22 April 2008

Mexican Student Survivor Is Colombia’s Latest Public Enemy

For Lucia Morett, who survived of Colombia’s March 1 attack on a guerrilla encampment in Ecuador, the journey back home is fraught with dangers and will have to be staged through a period of exile in Nicaragua, closer to her native Mexico but further from Colombia and, perhaps, a little safer. President Daniel Ortega has offered her exile, protection and citizenship in Nicaragua while she weighs up if and when she can return to Mexico.

Lucia had every reason to fear for her life in Quito. As Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa found out, the Colombians and the gringos have so thoroughly infiltrated his country’s police and military intelligence services that these no longer answer to his government in any real sense. It would not have been past Colombia to kidnap Lucia through its proxies in Ecuador and throw her in prison for decades or simply eliminate her.

Fears for her safety have grown since the Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe’s intemperate language against Lucia and four of her compatriots who died in the camp. In his recent visit to Cancun as part of the World Economic Forum’s Latin America summit, Uribe provoked a storm by denouncing the dead Mexican students as terrorists, guerrilla accomplices, criminals and drug dealers and refusing compensation for their deaths. Uribe’s outburst managed to alienate even those Mexicans who were not too happy about Lucia and her dead compatriots’ presence in the FARC camp, even if they were there as social researchers.

For a country four of whose nationals were killed in violation of international law, the official Mexican response has been tepid at best. Complicity with Colombia is perhaps a better description of President Felipe Calderon’s approach, helped by the support of the mainstream media. He grudgingly expresses sorrow for the deaths but refuses to blame his “good friend” Uribe while his equally supine foreign secretary thanks the Colombian leader for “understanding” Calderon’s compulsions of having to make sympathetic noises.

Neither has the Mexican establishment ruled out charging Lucia with terrorism if she returns to Mexico and the ambiguity is perhaps their way of keeping her in exile. Not that she will be free from danger in Mexico. Colombian intelligence and its drug-dealing, paramilitary assets have a presence in the country and Bogota has admitted to spying on presumed Colombian guerrilla sympathisers in the past without informing the hosts, for which again Calderon’s government never rebuked the Uribe regime. Protests in Mexico against Uribe’s propaganda exercise have come from the UNAM national university, students and legislators of the Opposition PRD who demanded that the Colombian President be declared persona non grata.

Colombia is desperate to get its hand on Lucia, both to silence her as a potential witness and to set an example of what happens to anyone who crosses the Uribe regime, whatever their nationality. By evading Uribe’s head-hunters, the young Mexican students keeps alive the memory of what really happened during the attack and the prospect of being a potential witness if things turn sour for Colombia’s hard man.

Lucia is immensely lucky to have survived the raid when, by her own account, wounded guerrillas and others who surrendered were executed in cold blood. Perhaps even the hardened Colombian soldiers could not bring themselves to kill a wounded young woman though they made lewd comments and threatened to take her back as their sex slave. Or perhaps someone thought keeping her alive would help spread the word about Colombia’s terrifying killing machine. Could that someone have been Uribe himself, as he is known to have been at the situation room all through the raid and in direct contact with the leaders of the raiding party?

Either way, her account will be pivotal in documenting the details of Colombia’s pre-emptive raid. The parents of other Mexican students killed in the attack have spoken of their determination to fight for justice, even if their country’s President does not want to have anything to do with them. Lucia has shown remarkable poise through her ordeal and promised to keep fighting for the truth about the killings. In trying to hunt down this petite Mexican student, the Uribe regime has lived up to its reputation as the Israel of Latin America: as vengeful, as insatiably bloodthirsty and as contemptuous of human life.

Colombia has unwittingly passed on the torch of courage under fire and struggle against state violence to a new female icon in a macho continent. Alongside the ageing Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza in Argentina, the doughty middle-aged Colombian Senator and peace-maker, Piedad Cordoba, and the human rights crusader, Lydia Cacho, who exposed a child abuse ring in her Mexico involving the politically powerful, Lucia Morrett takes her place as an emblem of resistance to a rampant, murderous criminal state.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I find this column absolutely disgusting. Alvaro Uribe has an 82% approval rating. He is not a blood-thirsty dictator who does not value human life. Colombians of all walks of life have seem a tremendous increase in the quality of their lives since his administration began.

The FARC is not a movement that fights for social justice. This is something the international community is mistaken about. The FARC began that way, but now have become a bloodthirsty maching for state power. Their killings extend throughout the fabric of Colombia society. An organization that holds 700 civilian hostages of all social classes cannot be called humane, and in support of the Colombian peoples' cultural development, as Ms. Morett seems to think. Their tactics are just as roothless as the paramilitaries'; but, because the FARC is 60% larger than the paramilitaries, it can be argued that their impact is greatest. For this reason, all Colombians find it difficult to swallow that Ms. Morett was at the camp for merely academic reasons. How would Americans feel is some of its students went to meet Al Quaeda for academic reasons? Nothing excuses the Colombian military's treatment of wounded men or of Ms. Morett herself. Nevertheless, it has to be made clear that it is understandable for Colombians, and their president, to be upset at, and suspect of a naive young girl who decides to visit, and tries to bring international support for an organization that causes thousands of deaths annually. Uribe is not the enemy.

-A person who actually lives in Colombia