Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt faked her rescue

That is pretty much what is left for some to say.

I was busy all day and only tonight I learned that what started this morning as a strange note from the Radio Suisse Romande, something not in the league of the BBC, to name one real but occasionally questioned news outlet, claimed boldly that the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt was a set up. This was following similarly questioning writings by other non entities such as a few chavistas here and there. But that the RSR went ahead and signed an article on that (no journalist signed, making the note look like an editorial of sorts) was of course picked up by European media and generated a little firestorm of its own. In fact the tackiness of the press corps on such items pushed them to even question Ingrid on her return to France today. This sadly tasteless moment gives a new coloring to press feeding-frenzy, when the press forgets about humanity in its desperate search for the scoop.

What is very worrisome about this RSR note is its sloppiness when they cite a "reliable source". Let's assume that the RSR has one of the best source on the FARC. How come we did not know about it before? And why the RSR does not write something like " that was the source that confirmed this on that date" to remind us that indeed they do have one of the best sources. I mean, even this blog will not be as sloppy on such a transcendent matter!

I am not going to visit the different articles that had been emitted today. Suffice to say that the French and Colombian governments have soundly denied that they have paid anything. Even more, Santos, the Colombia defense minister, has reminded folks that it is a policy of the Colombian government to pay for info that leads to capture of FARC leaders or to the rescue of hostages. Thus they would have no problem in admitting this if it was today's case. In fact in the past Santos says that they even paid on other opportunities more than the 20 millions announced by the Swiss without a receipt. Ironically he added that 20 million for what happened two days ago would have been a true bargain. Let me remind the reader of the debate on a recompense a few weeks ago when the hands of Ivan Rios where brought to Colombian authorities along his lap top by the body guard that killed his own boss....

What was sadder was that Ingrid felt obliged to say that the rescue did not seem faked at all, spoiling somewhat what should have been a perfect and gracious day for her. I suppose that since I am sure she harbors political ambitions she might want to get used at how hateful some of the press has become while she was held hostage.

But it really does not matter- Today the Colombian government released the video of the rescue, taken with a small amateur camera as they tried to avoid the big media show involved in the Chavez "rescues", Hollywood director included. To me it seems all very credible, and if it is really staged, then the Colombian are better than Chavez, and they do not need to hire Oliver Stone for their media shows. (1) With that, the only other argument of the RSR is voided as they complained that the video was not immediately released as it is "the usage". Yeah, right, the RSR follows rescue missions all around the world live to be the first ones to show the news. Eat your heart out BBC and CNN....

But let's follow this argument a little bit further. Will we read soon that the rescue was fake because there was not a full TV crew from TeleSur on the premises? That if we do not have an interior minister congratulating the FARC guerrilla for their humanitarian actions then there is something fishy in the rescue? How far are certain journalists willing to to go to satisfy their personal grievances? Where is the investigation of the RSR on how much Chavez paid for Clara Rojas and co.? Can this wonderful RSR source bring us some data on this?

The difference here for those who are not getting it yet is that when Chavez freed hostages twice, nobody begrudged him his media show or him paying the monies he paid for them. We complained about the tackiness of the operation and that the Venezuelan tax payer footed the bill without being consulted on that matter as it was clearly an event designed for and by Chavez to score points against Uribe. But we implicitly accepted that if some money exchanged hands for these people release, so be it.

So, what gives here? I see tow things.

First I see a reaction of people that cannot believe that such a coup can be done by Colombians. The same type of psychological reaction of some that still do not believe that the US put a man on the moon in 1969. Thus all sorts of parallel universe explanations must be found. Occam can shave himself with his razor. If to this you had the congenital hatred that some have toward Uribe, well, you can yourself draw all sorts of conclusions. We see this phenomenon all the time, from the right that hated Clinton from day one to the left that hated Bush from day one, before he even had time to screw up. Irrational dislike of Uribe is not novel enough a disorder to make it to the DSM-IV. (2)

But going the Occam way we can come up with a much simpler explanation for the RSR snippet: their informer was simply ill informed. To begin with the operation cost is probably close to 20 millions. Or does anyone think that the helicopters and their equipment came for free, or that the participants are not expecting a nice bonus for their success? Of course some informants had to be paid, had to be offered guarantees or how do you think that the Colombian Intelligence managed to infiltrate the FARC. Indeed Colombia paid 20 million, or even much more than that, just in logistics!

It is quite conceivable that someone within Uribe camp was upset to be left on the side lines of the glorious operation, or hates Uribe even though he works for him, or whatever, and in a fit of anger passed along an information, any undigested information that s/he though could throw doubts on Uribe's jackpot.

In other words it is not for Uribe, or Sarkozy, to account for themselves, it is for the RSR to give the necessary details to prove its point, or justify an investigation: informer's infos can only go so far, even in blogs.

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1) The BBC in English also as that video but they removed the sound. So right now there is no subtitled version available.

2) An ethnic comment. Switzerland is a very safe and rich and spoiled country now. The Swiss are in fact at home very conservative, owning immigration laws that are the inspiration of the current ones voted at Strasbourg. Yet, in my experience the Swiss are among the biggest providers of PSF per capita. In addition I would push by writing that that it was very Swiss to complain abotu the slow release of the video. Colombia, not used to dashing rescues, might have wanted to take its time to examine the video for security reasons before they released it to the press.

-The end-

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