Redefining “Peace”: The Triumph of Terror in Colombia?
So: The FARC plants landmines; civilians and soldiers are killed and maimed by them; soldiers die neutralizing them; the Army is blamed for them; and the FARC is rewarded with impunity and government jobs
By Lia Fowler*
In February 2008, Javier Benavidez and his young boys, Andres and Mauricio, were walking along a path in rural, southwestern Colombia, when Andres stepped on a landmine. Blinded by shrapnel and severely burned, Javier put his child over his shoulder and began walking home for help, led by his youngest son. He couldn’t see that Andres’ legs had been ripped off, or that his abdomen was torn open. In a televised interview in 2014, Javier said his son asked him to put him down because his tummy hurt and he was cold: “’Give me a hug,’ he said. ‘And give me a kiss,’ he said… and then it was over,” Javier recalled. Andres died. He was thirteen.
Since 1990, more than 11,212 people in Colombia have been maimed or killed by landmines, according to government statistics. Most have been planted by the narco-terrorist group FARC.
So in early March, when the FARC agreed to a landmine removal initiative – three years into “peace” talks with the
Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos — the news garnered world-wide support. Humberto de la Calle, chief negotiator for the Santos government, told reporters: “It’s a giant step toward making peace.”
Just weeks later, FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda clarified that the FARC only agreed to “accompany” the Army to remove mines in four areas of the country; but they would continue planting landmines in the rest of the country.
FARC terrorists also conveniently argued that they knew how to make landmines, not how to neutralize them. So despite being hailed as a joint effort, the work would be undertaken, as it always has been, by Colombian soldiers – the principal victims of landmines already, having suffered more than 6,900 casualties to these devices since 1990.
In July, the Santos-FARC initiative claimed its first victim: Wilson de Jesus Martinez, who had spent nine years removing landmines in the Army, was killed while clearing an area in the Antioquia region. According to his sister, who spoke to the daily El Tiempo, Martinez had almost been killed twice before by FARC explosive devices.
By August, it was clear that the Santos-FARC “breakthrough” on the issue of landmines, was a sham. Army Coronel Hector Rodriguez announced the FARC continued to plant landmines in Alto Mira, an Afro-Colombian community in southwest Colombia. An estimated 1,500 landmines had been recently planted by the FARC, mostly around hamlets, pedestrian paths and schools, he said. Col. Rodriguez also announced the death of two children, who stepped on a landmine outside their school.
“I had to report the death of those children myself,” he said, “because their parents didn’t do it for fear of being assassinated. Who did it? The FARC.”
In November, a FARC terrorist known as “Gabriel Angel” admitted through the FARC’s website that the group had indeed been planting landmines, arguing that it was a “mechanism of self-defense.”
It’s a specious argument. The landmines in Alto Mira, as in many regions of Colombia, targeted civilians: On May 20, a seven-year-old girl was killed by a landmine near a school in the southwest state of Cauca. Landmines neutralized by the Army in June in the state of Santander were planted by a soccer field and a school. In July, two FARC landmines were neutralized 45 feet from another school in the southern sate of Putumayo. In fact, the planting of mines near schools, parks, and rural paths is one of FARC’s common terror tactics.
In a particularly heinous incident, in May, Colombian soldier Edwin Avila was guarding the construction of a playground, when he stepped on a landmine, losing both his legs. Terrorists from the ELN terrorist group – which sometimes operates in concert with the FARC – took the soldier’s legs and displayed them as trophies on a fence around a school. At the time, then Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon juistifiedly described the ELN terrorists as “human rats.”
But Santos describes FARC leader ‘Timochenko’ as “trustworthy” and “likeable.” And despite the FARC’s continued use of landmines, the Havana talks march along. Should they be ratified, they would result in amnesties for the FARC’s rank-and-file and “community service” for the leadership. The deal would also grant the terrorists seats in Congress.
Colombian Courts add insult to injury, by holding the Colombian Army accountable for landmines planted by the FARC. In October, a high court ruled against the Army in a case where a civilian lost a limb after stepping on a FARC landmine near an Army base. The nonsensical argument: the mere presence of the Army base put the civilian population at risk. By that logic, schools would be legally responsible for FARC landmines too, given the FARC’s history of targeting them.
So: The FARC plants landmines; civilians and soldiers are killed and maimed by them; soldiers die neutralizing them; the Army is blamed for them; and the FARC is rewarded with impunity and government jobs.
If that is “Peace,” terror is winning in Colombia.
*Lia Fowler is an American journalist and former FBI Agent