Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
As the coordinator of a US Govt. funded anti-kidnapping initiative in Colombia (2003-04), I am intimately aware of the criminal and FARC kidnapping schemes in Colombia.

Having met personally with Colombian officials, as high as the Vice President  (himself a one time kidnapping victim), I can assure everyone that the primary goal of the Colombian Govt (GOC). is to secure the safe release of all kidnapped victims. During the period of my association, the GOC was becoming increasing successful in rescuing victims and disrupting the guerilla (mostly FARC), right wing paramilitary gps,and criminal gangs that are responsible for kidnapping.  The plight of Ms. Betancourt and others that remain on the list of those held is that they usually have been relocated, after being kidnapped, to areas held by the FARC.  Rescue attempts under such circumstances are very difficult.

My personal views on the FARC are that while it was once ideologically motivated it has degenerated into nothing more than a band of criminals that supports itself, not on popular contributions, but on trafficing in illegal drugs, protection of coca and heroin fields, and kidnapping of innocent civilians.  While there is no doubt that corruption is common in Colombia, as in many countries throughout the world, and there are human rights abuse (also prevalant elsewhere, the main culprit is not the GOC but the guerilla groups, primarily the FARC.   The US Govt. policy on human rights abuse by the GOC army and police was very clear.  No support was to be given to any particular army or police group that participated in any human rights abuses or to any such group that had a member who was accused of such abuses.   I believe the GOC has made significant efforts to reduce abuses and continues to do so.  Nevertheless, the effects of the on-going war with the criminal FARC, on top of one-time domination of the country by the drug cartels, has had a devastation effect on the lives of all Colombians.  This small, and yes beautiful, country, deserves our continued support.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun Jan 21st, 2007 at 01:16:02 PM EST
It is very interesting that you have been on the spot.

Could you tell as something more about the instruments and methods GOC uses to fight kidnapping and end military  struggles?

-- Fighting my own apathy..

by Naneva (mnaneva at gmail dot com) on Sun Jan 21st, 2007 at 05:21:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can tell you that the Colombian Government has a variety of institutions involved in the fight against kidnapping.  It is good, in some ways, to have so many institutions involved, but it also leads to inefficiency, duality of roles, turf battles, confusion, etc.  Some years before I became involved, the GOC created special law enforcement units within the national police and military dedicated to disrupting kidapping gangs/cells, gathering intelligence on kidnappers, and of course, rescuing kidnapping victims.  These units, known as GAULAS (my self-imposed tendency to quickly forget my old careers sometimes takes over so please excuse a few lapses).  (GAULA is an acronym that stands for something like groups for the protection of personal freedom.)

Since many kidnapped victims are taken in cities or small towns (primarily by the FARC or criminal gangs that sell victims to the FARC) and later transferred to more remote areas, it becomes very important to effect rescues as soon as possible, especially before the victims are transferred to areas where the FARC has domination.

Our assistance efforts were in several areas, one of which was to improve the effectiveness of the GAULAS at rescuing victims unharmed, collecting and preserving evidence, and apprehending kidnappers and successfully bringing them to justice.  We also emphasized proper law enforcement methodology and respect for human rights during training sessions.

Another goal was integrating the various GOC institutions with anti-kidnapping roles via a state of the art computerized information and communications system that permitted real time sharing of relevant kidnapping data between agencies, including the creation of kidnapping investigations reports and criminal justice data by appropriate agencies.

Along with these initiatives, other progress was being made in reforming the Colombian justice system by changing laws and creating a modern courts system that streamlined the Napoleonic Code system that was no longer able to cope with the types and numbers of crimes being committed.

Another part of the anti-kidnapping puzzle was to gain the trust of average Colombians who, like many citizens of Latin American countries, distrust their own justice systems to such an extent that most crime goes unreported.  In Colombia, as in other countries with kidnapping problems, private institutions have emerged that specialize in collecting fees from victims' families, by arranging for ransoms in hopes that victims will be freed if the police are not involved.  While these tactics sometimes work, the Betancourt and other cases indicate they do not always have the desired result.  In addition, paying ransom makes kidnapping profitable and reinforces the belief that this crime does pay.

I have not kept up with the efforts to end Colombia's war with the FARC.  I know attempts have been made to resolve issues, but I don't see much incentive for the FARC to cease its activities.  They will want something that is at least as profitable to them as their current criminal schemes.  Part of the problem with the Government effort has been a lack of willingness on the part of the military to engage the FARC.  During a short period of time, it appeared that was changing, and it may have.  As I said, I really haven't kept up with it.    

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jan 22nd, 2007 at 02:09:55 PM EST
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