FARC uses kidnapped journalists to extort Ecuador

The defense minister of Colombia said there is no information about the area where the hostages are being held

FARC, in exchange for releasing journalists, calls for an agreement between Ecuador and Colombia to end terrorism. (Photomontage PanAm Post)

On Monday night, the first proofs of life of the three Ecuadorian journalists kidnapped on the border with Colombia were made public. The hostages declared that they were held by FARC ‘dissidents’, who are negotiating an exchange for three of their detained members. This shows how much influence the guerrilla has in the Ecuadorian territory.

“Mister President Lenin Moreno, our lives are in your hands, what they want is to trade their three detainees in Ecuador and to cancel the agreement that Ecuador and Colombia have to end terrorism,” said one of the hostages.

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The 22-seconds video confirms the hypothesis that Paúl Rivas, Javier Ortega, and Efraín Segarra were, in fact, kidnapped by the Oliver Sinisterra Front.

In the early hours Monday morning, a photo of the kidnapped journalists chained to each other was released.

For the time being, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Villegas, who said months ago that the FARC was not the main security threat for the country, noted that they are not sure of the whereabouts of the kidnapped journalists.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the hostages communicated a new request of the kidnappers in a second video.

“The kidnappings of civilians are not going to stop, nor the attacks on the military, or to Ecuadorian soldiers in Ecuador’s territory, as long as the Government of President Lenin Moreno and the Ecuadorian Government, does not end the agreement to end terrorism signed with the Government of Colombia.”

“Ecuador shouldn’t get involved in a war that is not theirs, that it doesn’t concern the country”, the stamen continues to say.

The journalists also ask their family members to keep on demonstrations in the streets that demand the Government actions in favor of a dialogue, and to agree with the conditions, to grant their release.

In a previous part of the video, it is said that after a week of being captive, the hostages are physically well, but emotionally “fainting.”

“Our lives are in your hands, in the Ecuadorian Government,” the hostage added. “Our lives are in your hands, Mister President.”

The PanAm Post talked to Joseph Humire, an expert in global security, particularly in asymmetric war theory and transnational threats, to better understand the impact of terrorism. Humire is currently the executive director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society (Centro de Estudios para una Sociedad Libre y Segura).

Humire recommends analyzing this case using Venezuela as an example since he claims that the normal presence of armed groups occurs through a process of legitimation.

Just as in the beginning Hugo Chavez and his supporters were considered terrorists, trained by the guerrilla and communist party member, Douglas Bravo, they were gradually recognized until they reached power.

“The purpose of terrorism is political change”

“Kidnapping three hostages (journalists) and then using them to negotiate a political change is a form of terrorism. If President Moreno agrees to cancel the agreement on counterterrorism between Ecuador and Colombia, he is putting at risk his country’s rule of law and setting a very dangerous precedent where more journalists (or others) will be vulnerable to this type of terrorist tactics,” said Humire.

Repercussions of agreeing to negotiate

“In case of agreeing (with the kidnappers’ requests), President Moreno encourages terrorists in Colombia (and other countries) to reach their political objectives using more kidnappings and/or terrorist action. In economics this is called ‘moral hazard,’ meaning that when you encourage risky behaviors (i.e. terrorism) you will have more of these type of actions,” Humire explained.

Retaliation in case of refusing to negotiate

“If he (president Moreno) does not agree (with FARC’s demands), it is possible that they will kill the journalists. Beyond the tragedy that this will entail, it could be a bad policy/image for President Moreno,” said Humire.

Peace agreements impact for the guerrillas

On this issue, the global security expert said that by giving “more legitimacy to the Colombian guerrillas (FARC) with the peace agreement, the Colombian government sent the message that terrorists could achieve political changes if they pressure the Government. In conjunction with everything I said previously, that establishes bad incentives and dangerous precedents for a country.”

“It’s good to remember that the Prussian military’s Carl von Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. While the Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin said that politics is war by other means.”

“With the peace agreement, the leaders of the FARC are simply taking their war to another medium (political sphere) while other groups (such as the Oliver Sinisterra Front) continue using terrorism.”

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