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July 4, 2008

Uribe 15, FARC 0

Family reunion Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt embraces her son Lorenzo, right, and daughter Melaine upon their arrival at a military base in Bogota, Thursday, July 3, 2008.
In a daring and well executed operation the Colombian Army rescued fifteen hostages from the Colombian FARC terrorist guerillas. Among the hostages was Ingrid Betancourt, a Colombian ex-presidential candidate, three American airmen and eleven Colombian military and police officers. The significance of this rescue is that the FARC have been denied their principal bargaining chips. They still hold approximately 700 Colombians hostage. The FARC have seen their fortunes dwindle this year with the killing of top FARC commander Raúl Reyes on March 1, 2008 and the capture of his laptop computer which has revealed innumerable secrets about FARC and its benefactors including the Chávez government.

The operation itself was admirably planned and executed and not a single shot was fired. President Urine has held that the FARC problem could not be resolved politically and that a military solution is necessary. Colombia has received bountiful aid from the USA in the fight against this terrorist organization. This operation hinged on a disgruntled ex-guerrilla who turned on his former colleagues. According to AP:
But the turncoat was the key. He convinced Gerardo Aguila Ramirez, alias Cesar, the commander of the 1st Front, that top commanders wanted the 15 hostages moved to a rallying point, the general directly involved in the operation told the AP.

The turncoat was upset with the FARC because his own commander had taken a house and farm away from him, the general said. This was payback.

U.S. spy satellites helped track the hostages on a monthlong journey that began May 31 and ended with Wednesday's rescue.

On Tuesday, the two Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters left a military base in an Andean mountain valley, settling down for a nervous night in a wilderness clearing.

Aboard were four air force crewmen in civilian disguise, seven military intelligence agents and the guerrilla turncoat, military officials said. Two of the agents were dressed as rebels, and the rest wore white, as if representing some sort of humanitarian mission. All had taken a week and a half of acting lessons, Padilla said.

Shortly after midday on Wednesday, the helicopter touched down at the rendezvous point.

One of the agents, posing as a cameraman, recorded video as the guerrillas on the ground bound the hostages' hands on the crew's instructions, Padilla said. Tying up the hostages was part of the plan.

"These are 14 trained soldiers we're dealing with," Padilla said, referring to the captive Americans and 11 Colombian soldiers or police. "Nobody wanted to risk them trying to overpower the crew."

Once aloft, it was Cesar and his aide who were overpowered instead.
FARC has been in existence during 44 years. It started out as the military arm of the Colombian Communist Party but it has long since lost its idealistic aims becoming a gang of mercenary killers, thieves, drug dealers, and worst of all, kidnappers and hostage takers for ransom. On several occasions the Colombian government has tried to find either military or political resolutions to the FARC terrorist but with paltry success until now. President Uribe has been a lot more successful. Killing Reyes in a raid inside an Ecuadorian FARC sanctuary resulted not only in the elimination of a high ranking commander but more important, the capture of his laptop has revealed large amounts of information about the people who support and deal with FARC including Hugo Chávez and many members of his government. The information has proven to be so embarrassing that Chávez has had to deny his open support for the terrorists and has even called them to surrender their arms. This should come as no surprise as Chávez will stab in the back any old friend who endangers his own safety.

Some optimists think this is the beginning of the end for FARC. Let's hope they are right.

Denny Schlesinger

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