You can’t erase 50-years of history, no matter how WordPress savvy you are. You can’t shove it down people’s throats either, no matter how you write revisionist history on Twitter. Being an Internet troll is hardly a selling point these days on a resumé, especially if your avatar is akin to the ‘Artful Dodger.’
Online fear mongering and verbal intimidation is part of the reality of living connected. But it’s also been a debilitating side-effect (worse than Zika) of extremist sidekicks who during these last four years – and ever since the peace talks between FARC and the Government began – claim they represent the “opposition.” This invisible, elusive and sinister “majority,” is very much in fact a vocal minority, shrouded in fake profiles.
Take the unfortunate incident last month when four of FARC’s senior com- manders, well-armed, held a politically charged rally in the rather nondescript hamlet of Conejo, in La Guajira department. It can hardly be refuted that the guerrilla commanders overstepped the civility afforded to them by meeting with ordinary Colombians in broad daylight. It was an “impasse” and whose storm clouds dissipated quickly as La Guajira has an acute water crisis. Now here’s the sore point. Too many got bent out of shape seeing a video leaked of FARC “at home.” Yet fewer batted an eyelid, with the reality that it hasn’t rained on the pen- insula in years, and children are dying of thirst.
Since the start last year of one of the most severe droughts across the already decertified La Guajira, some 4,000 children have succumbed to starvation. Now, this is where the focus of public outrage should be centered. Not an unfortunate incident in a town called ‘Rabbit.’
Truth be told (although online revisionists would hardly agree) the country has faced remarkably few “impasses” on the four-year road to peace. Yes, it’s been bumpy, but hardly a minefield. In fact, as part of the agreement, all minefields have to be swept and cleared, as well.
It was to be expected, yet nonetheless surprising, to see the four aliases “Márques,” “Gómez”, “Santich” and “Granda” casually strolling down wind- swept streets and reaching out to locals. Hemmed-in by their own well-armed security detail, this “aggressive” visual moment soon lost its momentum and political correctness got the better part of the day.
Let’s not loose sight of facts. They were shaking hands and at worse, peddling electoral pamphlets for a call for a Constitutional Assembly to ratify the Havana accords. Hardly past tactics of strapping bombs to human necks, donkeys and cars. And they didn’t cart-off the festive villagers in cattle trucks either, as they were prone to do during the dark days of the insurgency when a scruffy “Mono Jojoy” terrorized the cordilleras. Two decades ago, we would have looked differently at pictures like the ones from Conejo.
We grew weary seeing frontpages everyday with pictures of mutilated soldiers and slain companions. Some of us can remember those grainy television stills of Colombia’s soldiers held hostage inside barbed-wire cages.
Some of you may take offense to my sarcasm, take it for too literal and when we post it online…go ballistic. But had the Conejo rally happened 80-kilometres east, in neighboring Venezuela, then the public opinion meltdown would have been of Chernobyl proportions.
Online trolls have become expert photo minions, picking at each and every picture from Havana by default. Conejo, from a photo editor’s perspective, doesn’t leave much to interpretation, and if we adhere to the old adage that “a photo is worth a thousand words,” then the crisis could have been summed-up in a paragraph.
It is evident that FARC want to be taken seriously as a “reloaded” homegrown, political movement. In a territory rife of feudal corruption and where governors have built bridges over dried rivers, the Wayúu people face systematic genocide. La Guajira is a stunningly beautiful place, perfect for eco- adventures, but once you take away the sand dunes, cacti forests and bewitching mochilas, there is social exclusion and institutional abandonment.
The guerrilla’s desert antics gave opponents of the Havana peace process plenty of ammunition to stockpile in cyberspace burrows. But like so much that has transpired since both sides expressed a willingness to talk, it marks a minor footnote in an announced “end game” which this month, was overshadowed by Obama in Cuba, and the terror attacks in Brussels. But the peace process must continue despite, as chief negotiator Humberto de La Calle stated March 23, “serious differences” at the negotiating table.