Lula Watch: Focusing on the Latin American Left – Vol.6– No.1

Colombia: Vatican to Intercede for FARC?
Bogota’s weekly magazine, Cambio, says the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Colombia may ask the Vatican to intercede with the European Union to have FARC removed from the list of terrorist organizations

1. On Friday morning, Jan. 11, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was praised left and right for his alleged role in the freeing of two prominent Colombian hostages of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (known as FARC). The two hostages were the former candidate to the Colombian vice-presidency, Clara Rojas, and former deputy Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo.

2. However, in the afternoon, Hugo Chavez managed in a few minutes to destroy his newly gained prestige and provoke indignation among most Colombians. In a nationally televised speech to the National Assembly in Venezuela, the Venezuelan president called on the governments of Latin America and the whole world to “recognize FARC and ELN (the National Liberation Army) as Colombian insurgent forces rather than as terrorist groups, since they have “a Bolivarian political program that is respected here.”

Removing FARC from the list of terrorist organizations involves much more than just a mere change of label. By recognizing FARC as a legitimate fighting force, the move would put the guerrillas on almost the same footing as the Colombian government. It would give them enormous prestige, enable them to negotiate with foreign governments and allow them to open representative offices abroad. This would internationalize the conflict in Colombia. At present, both the United States and Europe keep FARC on their lists of terrorist movements.

3. In view of this situation, statements attributed to high-ranking members of the Colombian Catholic hierarchy are a serious cause for concern. According to the influential Bogota weekly, Cambio, leaders of the Catholic Church in Colombia could ask the Vatican to use its diplomatic influence to intercede with the European Union to remove FARC from the list of terrorist organizations: “The Church cannot offer FARC exposure like that offered by presidents Chavez of Venezuela and Sarkozy of France,” one of the churchmen interviewed told Cambio, adding: “Instead, we could take advantage of Vatican influence in the most important countries of the European Union to have FARC excluded from their black lists” (cf. “Iglesia busca la mediación del Vaticano para liberación de secuestrados” [The Church Seeks Vatican Mediation to Liberate Hostages], Cambio, Bogota, Jan. 10-16, 2008).

There is additional cause for concern with some naive statements of State Department spokesman Tom Casey “welcoming” the supposed good services of President Chavez in the Colombian affair. Also perplexing are the statements of Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe who thanked the Cuban regime in Havana, for having “made every effort on behalf of peace in Colombia” during “the five and a half years of this government.”

4. International pressure on the Colombian people to cave in to the FARC narco-guerrillas has been so intense as to be almost unprecedented in modern history. If one hundredth of that pressure had been brought to bear on the rulers of the “island-prison,” Cuba would have become a free nation long ago.

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