( AP ) - The army stumbled on the handwritten diary during a raid on a guerrilla camp. It lay near the embers of a communal kitchen where fleeing rebels left their breakfast untouched.
"I'm tired, tired of the FARC, tired of the people, tired of communal living. Tired of never having anything for myself," wrote the author, a 29-year-old Dutch woman.
Colombia's government couldn't have hoped for better propaganda against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. It leaked excerpts from the diary found last June to the media, even making available an English translation of the Dutch entries.The first known person from outside Latin America to join the region's largest rebel army wasn't just disillusioned. Like most FARC foot soldiers, Tanja Nijmeijer apparently wasn't permitted to leave.
"This would be worth it if I knew I was fighting for something. But I don't really believe that anymore," she wrote on Nov. 24, 2006, according to the excerpts released by the government.
What exactly impelled Nijmeijer, a child of Europe's bourgeoisie, to take a journey from peace activist to guerrilla fighter with the nom-de-guerre "Eillen" remains largely a mystery - even to people who knew her well before she joined the FARC in early 2003.
More than a dozen friends, former colleagues and fellow peace activists interviewed by The Associated Press described a young woman deeply disturbed by social inequalities and guilt-ridden over her privileged life. Nijmeijer's family refused to discuss her plight, saying doing so could endanger her life.
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, meanwhile, was happy to use the case to counter "guerrilla chic" in Europe, where the FARC - classified a terrorist group by both the United States and the European Union - has a small but determined group of supporters who run pro-rebel Web sites.
In the diary, Nijmeijer abhors the strict discipline imposed by FARC's male commanders - no smoking, no phone calls, no romantic relationships without their consent. She says the rank and file are hungry and bored, and describes FARC leaders as both materialistic and corrupt.
"How will it be when we take power? The wives of the commanders in Ferrari Testa Rossas with breast implants eating caviar?" she writes.
Santos told AP that the Nijmeijer case should help dispel foreign leftists of the notion that the FARC is heroic.
"In certain circles in Europe, there still exists the romantic image of the guerrillas as Robin Hood, or Che Guevara, fighting the bad guys for the benefit of the poor," he said. "Nijmeijer fell into this trap."
Nijmeijer wrote her thesis on the FARC at the University of Groningen in her homeland, then traveled to Colombia in 2000 on a work-exchange program.
She taught English to well-heeled children at a private school in the western city of Pereira, winning praise from fellow teachers for professionalism and a gentle classroom demeanor.
But Nijmeijer socialized little, and worried colleagues at the Liceo Pino Verde with her weekend excursions on Colombia's perilous highways, where rebel roadblocks and banditry were then frequent.
"I remember arguing with her that it was unsafe to travel by bus at night, but she was very independent and didn't listen," said Diana Angel, head of the school's English program.
One destination, Angel and other colleagues said, was the southern town of San Vicente de Caguan, at the center of a Switzerland-sized safe haven ceded to the FARC to facilitate peace talks that collapsed in 2002.
Nijmeijer's political education was also shaped by her experience volunteering almost daily in a poor shantytown near Pereira.