Conservative Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen has been asked to help in securing the desertion of the Dutch guerrilla Tanja Nijmeijer from the Colombian FARC rebel movement. Mr Van Baalen told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that the request was made by Colombian Vice-President Angelino Garzón.
Mr Garzón was in Brussels as a guest of the European Parliament. He probably approached Mr Van Baalen because the Dutch politician is president of the Liberal International, the international organisation of pro-business parties the Colombian vice president is a member of as well. Mr Van Baalen says he informed Mr Garzón that the Netherlands was not in a position to have Ms Nijmeijer desert from the rebel group.
“Because there is no direct line of communication between the Dutch government and Tanja Nijmeijer. However, we can try to establish contact with relatives or acquaintances and see if they can be of use.”
The MEP says he cannot rule out that Ms Nijmeijer is under pressure. “It’s possible that she is not there of her own free will, so you would have to see whether she might desert the FARC, and maybe be eligible for amnesty”. Vice President Garzón has promised that people like Ms Nijmeijer will be “treated sympathetically” if she deserts, and not face prosecution.
The FARC apparently intends to use Ms Nijmeijer to raise its international standing. The plans emerge from an e-mail found on a laptop after the Colombian army bombarded the encampment of her commander Mono Jojoy.
According to the mail, a FARC commander believed “she will be able to make an important contribution to the FARC, given her abilities and professional education in languages and also her training here with us and her well-known sacrifices..."
Does Hans van Baalen believe that Tanja Nijmeijer is still alive?
"The Colombian government assumes that she is. There is no way to be sure, unless you get a sign of life, for instance including a newspaper, so you can tell the person was still alive when the paper was published. There has been no such sign of life, only an email that she had joined the FARC’s international commission, and that was fairly recent. So you would have to conclude she was still alive"
Mr Van Baalen intends to visit South America on behalf of the Liberal International soon. He plans on visiting Colombia, but a date has not yet been set: “End of this year, early next year”.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide