberal writers forget to mention that the farc not only are terrorist, but the biggest drug cartel in the world. They control over 60% of the cocaine plantations. I want to see if they (writers) feel the same about the farc if their mother gets kidnap, or they can not travel by car because this terrorist prevent you, or draft your under age son or daughter to guard a cocaine plantation or serve as farc prostitutes. What if they kidnap a family member and keep them chained to a tree in the jungle for ten years. These are the things that we have to deal with, these is what our generation has experienced. It outrages us to see how a writer validates these atrocities from the comfort of their desks, or personal retreats in a multimillion home in the outskirts of DC.
Many presidents have tried to deal with the problem by negotiating, it has failed every time. Just pretend you are a farc member for a second; they give you a AK47 and pay you $500 dollars a week to guard a cocaine plantation, then you get offered an honorable job as let's say a driver that pays $56 a week (Average income in Colombia). The choice has been obvious for 40 years, they choose to keep sending the cocaine that you son or daughter may consume in a party a DC residence.
Please help us eliminate these terrorist; do not validate them while they step on us for 40 more years.
As for Chaves, he is just one more person that wants to use the misery of us Colombians to build their personal agenda.

Claudia:

Definitely you do not have any idea about what is going on in Colombia, I suggest you to investigate a little bit deeper and then you are going to have to write an article with a different perspective.

Juan:

Dear Mark,
Like you, many other media people including celebrities like Oliver Stone, still believe somewhat that the FARC are a bunch of Robin Hoods in the jungles of Colombia and in your rush to critize your government you do not make a intensive research of its history and on the fact that Colombian's are tired of dealing with this "Disease". In your page you actually fail to mentioned that right after they release these 2 political hostages, the FARC kidnapped another 6 people in other area of the country. Under the government of Andres Pastrana in Colombia, this terrorist did have everything that they requested for the so called “ Human agreement” and they end up slapping all Colombians in the face. FARC at present time is the biggest existing Drug Cartel in Colombia and their main goal is their own benefit. The label of “terrorist” have been rightfully earned by this organization with their crimes, Colombia Has more landmines than Afghanistan , Civilians are often attacked by this organization, they forced children to enroll their armies and they do not respect even the basic human rights. I will insist, next time you will like to complaint about Washington policies, to evaluate all the factors that go along with the situation including the country affected.
Thanks.

dunnage:

Decent report.

May we be forgiven for our long standing methods in Columbia. Cannot blame Bush Admin. for more than continuing existing bad policy.

Chavaz -- Could we please let go of Exxon-Mobile and Conoco Philips and deal with this man. Like in doing business. If there was ever a if we don't somebody else will, is -- here it is.

It is in the interests of the United States.

Sandra:

You wrote:
"In the last few days, Chavez has called for the FARC to be recognized as insurgents rather than terrorists. This has been portrayed as "support" for the FARC. However, his position is the same as other governments in the region, which have consistently rebuffed U.S. pressure to officially label the FARC as a "terrorist" organization. Brazil’s government has said that to classify the FARC as “terrorist” organization would likely damage any prospects of negotiating a solution to the country’s civil conflict."

Really??? Because I´ve been seeing news from every part of the globe and, includig Europe Union and All South America´s gouverments, they desagree about Chavez intentions. I know, and i say that based on your article, that the news can be a lil´ subjective. You wrote what you want to the people belive, no matter what the reality.

Juan:

You don´t have any idea of Colombia´s reality: You seem to share Oliver Stone´s and other naive or ignorant people -generally from Europe- who still believe the FARC is a peasant army, fighting for romantic ideals.
You don´t see that more than 75% of colombians support Mr. Uribe and more than 99% of them are against the FARC.
Next time, leave your writer´s desk and go down there to know the truth.

Mauricio Botero:

Mark,

I read your article and you may have good intentions in writing it, but you have an incorrect view on the Colombian issue. It is a mistake to think that the FARC is an insurgency just because you are in disagreement with the Bush administration. Setting your opinion about the Bush Administration aside, the FARC is a terrorist group because: It kidnaps innocent people (including women and children), it has deliberetly assasinated hundres if not thousands of innocent people, it has forcefully recruited minors (as young as 13 year old) to fight on their front, and it now exports most of the cocacine traffic out of Colombia. I also wanted to remind you that back in the Pastrana administration, Colombia gave a temporary territoy to FARC to proceed with peace negotiations but the results were the opposite. FARC increased their cocaine business, kidnappings, and extorsions. The reality in this issue is that FARC will not negotiate any deal with the Colombian government because they want to keep control of the Cocaine trade. The hostages are just an issue that FARC uses to deceive the world opinion that they might have a cause. Reality is that this is a group of narco terrorist with no ideals. I encourage you to study more the Colombian issue, since with all my respect you have clearly been deceived.

R. Vega:

Mark's comments on the Bush administrations misguided approach to the civil war in Colombia are right on target. Bush and his advisors should perhaps be forced to watch a new documentary "Colombia Vive" running in Colombia's TV stations. They would perhaps learn that both the right and the left have committed atrocious acts of terrorism and that the only realistic and durable solution will only be obtained through negotiation.

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