Tagging along with what has already been written about the Ingrid Betancourt operation, I have a personal example about what happens when an organization’s neutrality is compromised.
The Peace Corps was established in the early 1960s, during the heart of the Cold War. In addition to helping developing countries, it was also a way for the US to put a kind face on its message of democracy to fight the spread of communism. Due to murky associations with the CIA, the Peace Corps volunteers were at risk of being seen as agents of espionage.
Though the CIA has not issued a statement on its use of the Peace Corps, former Corps director Sam Brown once stated that he had been “assured” by the CIA that it had not used the Peace Corps for cover since 1975. It was started in 1961.
My girlfriend’s father was a Peace Corps volunteer in Venezeula during 1972. He had a degree in urban planning and worked with local officials to develop urban growth plans for the country’s major city centers. At one point during his service, he was interrogated and imprisoned by the Venezeulan government for several days under suspicion of espionage.
Neutrality is an important asset for the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations. When this is compromised, volunteers are put at risk.