"Affair helped Tanja gain foothold in FARC"

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Dutch-born FARC rebel Tanja Nijmeijer narrowly escaped with her life after her diaries were discovered in a raided guerrilla camp. 

The FARC's military leader at the time, Mono Jojoy, wanted her executed. Another FARC leader, Raúl Reyes, prevented an execution. At least, that's the story according to a book by Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya.

But another reporter, Jorge Enrique Botero, claims that by then Tanja was involved in a relationship with a cousin of Mono Jojoy's, which kept her out of harm's way.

Recent reports and videos emerging from the Colombian jungle may be spectacular, but they also contradict each other. A case in point is Tanja's escape after the 2007 air attack on the camp where her diaries were found.

In a video (below, English subtitles) made by Mr Botero, Tanja explains how she ended up in Mono Jojoy's camp. "He was happy to see us," she said. "And he was genuinely interested in how we got there.


RNW was told a totally different story, however, by Jineth Bedoya, a journalist of the respected El Espectador newspaper. Ms Bedoya told RNW's Latin America desk, "Arriving at Mono Jojoy's camp, Tanja was told that her diaries had been found and published. Mono Jojoy was outraged and wanted her punished. If that had happened, it would have meant certain death for her." The journalist said the Dutch guerrilla's life was saved by the then FARC commander, Raul Reyes. "He feared that her death could discredit FARC internationally."

What the journalists agree on is that Tanja is edging closer to the centre of power. She is teaching English to FARC fighters, including the son of the late FARC leader Marulanda. "But," Ms Bedoya of El Espectador wrote, "Tanja is not in a higher position than other fighters. Even though she is enjoying certain privileges, like internet access."

Video reporter Jorge Enrique Botero met Tanja last September in Mono Jojoy's camp, just twenty days before it was destroyed by the Colombian army. Mono Jojoy was killed in that air attack, but it is still unclear what has become of Tanja Nijmeijer and her fellow fighters.