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AOL boss hangs out with Marxist guerrillas

...Or terrorists, as the State Department calls them

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AOL has come up with a novel way of disposing of big-shot directors - send them into a war zone and tell them to start negotiating with Marxist guerillas. The ISP parachuted Jim Kimsey, its chairman emeritus, into a rebel-held village in Colombia where he met Manuel Marulanda, the founder and chief of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. They swapped baseball caps.

"Marulanda gave Kimsey one in rebel camouflage. Kimsey gave Marulanda one emblazoned with the AOL logo," according to AP<, which broke the news. Whatever next - AOL doling out branded berets for IRA members at the Decommissioning talks? It seems unlikely that FARC, whose commercial activities to date centre around kidnapping and the drugs trade, has extended this remit to the provision of online services.

Kimsey, who was accompanied by government peace negotiators, reveals as much when he says the meeting was a "wonderful opportunity" to support the peace process. He told Marulanda that overseas companies would refrain from investing in Colombia unless there was peace.

"He understands, I think, that foreign investment is critical to the prosperity of this country and I think is willing to negotiate and to discuss possible solutions that will move this country into the 21st century," Kimsey told AP.

Let's hope he's right. What a triumph for international capitalism it would be if AOL secures peace in our time in Colombia. From there it would be one short step to privatising the United Nations Security Council. And then the company could really let rip.

The Register can only applaud (and from a very safe distance) any attempt to help peace. But what if Kimsey is wrong? According to "Patterns of Global Terrorism, 1998", compiled by The United States Department of State, FARC is the "largest, best-trained, and best-equipped insurgent organization in Colombia. Established in 1964 as a rural-based, pro-Soviet guerrilla army ... Strength ... Approximately 8,000-12,000 armed combatants and an unknown number of supporters, mostly in rural areas".

FARC has been in desultory peace talks since 1998. In large areas of Colombia, it holds the upper hand. It doesn't look like it's up to handing over its weapons just yet. Besides, people like Marulanda despise people like Kimsey. For FARC, an anti-capitalist revolutionary movement, global multinationals such as AOL are part of the problem, not part of its solution. ®

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