Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wag the dog, Colombian style

Was the 2006 surrender of 66 Colombian rebels a staged event arranged with the government’s knowledge? Was the military-led rescue of a group of hostages including Ingrid Betancourt really a cover for secret negotiations? Several recent accusations have cast doubt on a pair of events in Colombia’s armed conflict.

The Attorney General ‘s office has called on former Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo to be questioned over a supposedly faked demobilization of the “Cacique Gaitana” guerilla front on March 2006. The Colombian government and military command allegedly concocted the scheme where petty criminals and homeless people were recruited to pretend that they were part of the guerillas.

According to remarks made by one of the faux rebels today, his clothes were exchanged for a fake FARC uniform and he received training on subjects like “how to make trenches…(and) how to speak like the rebels.” Other rumors alleged that the machine guns handed over to Restrepo where actually made of wood and painted black.

Restrepo reportedly served as the liaison between the military and alias “Olivo Saldaña”, an imprisoned rebel who was presented as the commander of the Gaitana front. For his cooperation in the fake surrender, “Saldaña” was eligible for government benefits though they were subsequently revoked in light of the accusations.

Former president Alvaro Uribe, who was in power during the faked surrender, defended the demobilization as “transparent” under Restrepo's supervision. But less than two weeks after the Gaitana rebels allegedly laid down their arms then-U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Wood expressed his doubts over the veracity of the insurgents. Wood’s communiqué, which was uncovered by Wikileaks, brought up discrepancies between the army’s claims and those of the FARC high command and the national police who each denied that the Gaitana front even existed.

Meanwhile, rumors have surfaced alleging that the much-heralded 2008 rescue operation that freed fifteen hostages including Ingrid Betancourt may’ve been prearranged with the FARC. One document revealed by Wikileaks last week claimed that Betancourt’s rebel guard nicknamed “Cesar” negotiated her release one month before “Operation Check” took place. The U.S. diplomatic cable alleged that “Cesar” (real name Gerardo Antonio Aguilar) offered to let Betancourt go in exchange for safe passage for himself and his family to France.

The lawyer for Aguilar and another rebel captor imprisoned since the 2008 operation tried to corroborate his client’s claims:
“We realized that between the government along with “Cesar” and apparently “Gafas” (ed. – another FARC captor) there was a series of agreements to release these people” attorney Rodolfo Rios said to Caracol Radio”.

According to the radio station, Rios said that after the capture of both rebels there were visits to the prison by members of government, the armed forces and the International Red Cross.
Online Sources- El Tiempo, El Espectador,,, Colombia Reports, RCN Radio,

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