cruz_roja.JPGIt was CNN that first reported on July 15 that a military officer had apparently used the Red Cross emblem during Operation Jaque. CNN had seen a tape leaked by a military officer that showed the use of the emblem. Even though CNN chose not to pay for the video and pictures at the price asked, it demonstrated that the officially released video offers a glimpse of the symbol. The next day, July 16, President Uribe made a speech in which he explained that “This officer, upon confessing his error to the high command, has said that when the helicopter was about to land, he saw such a quantity of guerrillas, that he became so very nervous, that he feared for his life and so he took out the piece of cloth with the International Committee of the Red Cross symbols, which he had in his pocket, and he put it over his vest.” Nevertheless, CNN immediately reported that Uribe’s explanation did not match what the news agency had seen. “However, a confidential military source who showed CNN the photographs that included the man wearing the bib said they were taken moments before the mission took off,” CNN reported.

CNN did not update its story and other news sources failed to follow-up. The case was considered closed and the President’s explanations accepted until early August when the Colombian news source RCN aired unofficial video footage (probably the same footage CNN chose not to buy) that clearly demonstrates the President’s explanation was wrong. In the video, one can see a military officer using the Red Cross bib from beginning to end. It became clear that the bib was strategically used to deceive the rebels.  Since then, the Red Cross has stated that the Colombian government clearly violated the Geneva Conventions. 

The question is, why did it take news sources so long to reveal the truth, and why was the story considered closed even though CNN reported discrepancies between what the President had said and what CNN had seen in the tapes and photos? Had RCN not leaked the video, we would probably still be in the dark about the use of the Red Cross emblem. Colombia’s journalists usually play an admirable role in investigating these issues and keeping the government in check. This is precisely why it seems odd that this story was not further investigated earlier.