Reclaiming Democracy, The First Step Toward Peace Part 2

Quenby Wilcox Having It All


In my last blog, Reclaiming Democracy: The First Step Toward Peace - Part 1, I explained how the failure of corporations to take a holistic, human rights approach toward the expatriation of their employees is implicating them in human rights abuse of the families of those employees. However, the type of illegal activity corporations and government employees who approve contracts get involved in, make drug smugglers look like choir boys in the type of atrocities they will become involved in. Once again I turn to Ingrid Betancourt and her book Until Death Do Us Part: My Struggle to Reclaim Colombia and the Galil Affair for an examination of once again how governments are complicit in the Failed War on Drugs and Failed War on Terror.

Guillermo Martinez Guerra mentions a monumental purchase of a special kind of machine gun named "Galil," which was rumored to be almost concluded with Israel. This strange contract to buy obsolete and expensive guns would bring its signatories large payoffs.

"Let's investigate, and if it really involves corruption we'll organize a debate in the House on it," Lucio proposes. "We need to show Colombians as soon as possible that they haven't elected us for nothing, that things are going to change."

...Camilo refuses to give me precise information because Colt was competing against the Galils on the bid and he thinks it wouldn't be correct to disclose information against his competitor, especially after losing the contract against them. He tells me only one thing: "Go to it, dig around—it's a rotten contract, disastrous for Colombia...

These documents show us what's really going on: Colombia is buying an old factory to manufacture Galils, at the full asking price. The seller has obviously found no buyer other than the Colombian army to purchase not the machines, but the obsolete equipment to produce them! Of course, the contract is accompanied by a payment under the table. But that's not all: the Galil is a rifle designed for use in the desert; it's known to jam when it gets wet, and it won't function properly in a tropical climate. To equip our soldiers with this weapon—if we ever manage to produce it—when the guerrillas have modern, well-adapted arms is simply suicidal.

With this information in hand, we hold our first press conference. Journalists rush to attend and the impact is enormous...We're nicknamed the "Four Musketeers of anticorruption." ...

...He opens an investigation of the parties who signed the contract for the Galils. The scandal can no longer be covered up. The factory, which was paid for and delivered, has not produced a single gun, and never will. It's a monumental mess. "We've been able to uncover the existence of fraudulent conduct on the part of three high level officials,"... men, who are to be the scapegoats. As is often the case in Colombia, this maneuver will do away with a scandal without having to prosecute the highest officials responsible for the bribe. The real culprits are too important, and hence, untouchable.

Once again the press evades its responsibilities. There isn't a single acknowledgment that we, "the Four Musketeers," the ones who fought alone to dismantle this rotten net of corrupted officials, the ones who were attacked so as to be silences—not a single recognition that we were right. Not one single article expresses astonishment at the legislators' cowardly blindness. Not a single word stigmatizes this government, these military men, who are so deeply implicated. When the journalist rush to his office, Fernando Botero acts surprised, haughtily draping himself in the wounded dignity of the state. "it is essential that the judicial system be allowed to do its work," he has the gall to say. "Let it identify the guilty parties and punish the in proportion to their responsibilities.

But the contract is honored and the bribes handed out. Worse yet, the same judicial system that is so quick to cover up a state scandal opens an investigation into my activities on the basis of anonymous letters addressed to the prosecutor. Journalists give me this news with a kind of delighted curiosity, waiting for my reaction. I move again to the frontline—by a strange coincidence—on precisely the day that the Galil affair is buried.

These big front-page newspaper headlines announcing that I'm under investigation are a new, crushing blow for me. For the second time, I feel the extent of the power at the disposal of a corrupt state—the power to annihilate anyone who gets in the way. I've seen what this kind of state is capable of, and I'm truly afraid. It is the first time in my life that I have to deal with the judiciary. My friend, Maria Paulina Espinosa, is also very worried about me. She sends me a man who will henceforth be at my side every time the judicial system tries to take me down: Hugo Escobar Sierra... "My child," he says to me "you don't realize what a monster you've challenged. They know they don't have anything on you, but they will stop at nothing to discredit you... He accompanies to each of my depositions, and I notice that his presence intimidates the officials...

...Finally, I hear the official in charge of investigating my case utter these incredible words: "We are going to close the investigation of you because we haven't found anything. I'm going to close the investigation of you because we haven't found anything. I'm going to give you a certificate stating that the case is closed. But on one condition: you say nothing about it to the press. Remember that we can always reopen an investigation whenever we like."

This is barely veiled blackmail. That very evening, I send a copy of the certificate to all the national newspapers expecting this would be a scoop for them. Not a word of it was to be printed by a press whose independence is praised throughout the world...

At the end of November 1994, we've finished with the Israeli rifles, and my three colleagues and I have finally gained credibility in the eyes of the country. The public now recognizes that we're on an important track. The first step in our campaign against corruption is to change mind-sets at the highest levels of government...

While the case at hand provides a horrific example of corporate greed and government military contracts run-amuck. Unfortunately, this is not an isolate incident but rather representative of what we see in country-after-country, and war-after-war. It is also actions such as these that culminated in the kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt, who was asking too many unconformable questions about too many people. If it had not been for Ingrid's mother, sister, children, and others in the family who fought for her liberation in the French and international press—Ingrid would have been added to the list of murdered and forgotten politicians who have lost their lives to a War with no end.