Politics kidnapped in Colombia

The Green Presidential candidate in this month’s election in Colombia — Senator Ingrid Betancourt — won’t be doing much campaigning. She was kidnapped in February by the the country’s main group of leftist rebels, the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC is pitted in civil war against the outlawed right-wing military group, AUC, and the US-backed Colombian army (allegedly linked to the AUC). Three-year-long peace negotiations broke down irretrievably only days before Betancourt’s kidnapping: the Government withdrew when another senator was kidnapped on 20 February. Colombian President Andrés Pastrana then ordered his forces to start retaking the 42,000-square-kilometre area he had handed over to FARC. Over 200 bombing raids have been carried out since then. FARC’s position is now precarious. Activities like kidnapping have weakened its popular support while the Government is now stronger: in four years, its military has swelled from 79,000 to 140,000, with more US help on the way. Like a growing number of South American leaders Senator Betancourt vociferously rejects the current model of globalization. At a Global Greens Conference recently she supported a new economic model based on fair — rather than ‘free’ — trade and on wealth generation through real productivity, not speculation. ‘If it is true that faith moves mountains and that David conquered Goliath, then our fight should be victorious’, she said. She needs this faith now. FARC says it will hold her (and five others) until the Government releases 200 imprisoned guerrillas.

New Internationalist issue 345 magazine cover This article is from the May 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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