Saturday March 1 2008: Raul Reyes, a senior FARC (guerrilla) member was killed during a military operation in a camp in the Colombian frontier with Ecuador. The newsflash spread everywhere online and international media were shyly displaying news fragments about the event. Few hours later it escalated in a bigger uncontrollable event: Venezuelan president Chavez announced his disgust and condemned, he actively made public appearances and cut diplomatic ties with Colombia, and subsequently moved some of his troops on the border. This same sort of action followed Correa’s reaction: showing his dissatisfaction with Colombia’s actions. Later on this situation got ventilated in an OAS urgent reunion. Nicaragua decided to join and cut diplomatic ties, showing solidarity with Ecuador. Everything was well ventilated in international media, TV. News and in all languages was possible to find news about this situation, or at least a portion of it. It all then became a sort of fragments. And such, what it truly happened is still unknown beyond the facts that Raul Reyes was killed along with other 25 people, troops were mobilized, ambassadors removed, and diplomatic ties were cut. The resolution until now was that during a conference in Rio, everyone seemed to resolve their differences and hands were shaken and no more politicized statements were done – so far- (March 7 2008).
So, what does this tells us of the reactions of the small amount of people that I am fortunate to know? Are their opinions reflections of what Colombia lived?
I’m absolutely aware that my perceptions are totally fragmented and partial and that they can´t represent the opinions of a majority of Colombians, or can they?
From my position as an international student in a Canadian university that is teaching me to question what I have for granted, to try to find answers of phenomenon, of change, of life, of academia and that is making me write and express many things that were impossible for me to transform in words, here is what I saw:
From my standpoint, I began to feel anxious, not understanding what was going on and even scared to check the news about Colombia thinking about what was I going to find next. How can a virtual space such as Facebook (an online community) serve as an arena to show political opinions and contested rationales on events such as the crisis between Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Colombia? Another layer of speech was perceived when opinions and ideas were ventilated in virtual spaces: and it was quite possible to infer political positions form Facebook “status”. Some even answering each other and some even using very strong and explicit language.
Conflicts over rights and speech were set in motion and it was possible to read for instance the political propaganda of Uribe’s campain: “Adelante Presidente” (Go ahead president) in many of my friend’s virtual profiles, and other criticizing Chavez and telling him to mind his own business. I have always been public about my political opinions and –yes, my Uribists friends won’t like this- but I don’t agree with Alvaro Uribe’s ideas and actions.
Another thing that I must point out that has been currently happening with this virtual community is that on February 4 and March 6 helped launch out two important rallies. The first one against the FARC and the other one to create awareness and support the victims of all forms of violence, particularly paramilitary victims. All this almost fashioned from this virtually.
I must stress that I’m practically aware of using Internet as a tool for study and all that encompasses it: it sells itself as a free to all technology to access, but only the ones who can access to a computer and pay can do so. And obviously since is all visual, only the ones that can read, and understand what is written (try to access pages in foreign language). One of my teachers said on Wednesday something really interesting about this: yes, you can travel and is simultaneous, but computers are placed somewhere and the big ones that store and manage all the information transmitted are also par of a place, for example the Silicon Valley (USA).
So, besides that, a thing that I didn’t thought about and a friend from here made me reflect, forced me to put this words now: the thing that you should ask is not that all of this political opinions are contested and are rude or makes you feel stressed, what you should realize is that there is such a freedom of speech in your country that they don’t feel persecuted in any way to say whatever they think on a space such as Facebook that has been widely criticized for having a double public/private information recollection mechanism. That as David Harvey (on his text about spaces of utopia) states: rights have to be exercised somewhere.
I know that what I’ve written is just a flow of fragments and ideas that were on my head right now, but perhaps I’ll come back to them, eventually.
So this is me trying to figure all of this events and how they have affected me: their causes and consequences, and the way I have seen it on my nice sofa at the Department of Anthropology.