In a civil conflict such as the one in Colombia, propaganda is an important weapon. It is difficult for journalists and analysts to independently investigate the reality on the ground and so statistics and information are obtained from a variety of sources in order to draw conclusions. However, the mainstream media in the United States is often over-reliant on two sources: Colombian and US government officials. Not surprisingly then, it is the perspectives of the Colombian and US governments that inevitably dominate most news reports. By comparing conflict trends and human rights statistics with media coverage of Colombia’s violence, it is possible to understand why and how the public’s perception of the conflict has been distorted. Read more»
Colombia’s civil war has spanned more than four decades and propaganda is an important weapon for all the armed actors in the country’s armed conflict. The conflict’s roots lie in the incomplete project of creating the Colombian state after the 19th Century defeat of Spanish colonialism, and in the 20th Century political rivalries of two elite political parties whose increasingly violent internecine feuds—referred to simply as la Violencia—ignored the backwardness and socioeconomic marginalization of Colombia’s rural poor, for whom the state was largely a distant abstraction only occasionally visited upon them. Colombia’s government has never controlled all of the Colombian territory, in part due to the country’s rugged geography of soaring Andean mountain ranges and dense Amazonian jungles. Read more»
The U.S. global war on terror has, in a very short period, transformed the language and practice of policymaking both within the United States and internationally. It has also shifted public perceptions of the appropriate responses to internal and external “enemies.” But this shift, and the ensuing politics it has engendered in Latin America, can be seen as a continuity rather than a break with a long history of covert and overt interventions by the United States in the interests of geopolitical and economic strategy in the region. This special report attempts to situate the recent history of U.S. foreign policy in Colombia within this framework, focusing attention on the practical and ideological implementation of the “war on terror” being waged in Colombia by the Bush and Uribe administrations.
On Friday, June 6, 2003, around 5 PM a Chevrolet LUV was making its way toward the center of Tame, a town of 25,000 on the plains of the war-ravaged department of Arauca in eastern Colombia. The truck was packed with explosives, and, according to local officials, a few extra, atypical ingredients. Arranged around the explosive device were four canisters containing a mixture of gasoline, ammonia, what authorities suspect was sulfuric acid, and an adhesive known as boxor. This chemical cocktail was intended to augment the effects of the explosion, with the glue enhancing the capacity of the flames to stick to whatever they landed upon.
The civil conflict in Colombia has been epitomized by gross human rights violations that have increased dramatically over the past two decades. International human rights groups have repeatedly singled out right-wing paramilitary organizations as being the principal perpetrators of human rights abuses. The paramilitaries are closely allied with the Colombian Armed Forces as they wage war against, not only the guerrillas, but also anyone suspected of being a guerrilla sympathizer, such as union members, peasant organizers, human rights workers and religious activists. Some paramilitary leaders have even extended the parameters of the war against the guerrillas and they’re suspected sympathizers to include drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, petty criminals and the homeless in an attempt to “cleanse” Colombian society. Read more»