Colombia: Putting A Price On Freedom


April 9,2008: Last year, FARC suffered record desertions, and the national economy enjoyed record growth (7.5 percent). The two are related. As FARC losses its power, the economy is able to grow. Simple as that.

The most widely known FARC captive, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, has become an international media star. In France, Betancourt is the ultimate "damsel-in-distress," and media circus. French politicians have joined in and even sent a "medical mission" to treat the reportedly ill Betancourt. The Colombian government has offered amnesty and cash rewards to rebels who would help liberate Betancourt. FARC is driving a hard bargain for Betancourt's release; demanding a "liberated zone" and the freedom of many jailed rebels. France has offered asylum for any rebels who assist in Betancourt's release. But the Colombian government refuses to pay a huge ransom for one captive, partly because it would encourage the kidnapping of more politicians. So FARC has turned down the French and demanded that the Colombian government give in. Betancourt has been a captive for six years. Efforts to free her are complicated by things like the other activities of FARC leaders. For example, Rodrigo Granda, a senior FARC official who should be involved with hostage releases, is now unable to travel himself. Granda recently got an Interpol arrest warrant issued against him, because of his involvement of a 2005 celebrity kidnapping in Paraguay. Granda was helping out a Paraguayan leftist rebel group.

The government announced that the informant who provided the information of where FARC leader Raul Reyes was in Ecuador (where he was killed on March 1st), has received a $2.7 million rewards, plus admission to a witness protection program, and a new life outside of Colombia for him and his family.

The only thing FARC has going for it these days is its 39 celebrity hostages, and about 600 lesser ones. On the ground, the rebels continue to lose members, and ground. Kidnapping is much more difficult these days, and the number of new captives taken each month is only a few percent of what it was a decade ago. The security forces have the upper hand, and the FARC is determined to get the most they can for their captives.


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