Thursday, February 12, 2009

Erik Roland Larsson

In an episode from The Simpsons' golden years, Homer's new boss, the congenial super-villain Hank Scorpio, asks him which country he likes least, Italy or France, before targeting his doomsday device.

Homer shrugs. He picks France.

It was a false choice. The real answer, of course, was Sweden. That self-righteous slice of Scandinavia wedged between the stoically agreeable Norwegians and the delightfully quirky Finns.

Some might say it is just another of my eccentricities-- a vegetarian with minimal affection for animals, a guy who holds the razor in his fingers rather than shave with the stick and who seldom uses shampoo.

My hatred of Sweden cannot be dismissed as eccentricity.

Mind you, I am mostly talking about the Swedish government. I could not be a hater of a people that produced Anita Ekberg, Ingmar Bergman, or the music of ABBA. Wait, I don't care much for ABBA, but that's just a matter of taste.

I am adamant supporter of Swede Sven Goran Eriksson. I am thrilled that the hapless manager has decided to focus his talents for underperfomance on the Mexican national soccer team. Don't let El Tricolor convince you it is your fault, Sven, even if you do manage to bungle their World Cup qualification for 2010.

No, it is not the people. It is the Swedish government I despise. News items like the following are constantly vindicating me on this point.

On May 16th, 2007, Swedish national Erik Roland Larsson was kidnapped from his farm near Tierralta in the department of Cordoba in the north of Colombia. Larsson had worked as an engineer for a Swedish firm commissioned to complete a number of hydroelectric projects in the area. After a finishing a job in Tierralta, the 68 year old man decided he liked where he was and settled down for a happy retirement. Life was good until the morning when eight FARC guerrillas stormed his property and took him hostage.

It's been nearly two years, and still the Swedish government refuses to acknowledge the situation. Before last week the Swedish press hadn't reported the kidnapping. It was only until Larsson's family forwarded photos to the press that they had received from the guerrillas that anyone believed it was possible-- a Swede held hostage by the FARC.

No one understands why the FARC would knowingly hold hostage a citizen of one of its few remaining allies. While the rest of the world has acknowledged that the FARC long ago degenerated into a narco-terrorist outfit, drug traffickers whose hostages act as a human shield and the last bargaining chip with the Colombian government, the Swedish government clings to the line that the FARC is still a legitimate guerrilla movement fighting for social justice. On this point, Hugo Chavez and the Che Guevara T-shirt wearing Swedish public agree. This from the country that booted The United States off the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2001 yet didn't raise concerns over the seating of human rights stalwarts Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Uganda in the same year.

When the Colombian military seized the PC of former FARC leader Raul Reyes in a cross border raid into neighboring Ecuador last year, they found emails on the computer indicating that Sweden had been providing refuge for the guerrilla fighters. This isn't a case of a couple of squadrons sneaking across a porous, jungle cloaked border. The Swedish trips were R'n'R getaways for high ranking kidnapper-murderer-drug lords who flew first class before waltzing through customs and immigration at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport. It was also discovered that the server for the FARC's web page has been operating in Stockholm. The Swedish government also refuses to discuss these issues.

It was embarrassing for Colombia that this news surfaced in a week that saw the liberation of four hostages, the first releases in nearly a year.

Last week the Cordoban newspaper El Meridiano printed an article discussing Sweden's insistence to directly contact the FARC in order to negotiate for Larsson behind the Colombian government's back.

Because neither the FARC nor the Colombian nor Swedish governments will publicly address this curious kidnapping, we don't know the full story. Meanwhile, Roland Larsson languishes in captivity.

The old man doesn't look good. A doctor who saw the video said it appears that Larsson suffered from a stroke. His right arm, leg and parts of his face were paralyzed.

So, for the Homer Simpsons out there who still think France is the enemy, think again. The cheese eating surrender monkeys helped America get her freedom. She gave us a cool statue, taught us how to kiss, to drink wine, and to shrug.

What has Sweden done for you lately?

Update: Larsson released.

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