The U.S. Army seems to have a new solution to the half-century long violence propelled by Colombia’s insurgent guerrilla group -- soap operas. Well, radio novellas to be exact.
On May 22, the Regional Contracting Office (RCO) in the South American country’s capital, Bogotá, requested proposals for a 20 episode anti-guerrilla propaganda campaign to be broadcast via radio. The radio soap opera series will promote demobilization, deter recruitment by the FARC rebel group, as well as tackle cultural issues across the country.
So for all those Colombian soap fans out there tired of rosy tales of love, heartbreak and love again -- do not worry -- the U.S. military will save you from the monotony of fictional drama. In fact, the 15-minute long episodes will be based on statements from real, demobilized guerrilla fighters.
The series will even be tailored to different areas of the country, with all episodes produced in Spanish using Colombian actors with “various dialects of each area (paisa, llanero, costeño, pastuso) common to the region affected by the conflict.”
A U.S. MISO team (Military Information Support Operations) in Colombia will implement the radio novella, which will be divided into two sets of eight episodes and one set of four episodes that will carry out specific objectives, according to the official solicitation:
Eight (8) episode series shall convey messages that promote demobilization.
Eight (8) episodes series shall convey messages that counter recruitment of target audiences (TAs) into illegal armed groups (IAGs).Four (4) episodes series shall focus on following:
- Promote traditional family values
- Belief in the respectful treatment of women
- Democratic alternatives to violence that can furnish functioning state institutions
- Emerging environmental concerns.
Under "objectives" the document adds that the radio novella will be used to address “democratic alternatives to violence that can furnish functioning state institutions, and emerging environmental concerns in support of U.S. and partner nation goals in Colombia, South America.”
According to the proposal request, radio broadcasts have proven to be the most effective means of communication for the MISO team, particularly when their target audience is located in remote areas.
It’s not the first time that telenovelas are used to deter crime in Colombia. The record-breaking soap opera “Escobar, El Patrón del Mal" (“The Boss of Evil”), based on the life and crimes of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, began each episode with the motto: “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.” The prelude to the show intended to present the telenovela as didactic -- as opposed to what critics claimed was the financial exploitation of the country’s past.
In October 2012, the Colombian government began a fourth attempt at peace with the FARC rebel group in Cuba. On Sunday, both sides announced they had reached an agreement on land reform, the first of six points on the agenda.