Supporting Atrocities in Colombia

John Glaser, July 28, 2011

Human Rights Watch recently drew our attention to a recent spate of killings by armed groups in Colombia, gone virtually unreported here. On July 2, members of the Marxist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) murdered seven civilians. FARC is very much against the U.S.-supported government of Colombia and has been wreaking havoc on the people for a very long time, receiving most of their funding from the lucrative drug trade. But incidents like the one on June 25, wherein eight civilians were murdered and some in late June and early July, where armed men shot and killed numerous indigenous leaders, have been attributed to disparate successor groups to right-wing paramilitaries formerly associated with the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia (AUC). The successor groups to the AUC “regularly commit massacres, killings, forced displacement, rape, and extortion, and create a threatening atmosphere in the communities they control” often targeting “human rights defenders, trade unionists, victims of the paramilitaries who are seeking justice, and community members who do not follow their orders.” Seventeen massacres, “resulting in 76 deaths, were reported between January and May,” according to Human Rights Watch. “Successor groups,” said the report, “contributed to a 34 percent increase in massacres in 2010, the highest annual total since 2005.”

Why are the rising AUC-tied atrocities particularly germane to the concern of Americans? Because they are intricately tied with the Colombian government which is enthusiastically supported by the U.S. government. Plan Colombia, of course, is a U.S. plan to concentrate military and counter-narcotics cooperation and aid to Colombia under the pretext of fighting the Drug War and left-wing guerrilla groups (like FARC). Even if it means supporting equally vicious right-wing terrorists and perpetuating problems with the drug trade.

The most infamous widespread offense as of late regarding the Colombian government’s tolerance of and even collusion with these paramilitary groups was the para-political scandal, summarized well in this Congressional Research Service report (starting on page 15).

Since the scandal broke, numerous Colombian politicians have been charged with ties to paramilitary groups. Former Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo was forced to resign due to the investigation into her brother’s and father’s connections to the paramilitaries and their involvement in the kidnapping of Álvaro Araujo’s opponent in a Senate election. In December 2007, Congressman Erik Morris was sentenced to six years in prison for his ties to the paramilitaries, the first member of Congress sentenced in the ongoing scandal. In February 2008, the former head of Colombia’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS), Jorge Noguera, was formally charged with collaborating with paramilitaries, including giving paramilitaries the names of union activists, some of whom were then murdered by the paramilitaries.

In April 2008, Mario Uribe, a former senator, second cousin, and close ally of former President Álvaro Uribe, was arrested for colluding with the paramilitaries. On February 21, 2011, Mario Uribe was convicted of aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.60 Suggesting the widespread fallout from the para-political scandal, the State Department has reported that of Colombia’s 2006-2010 Congress, 128 former representatives (out of the 268 total) were accused of having paramilitary ties.

Virtually the entire government had ties to these terrorist groups, and many powerful elements within the government attempted to obstruct the criminal investigations addressing those ties. But it goes deeper than just ties with corrupt politicians. The Colombian police forces ignore the crimes committed by these groups and allow them to operate freely in various communities.

In Nariño, for example, one man complained that “the Black Eagles interrogate us, with the police 20 meters away… [Y]ou can’t trust the army or police because they’re practically with the guys.” In Urabá, a former official said the police in one town appeared to work with the successor groups: “It’s all very evident… The police control the entry and exit [of town] and … they share intelligence.” In Meta, an official said he received “constant complaints that the army threatens people, talking about how ‘the Cuchillos’ [the main successor group in the region] are coming… In some cases, the army leaves and the Cuchillos come in.”

Which introduces the other terrorist element in Colombia being directly supported by the U.S. government: the Colombian military. Due to an army policy which rewarded high body counts of leftist guerrillas, Colombian soldiers engaged in systematic massacres of Colombian civilians, dressing their dead bodies in the garb of the guerrilla fighters in order to inflate military body counts. The Prosecutor General’s human right’s team investigated “more than 1,200 cases of extrajudicial executions,” prompting the then-U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston to write in 2009 that “the sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military” (CRS report, p 18-19).

The drug war aspects of this U.S. funded campaign of atrocities is similarly troubling. Programs of aerial eradication of drug crops (a crime in and of itself) give the impression this is really about drugs, but the fact that these U.S. supported terrorist groups receive probably a majority of their revenues from the drug trade, being “directly involved in processing cocaine and exporting cocaine from Colombia,” counters against that impression.

There are, however, both military and economic benefits to the U.S. government which apparently outweigh the nightmarish suffering being endured by the Colombian people for well over a decade. Initially, legislation in support of Plan Colombia was passed as part of the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2001 and

On October 30, 2009, the United States and Colombia signed an agreement to provide the United States access to seven military facilities in Colombia to conduct joint counternarcotics and anti- terrorism operations over a 10-year period. The seven facilities include three Colombian air force bases at Palanquero, Apiay, and Malambo; two naval bases; and two army installations (CRS, p 32).

At the same time, the Obama administration has stepped up efforts to exploit Colombia’s oil production for the benefit of U.S.-based corporations.

The humanitarian situation in Colombia is dire. But not only is it barely reported here in the U.S., but Obama has received exactly zero flack for being a party to these ongoing atrocities. A popular opening phrase here at Antiwar.com has become, “depending on how you qualify a war…” Well perhaps Colombia ought to be tagged on that growing list of countries our interventionist in chief is terrorizing through imperial policy.




58 Responses to “Supporting Atrocities in Colombia”

  1. excellent article, tx!

  2. The US was denied the 6 bases by the Colombian Supreme Court. The New York Times recommends the coffee region to tourists. And that´s right. No problem going to Bogotá, the inhabitants say the city is now more for tourists than for the people living there, and no problem going by bus to Manizales or Pereira, capitals of Caldas and Risaralda, (The village Risaralda, Anserma and San José-with a bar on the 1st floor of the church-is the heart of the coffee region in Caldas). Nobody understands English, you must know some Spanish to go there – but it´s worth the effort. Risaralda, Caldas is the original Colombia-or as the world ought to be-kind, down to earth, friendly, cooperative. Highest up in the Andes, only 13,000 people. The best of Colombia is the people, the best you´ll find in the coffee highland, Risaralda, San José and Anserma in Caldas.

  3. yes, really excellent article. thnx

  4. [The paramilitary forces]“regularly commit massacres, killings, forced displacement, rape, and extortion, and create a threatening atmosphere in the communities they control” often targeting “human rights defenders, trade unionists, victims of the paramilitaries who are seeking justice, and community members who do not follow their orders.”

    Sounds like the prototype for the devolution of the UFSA.

  5. Ron Paul – This is the harsh reality of war, and this is why Obama lies (2012 MUST SEE) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNcYgcn-aR8&fe

    This is worth the time to watch. There is an excellent speech by Dr. Ron Paul, famous war protester Mike Prysner speaking out, footage of the carnage done to the smallest members of society, and insightful information on the horrors of unjust war – with beautiful music besides!

  6. What should get more attention is the terror inflicted by the communist narco terrorists FARC and ELN, not the occasional military operation gone wrong. Or the alleged "corruption" by politicians in collusion with police and paramilitary. What is the alternative proposed? That the military just go home and do nothing while the terrorists take the country town by town? That the farmers just watch as the terrorists make their lands bases for their operations? That high-ranking politicians with connections with law enforcement do nothing as they watch their country become a Cuban satellite?

  7. bs.

    i hold no regard for the anachronistic marxist-leninist coke pushers of the FARC, but this is the kind of thing you glibly dismiss as "…the occasional military operation gone wrong" in your eagerness to deflect attention from your fellow right-wingers down south :

    Colombian colonel gets 21 years for faking civilian murders

    He admitted his men shot dead civilians, and dressed them up as left-wing rebels to inflate their kill count.
    In the latest development of Colombia's so-called “false positives” scandal, an army colonel has admitted his unit murdered 57 civilians, then dressed them in uniforms – claiming they were guerillas who died in combat.

    Former navy Colonel Luis Fernando Borja Giraldo, who was leader of the Sucre Joint Task Force, was on Wednesday sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of civilians to inflate kill counts of enemy units.

    Giraldo's sentence was reduced from 42 years after he pleaded guilty to homicide charges.

    He is the most senior officer to be convicted in Colombia's "false positives" scandal, in which soldiers were rewarded according to the number of guerillas they killed.

    News website Colombia Reports said Borja admitted that in November 2007, two farmers were lured to their deaths with promises of work.

    Prosecutors say members of the Sucre Joint Task Force may also be liable for at least 50 similar killings.

    Eight soldiers were sentenced in early July to 60 years each for the 2006 killings of four farmers in the province of Antioquia.

    Giraldo is also understood to have given prosecutors the names of officers and soldiers who participated in the murders.

    According to the BBC, most of the "false positives" occurred under the two administrations of President Alvaro Uribe.

    As of last year there have been an estimated 3,000 cases of false positive killings in Colombia since 2002, according to Colombia Reports.

    your american taxdollars at work
    <a href="http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/110714/colombia-colonel-killed-civilians-farmers-uniforms
    ” target=”_blank”>http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/110714/colombia-colonel-killed-civilians-farmers-uniforms

  8. [...] John Glaser: Supporting Atrocities in Colombia [...]

  9. If this is about giving Americans a guilt trip why not start with the source- American junkies, of which there are plenty, who directly finance crime in the US and the rest of the world.

  10. [...] supposedly intended to fight the war on drugs and leftist guerrillas like FARC, ends up going to government-connected right wing paramilitary death squads; Plan Colombia‘s gift to the military-industrial complex; the State Department’s [...]

  11. [...] supposedly intended to fight the war on drugs and leftist guerrillas like FARC, ends up going to government-connected right wing paramilitary death squads; Plan Colombia‘s gift to the military-industrial complex; the State Department’s [...]

  12. [...] week’s post on U.S. support for atrocities in Colombia was unfortunately vague on exactly how much tangible support we give, and if you heard my [...]

  13. US government should always consider pros and crons of involving in such condition. In colombia there is big force that is funded from drug trade. US approach may have to be re-considered in order to minimize loss

  14. [...] there (groups who accumulate the highest civilian casualty rates in the war). In Colombia, the U.S. is not only funding and arming paramilitary terrorist groups with atrocious human rights violations, [...]

  15. [...] have also been funding insurgent groups deemed terrorists by the U.S. government. In Colombia, the U.S. is not only funding and arming paramilitary terrorist groups with atrocious human rights violations, [...]

  16. [...] much less about the beloved friend and allied regime in Bahrain. Hardly any Americans know about the terror war being fought in their name in Colombia and all the violence and tragedy that results, or about the hundreds of thousands of innocents [...]

  17. [...] militias were continually funded to fight the drug war (like now), Clinton and Plan Colombia which continues to now, Bush II attempted a coup against Hugo Chavez because apparently he was ‘against us’ as [...]

  18. [...] Supporting Atrocities in Colombia [...]

  19. [...] mention of the ongoing atrocities I reported on here. Nothing about how the para-political scandal, where the government was found to have significant [...]

  20. [...] Previous posts about US policy towards Colombia illustrate how the drug war has served as a pretext for supporting atrocities and a corrupt government in order to secure strong regional influence and expansions of the empire. The US justifies supporting, training, and equipping basically terrorist narco-paramilitaties by invoking the fight against narco-traffickers and leftist guerrilla groups, all while fostering corruption in an increasingly obedient and malfeasant government and military. Colombia, for at least two decades, has occupied a unique position in Latin America as America’s prime ally, so says the state, in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism. [...]

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