I have been a little bit reluctant to start dealing with the recent initiative of Chavez to volunteer (or was he asked to volunteer?) in the FARC-hostage situation. To begin with it is a very confusing situation where everyone involved is at least playing a double game, a situation where when everything is said an done there is only one hostage that interests Sarkozy: Ingrid Betancourt. And for that hostage Sarkozy, in an unaccountable series of diplomatic reactions that border of utter recklessness, is willing to embroil Venezuela and Colombia into a very messy situation. Ah! that French arrogance! Sarkozy could not care less about the hundred of hostages existing in Venezuela and Colombia, he cares about one only and to get that one free he will not mind sinking or glorifying Chavez and Uribe, with utter contempt for the fate of the natives. Neo colonialism anyone?
In case anyone forgot, Ingrid Betancourt has been a FARC hostage for more than 2000 days. She became one because as a show to improve her poor presidential polls she decided to go to a dangerous region where the Colombian army asked her not to go because they could not ensure her safety. She went anyway, she was caught and since then she has held hostage aspects of the foreign policy of her country, becoming a pain in the ass to everyone for her reckless and certainly not presidential action. Truth be told in Colombia she does not enjoy the glorified status she enjoys in France. In Colombia she is just a more notorious hostage. Colombians have long ago learned to suffer, as much as one can learn to suffer such horrible psychological torment. As such she is just one more hostage. But in France? Ah la la! Since she is a bi-national French Colombian and was the student of a future French prime minister, and perhaps even more than the student, it has become "une affaire d'état", pun intended for those who can get it.
As is often the case, procrastination pays, and waiting for more info I was sent this article form French enfant-terrible philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. The translation is worth doing because he says more in fewer words than any summary I could write at this time.
Careful with Chavez
News of Ingrid Betancourt? Yes!
For the first time in five years, a journalist (Michel Peyrard, for Paris Match) has arrived closest to her place of detention; signs (dubious but concordant) indicate that it is, thanks to heaven, still alive; and, especially, especially, a strong will (that of Nicolas Sarkozy) seems to make of its release a diplomatic and political urgency.
It is not here, naturally, that one should sulk at the happy news.
But one will point out just two or three small things which one would think that they should be kept in mind in these times of “mediating” euphoria where we are going, now, very quickly to enter.
Initially the FARC. It is the FARC who hold Ingrid Betancourt and her assistant Clara Rojas - and it is thus with the FARC that it is necessary, inevitably, to negotiate. But to negotiate is a thing and to be conned is another. It happens that six years ago I carried out for Le Monde (June 2, 2001) an investigation at San Vicente del Caguan, where the former presidential candidate was captured and where she is likely, today still, held. I, on this occasion, met combatants as well as a certain number of leaders of the organization, starting with Ivan Rios. And the only thing which I would like is that, in the diplomatic and especially journalistic comments which will multiply, one loses the practice to describe as “Marxist”, or of “revolutionary”, or even of Marxist or revolutionary “inspiration” an organization which has just became a gang of narcotrafiquants where the ideology is nothing but a smoking screen, an alibi and perhaps, for the elder, the object of a vague nostalgia. Manuel Marulanda, the godfather of the FARC, is a gangster. A killer. It is a man who practises the extortion of money, the murder on a large scale and, naturally, removal for ransom without embarrassing doctrinal justifications which the lazy Western press still lends to him. Myself, at the time, brought back the case of a village, Quebrada Nain, at the edge of Rio Sinu, in the State de Cordoba, where his men had made themselves guilty of crimes of an amazing ferocity, gratuitous, and which could be compared only with those that had just made, at the same place, a few days earlier, their twins of the paramilitary forces, following, this last ones, a clearly fascist line. That does not change anything, once again, with the need to speak with them. But that should make - at least, I hope it - that one checks twice before conceding to these gangsters, in exchange of their goodwill, the demilitarized zone which they ask in the municipalities of Pradera and Florida.
Then Chavez. It is on Hugo Chavez that one counts, it seems, to intercede in announced negotiation. Then again, why not? And, if the Venezuelan president has privileged contacts with “the oldest guerrilla of the world”, wouldn't it be absurd, irresponsible even, to deprive oneself of that? Except that I would be not less irresponsible to forget, along the way, who is, in fact, Hugo Chavez. It would be no less absurd, pitiful and, for any purpose, disastrous to see him acquiring, in the circumstance, the international respectability which his positions had, until now, legitimately deprived him. We should not forget, when the time comes, the aroma of personal rule which floats, with more and more insistence, around this mix of Peronism, Castroism and, sometimes, quasi-Fascism which his regime is becoming. One should not forget the “military special areas” that this Caudillo of a new type will have, as of December, the power to establish wherever he feels like. One should not forget the handing-over of the independence of the central bank (a recent gain, but fragile, of the Latin America democracies) as well as the violations, increasingly more, of the freedom of the press, of freedom to emit for the audio-visual media, of human rights (fustigated, and documented, by all the independent observers). We should not have to be forget that this “president of the poor”, sits on the billion dollars of his oil, is one of the surest allies of the other large “petroterrorist”, Ahmadinejad of Iran. Nor that it received, after Roger Garaudy, Louis Farrakhan, Malaysian president Mahathir Mohamed and some others, the 2004 “Kadhafi Prize (sic!) for human rights”. Nor that one of the inspirers of this “postdemocracy” to which he wants to attach his name and who will be, he says, “more powerful than a nuclear missile”, was the negationnist, student of Faurisson, Norberto Ceresole. Nor finally that Chavez himself is the author of subtle declarations on the monopolization of the “richnesses of the world” by “the descendants of those which killed Christ”…
Everyone knows these things. I am recalling them just in case. Just to freshen up memories. And in the supposed case where it would come to mind to some to obtain the freedom of Ingrid Betancourt in exchange of, for example, a small nuclear plant.
 since Mr. Lévy published his article there has been an official communique on freedom of religion which places Venezuela in the dubious company of countries who violate the right to free religious practice and protection, not only for the Chavez administration conflict with many churches, but for its increasing antisemitism.
PS: for those who can read French there is an excellent recent article of the imbroglio of this whole disgraceful affair where for some obscure reason Sarkozy is putting his chips.