Her name is Ingrid Betancourt Pulecio (born 1961) and she was kidnapped in February 2002 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – FARC, since 1964 the oldest Communist insurgency in the world – while campaigning (in a hopeless cause, according to contemporary polls) for the presidency of Colombia. At the time she irresponsibly refused government protection but, since she is, by marriage, also the owner of a French passport, she became a subject of Parisian pressures on Colombia to get her out. She is only one of some 40-plus Colombian hostages, including soldiers and politicians, kept for years by FARC ‘s "fighters for the people" – some longer than Betancourt. Three Americans were also kidnapped by FARC and are still imprisoned by the narcoterrorists. (FARC is indeed the world’s single largest producer and exporter of cocaine, with some heroine and marijuana on the side.)
The international attention on Betancourt – a rebellious, minor member of Colombia’s aristocratic elites – her fate and treatment, suggest the dangers of emotions and special political considerations as obstacles of serious anti-terrorism measures. Once kidnapped, she instantly became a cause celebre for the French Left – without, of course, much mention of who, why, and in what cause she was brought to the Colombian central and southern jungle – now the last refuge of FARC.
Although FARC is recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union – and, for much longer, by the United States – Paris has long negotiated with it, often over the head of Colombia’s democratically elected governments. Dependent on European and, especially, American help in its fight against FARC’s narcoterrorism, Colombia had to pay attention, indeed to tolerate and accommodate outside pressures to negotiate with the terrorists and make concessions to them, all in the name of "humanitarian" causes.
But what is "humanitarian" in proposals, supported by Paris, to exchange more than 400 convicted FARC criminals, including two sentenced and jailed in the United States for narcotics trafficking, for 40 FARC kidnapping victims? It comes without saying that the only winner from such and exchange are FARC’s terrorists – which helps explain why the latest "mediators" between them and the Colombian government were Venezuela’s inflated dictator, Hugo Chavez, and his Colombian ally, Piedad Cordoba. Cordoba is a black female radical Senator from Antioquia, a Liberal Party internal subversive, and self-proclaimed triple victim of "persecution," who, in talks with imprisoned FARC terrorists, claimed that Colombia needs a new social system – presumably the one they also seek.
The Europeans have a long and sad history of negotiating and paying ransom to any "revolutionary" terrorists who happen to catch their citizens – no matter how irresponsible those citizens may have been. Berlin paid the price when German, Dutch, and Swiss tourists traveled to see the Algerian Sahara, heedless of the fact that 150,000 people were killed by Islamists in that country since 1992. When a Communist Italian journalist was kidnapped in Iraq. Roma paid – and then sued an American soldier who shot at the freed hostage when her team did not stop at a checkpoint. (all with the vocal support of the victim). And now Sarkozy’s conservative, tough France pushed Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe – Latin America’s most popular democratic president – into dealing with FARC via …Hugo Chavez, the region’s most noxious and anti-Western character, and his Colombian admirer, Piedad Cordoba. It ultimately failed, because Chavez was…Chavez, and Cordoba was herself. Both have proven themselves friends of FARC and enemies of Uribe and democracy. But most importantly, the negotiations failed because FARC was true to its own totalitarian behavior, rejecting all "humanitarian" considerations and using its prisoners as political tools.
When Chavez failed to show Paris proof that the hostages were alive and Uribe lost patience, the Venezuelan turned against the democrat, "froze" relations with Bogota, (where his country’s scarce supplies of food come from!) and went back to his usual vulgarities – the type that made him the Hispanic world’s laughingstock. As for FARC, they planted some delayed proof that their hostages, Betancourt and the Americans included, are still alive – too late for Chavez’ image and for their own attempt to appear human.
It should be proof enough that negotiating with totalitarian terrorists is futile, whether they are jungle guerrillas or the heads of state.