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Colombia: The Dutch guerrilla speaks

BOGOTA, Colombia — It appears that Tanja Nijmeijer, the only European known to have joined Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, remains a true believer.

A Dutch language instructor, Nijmeijer joined the FARC in 2002. But she was thought to be disillusioned with life in the jungle after her diaries were found by army troops at an abandoned rebel camp following a June 2007 attack.

In them, she speaks of boredom, sexual promiscuity among the guerrillas and the cynicism and selfishness of her macho FARC commanders. “How will it be when we take power?” she wrote in one entry. “With the wives of the commanders in Ferraris with breast implants, eating caviar?”

In another passage she wrote: “This might be worth it if one knew what we’re fighting for. But the truth is, I no longer believe in this.” She also wonders if she’ll ever make it out of the jungle alive, noting: “One is more or less like a prisoner here.”

The diaries were a huge propaganda coup for the Colombian government and fueled speculation that Nijmeijer wanted out. Nijmeijer’s mother and sister traveled to Colombia earlier this year to search for Tanja while army radio broadcast messages urging her to abandon the FARC — even though it's rebel policy to execute deserters.

But in a videotaped interview posted this week on the Radio Netherlands website, Nijmeijer, speaking in accented Spanish, insists she’s a lifer.

“I will continue to be a guerrilla until victory or death. In this, there is no going back,” she declares in the interview recorded in August by a Colombian reporter. “What’s more, I’m proud to be a guerrilla, proud to be here working alongside the Colombian people and other rebels, striving everyday to take power on behalf of the revolution.”

The interview took place in a FARC camp in the southern Colombian jungle. Dressed in a green military uniform and field cap and with rifle slung over her shoulder, Nijmeijer offers a stark warning to the Colombian military.

“I do not want to be rescued,” she says. “If the Colombian government still thinks and spreads the message that I’m being held here against my will, then they should come here and try to rescue me. They will be met by AK-47s, .50 caliber machine guns, land mines and mortars.”

There’s been speculation in the Colombian media that Nijmeijer was forced to give this statement to make up for her faux pas in allowing her diaries to be captured. Indeed, there’s no way the FARC would allow her to declare anything beyond hosannas for the rebel army to a journalist. Either way, she comes off as a smiling, but deeply committed, revolutionary.