Bebeto Matthews/AP
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

FARC Hostage Rescue Highlights Colombia’s Transformation

July 07, 2008 05:13 PM
by Josh Katz
The rescue last week of 15 hostages underlines the weakening position of the FARC rebel group, and possibly President Uribe’s increasing control over his country.

30-Second Summary

During the rescue operation, in which the Colombian military was able to trick the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) into believing that it had to move hostages to a different region, 15 hostages, including the former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors, were freed.

The rescue has been lauded as a testament to the leadership of conservative Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who has made offensives against FARC one of the pillars of his presidency. Uribe’s supporters are even promoting a constitutional amendment to give him an unprecedented third term in office.

Five years ago, FARC boasted 18,000 fighters, but today that number has been cut in half, according to World Politics Review. Although the rebel group still holds an estimated 700 hostages, recent government successes suggest that FARC is on the decline. The importance of such victories is undeniable: polls now place Uribe’s popularity above 70 percent, even though his government has been mired in scandal.

The hostage rescue has also boosted Colombia’s image abroad, particularly in the United States. The U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement, endorsed by John McCain but stalled by Congressional Democrats, may now get new life.

Richard Lapper of the Financial Times points to the changing dynamic in Latin America in general: support for socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is dwindling in the region, while Uribe’s popularity is on the rise. Chavez, who has expressed sympathy for FARC in the past, congratulated Colombia for the recent rescue.

Headline Link: ‘Successful Hostage Rescue Could Lead to a Third Term for Uribe’

Background: The rescue; the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement

Opinion & Analysis: The effects of the hostage rescue on Colombia’s future

Key Players: Uribe, FARC, Betancourt, Chavez

Álvaro Uribe
Ingrid Betancourt
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

Related Topic: ‘Castro Urges FARC to Free Hostages, Keep Weapons’


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