Thursday, May 22, 2008

The ruminations of a madman

Yesterday an ex-soldier walked into a business, took 20 people hostage, and threatened to blow them up with a grenade if his monthly retirement was not paid. It was a startling, but not particularly shocking event. Last night, I watched it all on TV. One of the great things about Colombia is that they always get it on tape and they always show it on the nightly news. So, I watched as one of the "media" sent in to speak with the man turned out to be a copper who tackled him and retrieved the grenade. All very James Bond or Bruce Willis -esque.

This event would have just been another story in Locombia - chalked up to the crazed ravings of a lunatice except for one tiny tidbit. During his media session, the ex-soldier had an employee of the business read out a statement. The statement, in itself, was more shocking than the grenade.
The ex-soldier claims that the top levels of the military and police have $20 million peso bounties out on a between 7-10 politicians. That would be shocking in itself, right? I mean, no national military should be actively seeking the assassination of its civilian controllers. But, every single name read out on that list was a senator or congressman who is actively investigating President Uribe and his connections to the paramilitaries. In other words, it looks very much like the President or some of his functionaries asked the military to deal with "the problem".

Knowing Colombia, I'd give 5-1 odds that the ex-soldier's list is accurate. It will likely never be proven. But, it raises a point that I've been wanting to make for some time. Colombia, more than any place I've ever seen, is a "why not" culture. Gotta problem with a pesky journalist? Why not just have him killed? Gotta problem with some local land owners? Why not just push them off their land? Oh, they're objecting? Why not just kill a few of 'em so the rest get the point? And so on.

It's more complicated now, but it's completely conceivable that one of Uribe's allies went down this road as well. Some senators are getting awfully close to Uribe's paramilitary ties? Why not just have 'em shot? Of course, Uribe himself is too clever by half to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. And in all likelihood there will never be any finding which confirms the ex-soldier's hit list allegation. But there will be wild speculation and now that this alleged hit list is public, the politicians alleged to be on it, are likely safe. So, I don't know if we should be castigating or praising the madman. It's very possible he saved lives by jeopardizing others. Something for the philosophers to sort out.

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