Monday, June 9, 2008

Adventures in the Ransom Trade

Interesting story of a kidnapping in Colombia, that inspire the Movie Proof of Life with
Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe & David Morse.

Adventures in the Ransom Trade
By William Prochnau

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

The forgotten American hostages in Colombia

GREAT NEWS NOW THEY ARE FREE!!!!!!!!!!!! We are so happy !!!!!!!!!!!!! They started living again.
Interesting information, related to the American Hostages hold in Colombia. We will keep you posted in this issue.
vdebate reporter

Their website:

U.S. Hostages Talk About Life In Captivity
October 2003 - 60 minutes - CBS

Contractors Captured In Colombia Tell Dan Rather Their Story
October 2003 - 60 minutes - CBS

Colombia: Private U.S. Operatives on Risky Missions
by Juan Forero, New York Times
February 14th, 2004

Statement on American Hostages in Colombia
Chris Dodd - US Senator -February 2006

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A brief history of Colombia Civil Conflict

I am copying all these articles related with the American hostages by FARC in Colombia.
vdebate reporter
Continuing a series of posts begun here. A very brief history of the Colombian civil conflict, South American narco-trafficking, the link between the two, and the U.S. role:
Since 1964, ideologically communist insurgents have fought a low to mid intensity asymmetrical campaign against the Colombian government. The largest insurgent groups are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army, ELN). A third major insurgent group, the Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement, M-19) demobilized into a political party in the early 90’s. In the mid 90’s, numerous semi-populist and eventually illegal anti-insurgent paramilitary groups coalesced under the loose banner of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-defense Forces of Colombia, AUC).
The overwhelming majority of the world’s cocaine demand, including approximately 350 Metric tons per year for the U.S., is supplied by the Andean Ridge region of South America; primarily Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. This concentration of cocaine production is largely a function of the agricultural needs of the coca plant combined with the extraordinary remoteness of the jungle covered mountain regions of these three countries. While coca production has shifted wildly from one country to another, the control of the final product has remained consistently in the hands of Colombians. Large, extremely powerful, politically connected, and extraordinarily violent Colombian cocaine syndicates formed during the 1970’s, including the well known Medellín and Cali cartels. During the height of his power, Medellín cartel head Pablo Escobar was elected to congress and was assessed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Part of the Cartels’ success came from a willingness to use terror tactics: the cartels assassinated presidential candidates, judges, elected officials, and hundreds of police. Eventually the cocaine cartels were decapitated and fragmented. While not entirely gone, they are no longer freely operating massive conglomerates in full control of the cocaine industry.
Throughout the history of Colombian cocaine production, the FARC and other insurgent groups have played a roll. The coca is grown and processed in remote areas frequently dominated by the insurgents. Although the relationship between the insurgents and the cartels was often strained and occasionally violent, the insurgents and the cartels developed a working relationship that involved an informal “taxation” of the coca in exchange for “protection,” both real and symbolic, of the fields, processing facilities, and convoys. With the drying up of Soviet funding for world wide communist governments and proxy insurgents, the FARC and others became dependent upon coca revenue, along with other fund raising methods, such as kidnapping for ransom. With the decapitation and reduction in power of the cartels in the 1990s, the FARC and others, including the paramilitary AUC, stepped in to fill an ever larger direct role in cocaine production, processing, and distribution. Today, the FARC is inextricably linked to cocaine production.
The United States has been a long term supporter of the Colombian government’s struggle against the communist insurgents. This support has ranged from direct combat assistance in the 1960s to largely financial, legal and advisory assistance in the 1990s. During that period, the U.S. walked a fine congressionally controlled line between direct support for counter narcotics and the taboo of involvement in foreign counter insurgency. This decade, largely as a result of expanded counter-terrorism policies approved in the wake of 9/11, U.S. policy shifted to allow military assistance, though not direct operational activity, to Colombia’s security forces fighting the various insurgent and paramilitary groups. The U.S. government recognizes the direct FARC and AUC link with drug trafficking.
It is probably appropriate to mention that no party in this long struggle is pure. While the insurgent forces have waged a cocaine, kidnapping, and extortion funded illegal civil war that has killed thousands, the government forces have a long history of corruption, collusion with the illegal paramilitaries, and human rights abuses. International pressure and the tying of U.S. assistance to a clean up in these areas has resulted in significant improvement. The AUC collusion has been removed as an institutional tie, though accusations of operational level ties remain. Human Rights grievances against national police and the Colombian military have dropped precipitously; though internationally watch dog groups still find much to fault in the Colombian forces. This series of posts is not intended to resolve those disputes, or even weigh in on who is right. These posts are about the hostages.
Which brings us to Marc, Keith, & Tom. Contracted by the US Department of Defense, they were conducting aerial reconnaissance support when their Cessna’s engine died, forcing them to crash land in the vicinity of a FARC patrol. We approach the fifth anniversary of their captivity. The FARC have suffered significant losses during the past 5 years, their numbers dropping, recruitment suffering, and influence waning. But they remain the largest insurgent force in the hemisphere, well armed, solidly funded, experienced, and lead by a cadre committed to continuing the conflict.
Prospects for a peaceful release are dim. While kidnapping for ransom is a common funding method for the insurgents, high profile and political prisoners tend to stay captive for years, and are sometimes executed. The FARC hold hundreds of Colombian national hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate captured in 2002, numerous elected officials, civil employees and police officers. The FARC have used their high profile captives as bargaining chips, putting forth various hostage exchange scenarios that would swap some FARC-held prisoners for hundreds of captured FARC members being held in Colombian prisons. On rare occasions, the FARC will make a good will gesture, as they did last week with the release of two long term hostages; Betancourt’s aid and a former Congresswoman, into the care of their perceived ideological sympathizer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
As I said in the first post:Here is what I propose: In one month, on February 13th, on the fifth anniversary of their imprisonment, I would like to see every blogger and journalist with which we have the slightest influence post something about Marc, Keith, & Tom. Anything. Decry the drug war. Rail against the communist-based, narco-trafficking insurgents. Rage against Western imperialism in Latin America for all I care. Just remember Marc, Keith, & Tom. Express concern for their welfare, and hope for their freedom. Demonstrate to their families that they are not forgotten. Help spread the word. If you have a blog, mark the date, prepare a post. If you don’t, send an email to your favorite blog. I don’t care if anyone link’s to this post, I really don’t. Just get something posted. Let’s spread this far and wide. This is something that can cross nearly all ideological boundaries. I don’t know what good this can do, but I would like to think that it might elevate the issue in the minds of influential parties. Hostages have been released for lesser public relations reasons.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

4 hostages freed by colombian rebels, reunited with families in Venezuela

Is very nice to see these people back to life.
vdebate reporter
4 hostages freed by Colombian rebels, reunited with families in Venezuela
Associated PressFeb. 27, 2008 06:03 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela - Colombian rebels freed four lawmakers Wednesday after six years of captivity, the guerrillas' second hostage release this year as they seek to persuade the international community to strike them from lists of terrorist groups.The four former Colombian politicians were reunited with relatives amid tears, hugs and grasped flowers at Caracas' international airport."You've given me the opportunity to live again," freed hostage Gloria Polanco said when she was freed in a Colombian jungle clearing, thanking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for making the release possible.
The freed captives later met at the presidential palace with Chavez, who gave them a warm welcome next to troops standing at attention.In a video of the handover, officials who were sent to pick up the four in helicopters walked down a path and spotted the captives awaiting them on a rise.
The hostages descended an incline and wept as they hugged those sent for them. Polanco received flowers from a female guerrilla and sobbed "thank you, thank you."
The video of the handover was broadcast by the Caracas-based TV channel Telesur.
A guerrilla commander who spoke in the video was asked if the group was bombed by the Colombian military. He said that after his group received the hostages, no."But yes, troops were very close and that prevented them from being freed much earlier," he said, without specifying when his unit assumed control of the hostages.
The rebels handed over the four to the international Red Cross and a top official from Chavez's government. Two Venezuelan helicopters flew them to a Venezuelan border town, and then they flew on to their families in Caracas.
Polanco's three grown sons ran toward the plane as soon as it pulled up, with flowers in hand and wearing T-shirts reading: "Freedom for all." Polanco said seeing them again after more than six years was the happiest moment of her life.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has proposed trading some 40 high-value captives - including former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. defense contractors - for hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas.
Another of the freed hostages, former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez, said he last saw Betancourt on Feb. 4 and that she was in very poor shape."It's a question of time. We need to take immediate action to obtain Ingrid's liberation," he said."I don't know how I managed to survive," said Perez, "I had a heart attack, three diabetic comas. I've had all the tropical diseases there are."Though some of the hostages were said to be ailing, top Chavez aide Jesse Chacon said their health "is much more satisfactory than we had hoped."
Another freed hostage, former Sen. Jorge Gechem, was gaunt and reportedly suffered in captivity from heart, back and ulcer problems."You've saved us practically from death," another freed hostage, former Rep. Orlando Beltran, said in the video, thanking Chavez.
In France, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the liberation provides "powerful encouragement" toward finding a "humanitarian solution to the hostage drama." Betancourt is a dual French citizen and a cause celebre in much of Europe.
Kouchner vowed to press for the freedom of the remaining captives, saying "the survival of the weakest hostages ... is in effect at stake."Chavez's intercession in Colombia's long-running conflict - and the hostage releases it has reaped - has raised the profile of the FARC, as it seeks to persuade the European Union to remove it from its list of international terrorist groups.
The FARC has been fighting for more than four decades for a more equitable distribution of wealth in Colombia, but has in recent years drawn wide reproach for its methods: It kidnaps civilians for ransom and funds itself largely through cocaine trafficking.
Colombia's government says it holds more than 700 people, either for ransom or political reasons.The four hostages were freed in the same region of Colombia's southern Guaviare state where the FARC released two other politicians on Jan. 10: Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.
The operations to pickup the hostages have been overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross.Two of Polanco's three sons were kidnapped together with her and later released in 2004 after a ransom was paid. Her husband was later murdered, allegedly by the FARC.
As she held the flowers in the video, she said: "I will lay these flowers at my husband's grave, and another stem for each one of my sons."Her youngest son, Daniel Polanco, who was 11 when Polanco was kidnapped, told Colombia's Caracol radio that he and his brothers bought their mother flowers, balloons, two or three changes of clothes and cosmetics "so she can be pretty."
The FARC thanked Chavez for his mediation efforts in a statement on a pro-rebel Web site.After last month's release, Chavez called on the international community to recognize the rebels as a legitimate armed opposition group, rather than calling them terrorists.

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Friday, January 4, 2008


Oliver Stone has just declared, in his way back to Caracas after the Colombian hostage fiasco, that "Chavez is a great man" and Uribe is "the guilty party, a fraud".

He can say all he wants, but public opinion can already see the truth in the wall. The FARC did not deliver the hostages, the clowns recruited by Chavez went home with their tails within their legs and Stone could not film one foot related to the hostages.
Who is right? Stone is a proven Castro's ass-kisser. He wants to be an Ahmadinejad's ass-kisser and, of course, he is now a Chavez's ass kisser. He surely made millions but he lacks one thing: dignity. I would like to ask him:

Do you know that there are many political prisoners in Venezuela, in spite of the "pardon"recently issued by the clown?

Do you know that Venezuela has a murder rate twice as large as Iraq's?

Do you know that Chavez has received about $600 billion during his tenure and that he has almost nothing to show for it?

Do you know that the United Nations has disclaimed Chavez's pretensions to have eliminated iliteracy in the country. Do you know that Venezuela had a 93% literacy rate before Chavez came into power?

Do you know that Chavez's relatives are a bunch of thieves?

Do you know that there is not one single prisoner for corruption during Chavez' s tenure, when corruption has been at the highest historical level in Venezuela?

Do you know that there is no sugar, no milk, no sardines, no chickens in the Venezuelan markets?

Do you know that companies that do business with the Chavez's government are often owned by Chavez's friends and relatives?

Do you know that the acquisition of Argentinean bonds enriched illegally the bankers friends of Chavez and some of Chavez's bureaucrats?

Do you know that the parallel market rate of the Bolivar is three times higher than the official rate?

Do you know that Chavez has bought about $8 billion in weapons although this money was desperately needed by the Venezuelan poor?

I could go on and on but, Mr.Stone, but the questions above will suffice. What are you looking for in Venezuela? A stable supply of cocaine?
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