Colombia, Again


Black Holes are dying stars with gravitational fields so powerful that not even light can escape. However, terrestrial Black Holes have been discovered in many trouble spots around the world, including in the 1970s and 1980s the Wh ... Black Holes are dying stars with gravitational fields so powerful that not even light can escape. However, terrestrial Black Holes have been discovered in many trouble spots around the world, including in the 1970s and 1980s the Whip and Saddle Bar of the Europa Hotel from where not even British journalists could escape, so magnetic was the pull of alcohol. Thus, half their stories they had to invent, while the British Army press officer at Lisburn wrote the other half.

I listened to a BBC reporter in Colombia being interviewed several times in the past two weeks. This poor man bears all the hallmarks of a British journalist captured by a Black Hole. The Whip and Saddle Bar, Casa Medina, Bogota. This correspondent is being paid from the public purse to give the public accurate information and an analysis - even if we skip the notion of objectivity.

In his first report he said that no foreign traveller would dare go into the FARC/guerrilla-held territory for fear of being kidnapped and so the notion that the three Irish men arrested with false papers were there sight-seeing or fact-finding was a lot of nonsense. As I wrote last week, FARC have a policy of openly inviting foreigners to their demilitarised zone. It later emerged that among those who have visited recently were a papal envoy, the Queen of Jordan and the deputy head of the New York Stock Exchange.

The BBC reporter - and a long list of 'experts', including the 'security correspondent' of Ireland's most prestigious newspaper of record, clearly stranded on a White Dwarf - also reported that the Colombian authorities had carried out forensic tests on the clothes and belongings of the three Irish men and discovered several different types of explosives and traces of cocaine. Yet, after these claims were made the men were filmed still wearing their own clothes! (Then there was the small issue of the satellite photographs 'showing' the three training FARC guerrillas in the making of 'barrack busters', photographs which never existed.)

Last Thursday it emerged that it was American officials at the US embassy in Bogota who carried out the original forensic tests and that when Colombian officials ran the same tests they came up negative. The CIA and other Washington securocrats unsuccessfully opposed the granting of a visa to Gerry Adams back in 1994 and, undoubtedly, since Bush came to power they are once again in the driving seat.

There were other reports of alleged, incriminating tape conversations between FARC guerrillas referring to the three men in a code as about as sophisticated as a Dick and Dora story. These taped conversations were undoubtedly recorded by the same satellite that took the infamous photographs.

Niels Lindvig, foreign editor of Denmark's national radio, who has lived in Colombia, criticised the reporting from Bogota and the unquestioning way that journalists promulgated the various stories. He said that FARC was not a marxist organisation nor a drug-dealing organisation but taxes every business that makes more than a million dollars annually. He says that multinationals and oil companies, as well as drug dealers, pay FARC 'revolutionary' taxes. He says that the people who actually produce and refine cocaine and heroin are the right-wing, pro-government paramilitaries.

The arrests of Jim Monaghan, Martin McAuley and Niall Connolly, witnessed probably the most opportunistic attacks on Sinn Fein since the beginning of the peace process. The extensive reporting and the exaggerated claims initially made by the authorities probably played a major part in determining that the men would be charged rather than expelled for minor passport offences.

These men have been taken to El Modelo prison where their lives are in grave danger. In 1999 alone 212 inmates were killed - 131 of them shot dead by guards or other inmates. Others were stabbed or lynched. Last April, during violent clashes, 32 detainees were killed and 20 seriously injured. Six weeks ago, in clashes between left-wing revolutionaries and right-wing paramilitaries, ten prisoners lost their lives.

The grim, two-storey block was built to house 2000 men, but now holds 5,000, forty per cent of them remands who often wait up to four years before a trial. The jail is rife with drugs, firearms and explosives, with right-wing prisoners enjoying privileges above the rest.

The prison administration is corrupt and, like the government, colludes with the right-wing paramilitary prisoners. On February 25th, Martin Villa, a death squad commander who massacred 38 villagers suspected of supporting FARC, escaped from the prison disguised as a visitor. But prison officials didn't notify the prosecutor's office about the escape until March 9th. Four days later two drug smugglers awaiting extradition to the USA also escaped.

Jineth Bedoya, a reporter with a Colombian newspaper, who accused the police of colluding with the paramilitary prisoners, was invited to interview their leader, known as 'the baker'. Courageously, she went to the prison but was abducted from the lobby in full view of the guards, drugged, bound and gagged, driven around for three hours before being tortured and raped by four men. She survived but 152 other journalists - not of the Whip and Saddle Club - have been killed since 1980.

George Bush's buddy and ally, Colombian President Andres Pastrana (himself a former journalist), and recipient of $1.3 billion in US military aid, has yet to condemn these attacks.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison