5 December 2008

Lucía Morett Returns To An Uncertain Future In Mexico

Lucía Morett, one of the only three to survive Colombia’s air and ground attack on a FARC guerrilla camp in Ecuadorian territory, returned to Mexico on December 3 amid fears the authorities will prosecute her at the behest of Right-wing Mexican groups. Morett was injured in the March 1 attack that killed Raúl Reyes, FARC’s deputy leader, and at least 21 others, among them five Mexican student researchers.

Lucía remains defiant, saying she will “quintuple” her efforts, one for each of her fallen compatriots, to ensure that the victims of the Colombian raid get justice and that the Colombian President and his officials are tried for the war crime. She says Álvaro Uribe has put a reward on her head, as she is a key witness not just to the air attacks but also to the cold-blooded executions of survivors by the Colombian military.

Having arrived at the camp the night before the attack and hoping to interview Reyes, she was awoken by the sound of the bombings that killed a young woman sleeping next to her under an awning in the jungle. Injured and too petrified to crawl away, she had to endure the second wave of bombings a little later, the sight of the trees burning, injured prisoners being shot dead in the back, the arrival of Colombian soldiers guns blazing and, after they had left, the heap of corpses rotting around her, ants crawling over her attracted by the blood and vultures circling over them the next morning.

The Colombian raiders who found her alive threatened to take her back with them. They interrogated her even as she lay injured and offered her the least possible medical assistance. Her interrogation was videoed, a tape that would later be given to the Mexican Right-wing groups to prove her “guilt” and that, as the Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, would later say, she was “no little angel”.

When Ecuadorian troops arrived after the Colombians had left with Reyes’ trophy cadaver, they tended to her and a young soldier stayed by her side talking of family, sports and anything else that would distract her from the terrible pain. The journey back from the forest to an Ecuadorian military hospital was long and painful and, as it turned out, not the end of her nightmare.

Even as she was being treated for the shrapnel wounds at an Ecuadorian military hospital, she found herself in a room with blinds drawn and two hostile interviewers. They were asking her the same questions as the Colombian troops – whether she was linked to FARC and if she was a guerrilla – and threatening to send her back to Colombia. They taped the interview and at point stripped her down to her underwear.

These two Ecuadorians are now the subject of judicial proceedings for their “cruel and inhuman” interrogation. It also bears out what Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, has said all along: that the Ecuadorian military top brass knew of the planned attack, kept it secret from him, and connived in it.

Ecuador was too close to Bogotá for Lucía’s comfort. The legendary Sandinista leader, Tomás Borges, now his country’s ambassador in Quito, arranged with President Daniel Ortega to take Lucía to safety in Nicaragua. She stayed in Managua for about eight months with Ortega’s son, Rafael, entrusted with her security. In all this time, Mexico did not condemn Colombia for killing its citizens and the country’s top prosecutor was not very keen on meeting her parents to assure them that their daughter would not be prosecuted if she returned home.

But why should the obvious victim of a murderous, illegal, cross-border raid have to fear prosecution, and for what crime? Even as reports filtered into Mexico of her survival, the Right-wing print and television media started putting out reports that she was part of a Mexican FARC cell rather than a researcher. In this, they were helped by briefings from the Colombian embassy in Mexico City and Colombian intelligence in Bogotá.

Neither did Mexico react to the fact that the Colombian embassy was engaged in spying on supposed FARC sympathisers in that country. Reyes’ purported laptop seized in the attack was used to incriminate a host of Left-wing Mexican politicians and academics, “proof” which was gleefully picked up President Caldron’s supporters to try and ensnare Lucía and to paint the philosophy department at UNAM, Mexico’s autonomous university, as a hotbed of Left-wing extremism. Now the Colombian police have told court that there were no records of emails in the laptop after all, just addresses conveniently stored in documents waiting to be discovered.

Mexican prosecutors say there is no formal complaint against Lucía but, significantly, they have refused to rule out prosecutions against her in future. The Mexican justice system is a vengeful beast and Lucía runs an equal risk that Colombia might kidnap her to Bogotá or eliminate her through its network of agents there and with the Mexican authorities looking the other way.

Lucía has vowed to fight on but the threat of an “accident” is something she will have to live with from now on, the price of staying alive and for daring to cross Uribe.

Related article: Mexico student survivor is Colombia’s latest public enemy

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