Operation Rivers of Light 2011 Invites Colombian Guerrillas to Demobilize

Operation Rivers of Light 2011 Invites Colombian Guerrillas to Demobilize

By Dialogo
December 19, 2011

Following the success of Operation Christmas in 2010, the Colombian Ministry of National Defense launched a new demobilization campaign in December 2011.

The basic idea is that at Christmas, anything is possible, and it invites FARC guerrilla fighters to demobilize and return home, where their families are waiting for them.

Rivers are the highways of the jungle and the chief means of communication and transportation for Colombian guerrillas, the Ministry of National Defense said in its message, for which reason the Colombian Army, Navy, and Air Force initiated an operation designed to bring demobilization messages and gifts from guerrilla fighters’ family members and friends to different rivers around the country.

The military forces filled hundreds of lighted Christmas ornaments with the messages and gifts, which they then transported in Piraña boats and Black Hawk helicopters in order to turn on the lights and release them in different rivers around the country, a few kilometers from the main centers of activity of the guerrilla fronts.

A woman put a necklace with a pendant in one, while a little girl read her message, “Guerilla, demobilize: Christmas is waiting for you,” before putting it into a Christmas ornament with lights inside. Each of the ornaments carried the same message to the guerrillas: “Don’t let this Christmas go by: Colombia and your family are waiting for you. Demobilize. At Christmas, anything is possible.”

Operation Christmas, launched in December 2010, had the same aim of appealing to the sense of family during the Christmas season. According to information from the Ministry of National Defense, 331 demobilized guerrillas admitted that the tree and the message motivated them to leave the guerrilla group, an increase of 30 percent over demobilizations in December of the previous year.

During the three-day operation, personnel from the Rapid Deployment Force Command, a Colombian National Army unit, descended on a location in the middle of the jungle with 2,000 LED lights to decorate a tree over 22 meters tall. The lights were activated with sensors, causing them to turn on when someone approached. Next to the tree, they set up this message: “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can also come home. Demobilize. At Christmas, anything is possible.”