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.
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.
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.