Colombia and memories of Ingrid


While brutal war continues to engulf Colombia, the country where she was killed, the memory of beloved Ingrid Washinawatok continues to engender positive, peace-seeking activities.

Ingrid Washinawatok, Menominee activist and community development specialist, was killed by terrorists in Colombia three years ago this month while on a mission of love to the war-torn country. A so-called revolutionary army which lost its moral bearings decades ago admitted to executing Ingrid, along with her two companions, Hawaiian activist Lahe'na'e Gay and environmentalist Terence Freitas.

The brutal murders sent shockwaves throughout North American Indian country, and in fact, throughout the hemisphere, even globally, as Ingrid was an accomplished delegate to international conferences by the time of her passing. It was in her passing, too, that a very large number of people realized how deeply they responded to the marvelously gifted and maturing young woman. In a time of hatred and violence, Ingrid's courageous dedication to peace overwhelms more and more as her memory grows.

Many people who knew Ingrid have vowed to keep up the interest and the work of social justice in her memory. Thus was formed the Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa Flying Eagle Woman Fund. Important initiatives are already in place at the Fund, which is rapidly emerging in international strategies and forums for its serious educational and developmental work on indigenous issues.

The Flying Eagle Woman Fund reminds us this week that Colombia, where a war between left-wing and right-wing ideologies is killing Indians by the hundreds, is developing as the major hemispheric hot-spot, and a likely target of major involvement in the war on terrorism.

In a country where a war of consistent brutality is the order of the day, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), while sustaining a rhetoric of liberation, put forth such a studied strategy of terror based on assassination and sabotage that they scare and brutalize even their most supportive allies.

Poor Colombia, engulfed for three generations in a war that grows uglier and more brutal by the week. Colombia will likely be considered the next local front in the war on terror. It fits the bill, complete with a guerrilla movement that went bad and turned murderous before it could be good. Riddled with narcotics trafficking, it straddles Venezuela, Peru and Brazil, Ecuador and Panama. Colombia is the bubbling center of the cauldron of Andean and Amazonian connections, where indigenous Americans, "indios," are most likely to find themselves caught in the heat of war.

While a second guerrilla movement, the Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN), is in serious peace negotiations hosted by the Cuban government in Havana, FARC, which much of Indian country heard about when its commanders ordered the murder of Ingrid Washinawatok, continues to kill women, to kidnap women, particularly those who have the valor to meet with them to attempt to negotiate ways to hold down the violence.

In early March, a Colombian woman senator and two companions, in the process of a parley with FARC commanders, actually negotiating for the release of two kidnap victims, were suddenly seized, tortured and shot in the head. This depraved act came without warning. She was Sen. Martha Catalina Daniels, shot execution-style with two bullets to the head, police said. Daniels was the fourth member of Congress killed in the past year. A commercial plane was recently hijacked by FARC in order to kidnap a senator. There is no quarter given in the FARC approach.

More than 40,000 Colombians have been killed just in the past decade of the country's 38-year-old civil war. The government recently went a long way to offer a path to peace, but after the latest murders, it is signaling all-out war. It wants Washington on board for its frontal assault on the guerrillas. Colombia wants Washington to release non-combatant-use conditions placed on the current $1 billion it receives from the U.S. in mostly military aid, but restricted to the drug fight.

The peace process with FARC is dead in Colombia. Pressure grows daily to wipe out the guerrilla force all too well known for its continuous string of senseless killings and its impervious approach to consistent criminal and brutal acts by its commanders and forces. From Washington to Kandahar to Bogota, terrorism without end can no longer be tolerated. Far too many innocent people are being killed or injured.

FARC is hard to pity. It emerges as a movement that went awry decades ago. Its methods and stated objectives are war without end as well, no peace, no politics within the estate, no guarantees for anyone. At moments when intelligence and principled communications could have won this movement some consideration, it carries out a massacre, a bombing with dozens of civilian victims, 2,000 to 3,000 kidnappings a year, that kind of thing. The murder of mother, wife and Native leader Ingrid Washinawatok and of her peace-loving companions by FARC was a travesty of justice, an abomination of bandits, not the acts of principled revolutionaries. It revealed a callousness at high levels that calls forth great indignation. The piece of the world and Indian country who understood the purpose of the life of Ingrid Washinawatok will never forget and will always demand justice for the perpetrators of that horrible crime, three years old this month of March 2002.

One satisfaction noted is that Grannobles, (war-name of the FARC commander German Briceno), was condemned in absentia to 40 years by a Colombian court for ordering the 1999 kidnapping and murder of Ingrid's three-member delegation. Grannobles is the brother of FARC's top military commander, Jorge Briceno Suarez ("Mono Jojoy"). These are individuals who are charged as intellectual authors of the brutal crime. Of course, there are also the executioners themselves, who need to answer for pulling the trigger on the massacre, a heinous crime under the laws of any country.

Prosecution is pending on those individuals. Everyone who remembers, however, will demand that justice will be done. A people can ask for no less when one of their "best and brightest" daughters is sacrificed by wanton brutality.