Archive for 2002

Washington’s Mouthpiece in Colombia

Category: Media, War on Drugs
By · September 9, 2002 · Comment

According to the byline of the September 4 New York Times article, “U.S. Is Stepping Up Drive to Destroy Coca in Colombia,” the paper’s Colombia correspondent Juan Forero was in the southern department of Putumayo exactly one week after I had left the same region. But according to the tale he tells regarding the ongoing fumigation of illicit crops, we may as well have been in different countries (I urge readers to compare for themselves the dramatic difference between U.S. Is Stepping Up Drive to Destroy Coca in Colombia and my report Plan Colombia’s Killing Fields). Forero’s article is nothing more than a propaganda piece that helps the Bush administration deceive the U.S. public regarding the effectiveness of almost two billion dollars in U.S. taxpayer money that has so far constituted Washington’s contribution to Plan Colombia. Read more»

Plan Colombia’s Killing Fields

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, War on Drugs
By · September 9, 2002 · Comment

A visit to the coca growing regions of southern Colombia clearly illustrates that more than coca is being eradicated by the U.S.-sponsored aerial fumigation. While the spraying has eradicated thousands of acres of coca over the past one and a half years, it has also destroyed the food crops and livelihood of impoverished Colombian farmers in the targeted regions. Recent attempts to more accurately direct the aerial attacks against illicit crops have also failed to protect food crops. And as both the fumigation campaign and the civil conflict intensify, there is evidence of collusion between the Colombian army’s U.S.-trained counternarcotics brigade and paramilitary death squads that are on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Read more»

Coal Mines and Communities in Colombia: The Salem Connection

Category: Economics and Globalization, Human Rights
By · September 2, 2002 · Comment

Since the early 1980s, the Cerrejón Zona Norte mine in Colombia’s Guajira peninsula has been producing and exporting coal. The beneficiaries of this project are many: ExxonMobil, also known as Esso, and its shareholders (half owners of the mine until 2001); U.S. energy companies that purchase the high-quality, low-sulfur, clean-burning coal and can comply with environmental regulations without spending money on cleaning up their plants; and U.S. residents who benefit from cleaner air and cheap, reliable electricity. Those harmed in Colombia are perhaps not so many, but the harm they suffer is incalculably greater: the loss of health, land, homes, livelihoods, and even life. Read more»

War is Brewing in Colombia

Category: Armed Conflict
By · August 26, 2002 · Comment

War is brewing in Colombia. A strange thing to say, perhaps, about a country that has been in the grip of civil conflict for the last 50 years, but while the world’s attention is on Iraq, Israel and India, the South American country that’s just a stone’s throw from the Washington hawks’ nest is set to erupt and could soon lead to the “Vietnamization” of the whole Amazon region. Under Plan Colombia, begun by the Clinton administration, the U.S. pledged $1.3 billion in military aid to Colombia, making it the leading recipient for the Western Hemisphere, ranking behind only Israel and Egypt worldwide. George W. Bush wants the total package increased to $2 billion, and has succeeded in lifting all restrictions (such as they are) on how the aid can be used. Read more»

The Changing Contours of Combat

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights
By · August 19, 2002 · Comment

The 1960 U.S. Special Forces Manual and Guideline’s admission of military and paramilitary collusion is artlessly cavalier. “The military was assigned the primary responsibility . . . in the guerrilla/terrorist suppression campaign,” with support from indigenous “police, paramilitary units, and civil agencies.” The manual’s guidelines elude moral and ethical demands regarding the conduct of counterinsurgency units, and go so far as to extol the employment of terror as utilitarian, efficacious, and above the law. To reduce the chances of there being any lingering “threats nibbling away at the periphery of the Free World”, to use Kennedy’s famous phrase. The Journal of World Affairs elaborated this solution with unalloyed candor: “In reality, death squads are an extremely effective tool, however odious, in combating terrorism and revolutionary challenges.” El Salvador was cited as a successful case in point. Mass murder “played the most significant role in defeating an organized terrorist challenge.” The terrorist challenge in question was handily defined: “Of the more than 15,000 victims . . . nearly all were leftists or relatives of left-wing activists.” Read more»

Colombian Official Speaks Out Against Rebel Threats and Plan Colombia

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, War on Drugs
By · August 12, 2002 · Comment

On the day that Alvaro Uribe was being sworn in as the new president of Colombia, I met with one of the many local officials who have been forced to flee for their lives as a result of rebel threats. Lizet (who requested that her real name not be used for security reasons) is the 25-year-old president of a local council in the southern department of Putumayo. Like hundreds of other local officials in Colombia, she has recently received an ultimatum from the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to quit her post or be killed. At first she ignored the threat, but eventually had to flee the region. In the following interview, Lizet discusses the rebel threats and the devastating consequences of Plan Colombia from a hiding place far removed from her community. Read more»

Washington Targets Colombia’s Rebels

Category: Armed Conflict, US Foreign Policy
By · July 29, 2002 · Comment

Last week, the U.S. Congress approved a $28.9 billion counterterrorism bill that includes $35 million in funding for Colombia. While the aid will supposedly be used to combat all three Colombian armed groups that are on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, U.S. officials have clearly singled out the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as “the most dangerous international terrorist group based in this hemisphere.” Once signed into law, the counterterrorism bill will also eliminate conditions that currently restrict U.S. drug aid to Colombia to counternarcotics programs, allowing the military aid that constitutes more than 70 percent of the $1.3 billion Plan Colombia and $625 million Andean Regional Initiative programs to be used for counterinsurgency operations. Additionally, Washington recently announced that it is placing a $5 million bounty on the heads of guerrilla leaders and intends to implement a scheme to publish their names and photos on food packages and matchbooks. Meanwhile, reports have also surfaced regarding a possible military intervention against Colombia’s leftist guerrillas by a U.S.-led multinational force. Read more»