Sunday, July 6, 2008

Was Ingrid Betancourt Ransomed?

DOUBTS are being raised about Colombia's "impeccable rescue" of Ingrid Betancourt and fifteen others including three American contractors. Claims of a secret payoff to secure the release are discussed in the Times Online article by Charles Bremner in Paris and Thomas Catan in Madrid:

Doubts emerged from reports in Europe and Latin America that the Colombian forces may not have fooled the rebels but enjoyed their complicity. Le Monde suggested that Gerardo Aguilar, the rebel in charge of the hostages, had given them up in return for a promise of amnesty. It linked this with President Sarkozy’s offers of asylum to Farc personnel. He renewed the offer on the night of Ms Betancourt's release. “Was Aguilar turned by the army, or even bought? Questions and doubts remain,” it said.

On television, as Ms Betancourt’s aircraft was landing, Dominique Moisi, former director of the French Institute of International Relations, said that money had probably been used in an operation to infiltrate the Farc leadership. “They were bought to turn them, like Mafia chiefs,” he said.

Swiss public radio cited an informed Colombian source as saying that the operation had been staged to cover up the fact that the US and Colombians had paid $20 million for their freedom. The hostages released on Wednesday “were in reality ransomed for a high price, and the whole operation afterwards was a set-up”, it said. Three of the hostages were agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, said to have been detached from the FBI.

French state media also raised questions about Ms Betancourt’s healthy appearance on her release, compared with the gaunt and haggard look of her last video from captivity. France Inter radio suggested that the hostages may have been given food and medicine before a planned release.

Colombian and French authorities have denied or dismissed these doubts as "completely false." I think an indication of the whole truth may yet emerge in whether FARC implodes from such a stunning defeat or explodes in renewed vigor and violence. Often that is the only way to tell.

Republican Presidential candidate John McCain wisely stayed away from the Betancourt limelight, even though it was some coincidence that he happened to be in Colombia at the time of the rescue.

I remember last year that our own DILG Secretary Ronnie Puno also claimed that the government had engineered a brilliant "sting operation" on the Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan to miraculously secure the release of the hostaged Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi "without bloodshed or ransom". Or any arrests of the terrorist kidnappers. In the year that followed, there came in quick succession the ambush and beheading of fourteen Marines on Basilan (after peace negotiators stopped a Basilan judge from arresting MILF bigwigs suspected of involvement in the horrific incident); the ambush killings of over 56 Philippine Army troopers in Sulu at the hands of the ASG/MNLF; the beheadings of six Philippine summer students also in Sulu; and just recently the spectacular kidnapping and subsequent release of news anchor person Ces Drilon and three others. In the latter her family admits to having paid a 5 million peso ransom, though the DILG and police are now denying that an addition 15 million peso ransom payoff was also delivered from government coffers.

At this very moment, the Abu Sayyaf is holding hostage four employees of the Basilan Electric Cooperative, Alberto and Emilberto Singson, and Paul and Ian Helwig who were seized by armed men led by Abu-Sayyaf sub-leader Nur Hasan Jamiri in Sitio Batubabag, Barangay Sinulatan, Tuburan last week. Being relative "nobodies" there is hardly any press coverage of the incident in the local media to compare with the brouhaha over Ces Drilon's kidnapping--and ominously for them, no one to pay the ransom demanded or carry out a brilliant rescue.

The Abu Sayyaf have issued an ultimatum for ransom to be paid by this Tuesday, ... or else!


The World Bank reportedly has a new analysis showing that BIOFUELS are responsible for driving up the costs of food 75% and may have caused the current food price crisis. (via Arts and Letters Daily and the Guardian). Hang it all up, Migz.


Jaywalker said...

so, if indeed it was true it only proves that kfr is big business, but..... unlike in the Philippines or maybe it is also the same all the participants get their "fair" share.... even bigger than the kidnappers themselves.

DJB Rizalist said...

Don't know if you saw the rescue video...but I thought the guerillas were lined up just a lil too straight, well dressed, posing...of course we may never know the truth...depends on how FARC acts from now on, we have so much experience with kfr gangs, we should be able to gauge...

AdB said...


Don't fall for the innuendo filling space practice that you accuse PDI of so often... not worthy even of you to do that.

I'm inclined to believe that Sarkozy indirectly (through Quai d'Orsay and their sattelites in situ) put so much pressure on Colombian president and with a bit of help with everyone around, Uribe managed to do something.

Charles Bremner, an Aussie member of the Murdoch press is one of those journalists you typify who practice freedom of the press as a commercial right to sell news, gossips, innuendoes, entertainment etc. to capture an avid public. Charles Bremner does exactly that -- entertain his public...

For your info, The Times which was the paper of the usually right-wing British Establishment until the Thatcher years has lost much clout among Conservative readers in the UK. It has become more left wing than the Guardian! The only truly right-wing (right of Genghis Khan that is) broadsheet left in the UK is The Daily Telegraph.

Btw, in one of my posts in his blog, I quoted the title of one of your blog posts for my intro -- Press Freedom is the Commercial Right to Sell News, Views and Entertainment -- funny that amerloque commenters in his blog didn't bat an eyelash. I thought that was rather a very appropriate description of Freedom of the Press -- mind you, I don't believe there's anything wrong with doing just that, sell news, entertainment, blah, etc, etc, etc -- but malicious innuendoes should rightly belong to smut magazines, tabloids (eg The Sun in the UK) etc. which understandably make more money because they have a far bigger readership.

DJB Rizalist said...

the real point behind my post on commercial journalism is that because Press Freedom IS a commercial right, it does not, as Ellen Tordesillas and your buddies over there seem to believe, trump all other rights, for example the right of police to demand that civilians and commercial journalists get out of the way of them doing their job.

since i vigorously support free enterprise capitalism, i am not denigrating press freedom as such just because it partakes of commercialism. Not at all!

It is really a clarification that I've made for myself about the the hierarchy of democratic rights which it seems both the Left and the Right often get confused about.

Even innuendo is allowed, indeed, it is equally protected by the law as news, views and entertainment.

What gets my goat is when press freedom is somehow exalted as the highest most noble freedom of all. It is not! for it is in fact a "regulated" right, as all commercial exercises ought to be.

I repeat, the press freedom of the lowest tabloid is exactly the same as the highest editorial.

Non commercial free speech is "higher" up in the hierarchy and is more protected. But even this is lower than the right to life of police and everyone else.

AdB said...


"trump all other rights, for example the right of police to demand that civilians and commercial journalists get out of the way of them doing their job."

The police have all the right to demand that they get out of the way, etc -- I think there was never a question of stripping the police of that right so it is rather simplistic of you to sum up the entire Pen caper with one simplistic sentence.

I wasn't there so I wouldn't know what happened between Ellen and the police.

Just like you say, difficult to believe what's reported in the PDI.

AdB said...

If you really want to know, I thought the Trillanes-Lim Pen caper was not exactly the ideal thing to do (and I got quite a flak for posting something to that effect in one of the blogs...) so you'll be wasting your time on me if you insist on discussing the Pen incident with me.

AdB said...

Re: depends on how FARC acts from now on,

Don't write off FARC just yet... they have almost limitless quantity of les nerfs de guerre (nerve of war), i.e., money as they continue to manufacture drugs for US consumption. Even you must accept that in that sense, the US is a major financial contributors to the continuing existence of FARC.

cvj said...

Migs might still have a way out as the report you linked to above states that:

"...biofuels derived from sugarcane, which Brazil specializes in, have not had such a dramatic impact."

AFAIK, Zubiri's is pushing for biofuels based on sugarcane.

DJB Rizalist said...

Not on the sugar market, given the depressed condition it's in anyway, being the only one where prices have been falling, but oh my, look at the rate at which the Amazon rainforest is being destroyed to make way for biofuel production!

It's just as bad for the mangrove forests in Indonesia to make way for palm oil production.

All around biofuels are a bad idea because they are badly named. The suggested and more accurate appellation is AGROFUEL.

Indeed in previous posts I've noted the reports that rosy estimates for biofuel production largely ignore the carbon emissions associated with clearing and prepping even "wastelands" for production of such crops as jatropha, sugar cane, palm and even malunggay.

there appears to be no free lunch in agrofuels at all.

Richard said...

Gee, what is so hard to grasp about this? Using agicultural food stocks to make fuel (in an extremely PC, inefficent manner such as so-called bio-fuels) means less food...and no appreciable increase in fuel..DUH!