Beginning to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ nonfiction concerning Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar‘s efforts to escape extradition to the U.S. is intense. Not only am I still feeling the effects of a friend’s “news of a kidnapping,” I am trying to imagine a way out for the millions of Colombians who only want to go about their daily lives, rather than being pawns in someone else’s brutal “game” for wealth and power. In the opening acknowledgments, Garcia Marquez’ describes the “belated realization” that, rather than a coincidence of several unrelated abductions occurring at the same time, his friend’s abduction was part of “a single collective abduction of ten carefully chosen individuals, which had been carried out by the same group and for only one purpose” (1996, tr. 1997, this version 2008).
I cannot seem to relocate a critical assessment of the anti-Farc protests of a few days ago suggesting that they would have no effect on the paramilitary organization. The individual quoted worked for some kind of Latin America watchdog group which has observed the situation for years. Echoing sentiments expressed by several Colombians who responded to my questions in the Facebook Discussion (UN MILLON DE VOCES CONTRA LAS FARC) and/or in my teaching weblog (A Place in Space), the regional expert argued that Farc is well aware of the popular sentiment against them and has already taken that fact into account with all of its on-going operations.
A review of Noticia de un Sequestro (News of a Kidnapping) by the New York Times offers Americans the chance
To walk a kilometer in Colombia’s shoes, let us imagine that we have a President who carries five bullets in his body as the result of an assassination attempt by drug traffickers. Let us imagine that Lady Bird Johnson and Amy Carter have both spent time in the hands of cartel kidnappers, living on tortillas, in fear of their lives in tiny cabins deep in, say, the Big Bend country. Bryant Gumble, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey have all been urged by their colleagues to hang in there while they, too, endure a spell in the hands of criminals with not too much education, hairtrigger tempers and extremely high-caliber weapons. Two popular Attorneys General, thought particularly close to the President, have been gunned down, along with several successive heads of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration and of their respective field offices, as well as numerous Congressmen and a few senators.
I would not say that I belatedly realized how awful the situation is between the democratically-elected government of Colombia and a forty-year-old paramilitary called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but I have definitely been on a steep learning curve. The challenge that focuses my attention is how to shift the overall dynamic from one of tit-for-tat literal violence to inexorable momentum that disbands FARC in its current formation and integrates Colombia into one non-warring polity. The popular, global demonstrations around the world against FARC on February 4th were impressive; they signal a level of emotional commitment from “the people” that needs to be harnessed in a constructive direction rather than fractured within by divisive politicking. How?
Obviously it is neither my place nor my desire to offer advice. What I can do, though, is synthesize the information I have acquired over the past few weeks since Alf and Ana were kidnapped, and continue to emphasize the power of language to literally and materially set a shape for the future. It does matter – very much – how the problem is described. In social scientific technical terms, the description of the problem sets the parameters for possible solutions. One way of understanding the power of socially constructing reality is through the concept of a frame (see a brief powerpoint on Framing.ppt presented yesterday at the School for International Training).