Thursday, October 26, 2006

Update: Colombian Terror - A Call for Independent Investigation

Well, Uribe has come out and clearly dictated that last week's bombing was done by the FARC. I don't know what evidence he has to demostrate that as the government is refusing to release the primary evidence that they say demonstrates the FARC link (a taped telephone conversation), but I'm not sure the latest declarations really mean anything either.

Being from the United States, a country that was intentionally misled into a conflict with Iraq (re: lied to), you'll just have to forgive me if I don't just go along with an "official" explanation for, oh, say the rest of my life. Sorry, I need the evidence, I need unbiased, non-partisan, and independent investigations. So, in general, I'm going to be skeptical about the claim.

But even beyond a general sense of skepticism, there's ample evidence to discount "official" explanations from the Colombian government as well. They have a long history of blaming any and all violent events on FARC, even if those events were perpetrated by paramilitaries or corrupt military officials (see the September slaying of 7 soldiers in an apparent dispute over money - initially blamed on guerrillas, later proved to be the work of an Army Colonel).

Not only that, however, there is the obvious problem that the bomber was able to get through 2 high security checkpoints with over 130 POUNDS of explosives in the back of his SUV. Now, as anyone who has visited or lived in Colombia knows, NO ONE goes through a security checkpoint without a visual and dog inspection of your vehicle. I find it extremely hard to believe that "the most secure military installation in the country" would have less security measures than say, Centro Comercial Andino.

What this means is that there was CLEARLY a military role in this event - even if it was only that of bribery. This represents a huge security problem for the Colombian government and something that doesn't have a clear solution. When the average soldier is raking in about $200 a month, well, you don't have to work too hard to bribe him into doing what you want. Don't believe me, just watch "Sonar no cuesta nada" (the mostly true story of what happens when a group of soldiers finds $40 million in the jungle).

There is another angle, however. I mentioned previously that there is a serious corruption problem in the military. Well, Uribe acknowledged that problem this week when stated that he would look into the military and would make whatever changes he deemed necessary (in personel) to ensure that this type of situation doesn't occur again. Under the cover of a "security lapse", it's quite possible that Uribe is going to significantly alter the shape of the Colombian military to eliminate those who work closely with the FARC, paramilitaries, or narcotraffickers. I don't know - I'm only speculating. But it does get a lot easier for Uribe with some legitimate cover because he doesn't have to announce the depth of corruption or linkages between the military and outside parties.

At any rate, all of this occurs to me as a distinct possibility mostly because of this post that I read last week. For those of you not interested (or lacking the time) to read the whole thing, I'll give you the basic point:

It was against FARC's interests to bomb a government facility at this point in time because Uribe was considering a prisoner exchange that the FARC desperately want. The bombing shut down the talks permanently.

(Additional problematic factors include that the bomb was comprised of a form of explosive that the FARC had never previously used, is military grade, and the difficulty of use is higher than is believed that FARC could master.)

While thinking about the motivations of a terrorist organization is always dodgy at best, it just doesn't make sense for FARC to have planted this bomb in the current political climate. This realization ultimately leads to one of two conclusions.


A) The FARC is not a monolithic organization - It has different factions, much like Al Queda, and they don't always work together.


B) A faction of the military was so strongly opposed to Uribe's negotiation proposal (including a De-Militarized Zone), that they did the bombing as a means of shutting down the talks.

It certainly could be possible that explanation A is true. No matter how much The Cowboy President wishes Al Queda was an tightly organized company of terror (like ExxonMobile), the facts belie the point. Still, it's easier to sell a "war on terror" if you can pinpoint an enemy. So maybe that's what the Colombian government does with FARC.

It's also certainly possible that B is true. It makes sense that the military's opposition would be so strong that they would take desperate measures to stave off another DMZ. In the 1990's, when the previous President somehow unconditionally agreed to a DMZ, it was an utter disaster (the zone was as big as Rhode Island). FARC was able to rearm, establish a presence, terrorize the population, etc., while the government just stood by. It was a huge mistake and there are certainly people in the military that are still angry about it.

In the end, all we have are theories and speculation. And this is the reason why Colombia needs to do a transparent and independent investigation into who did the bombing and how. Absent publicly digestible facts, there seems little doubt that this event will be just another added to the Colombian lexicon of folklore and conspiracy theory.


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