More U.S. Military Aid to Colombia

On January 10, the Bush administration signed a U.S. foreign aid package which includes close to $625 million in military assistance to the Colombian army. In early February, Bush asked for another $98 million, specifically earmarked for training the Colombian army in counter-insurgency operations to protect an oil pipeline in the country. This open admission of the counter-insurgency aim of U.S. training is a departure from past aid requests which have been disguised as part of an "anti-drug effort."

Under U.S. law, aid to Colombia can only be disbursed if that country fulfills certain human rights conditions. In early February, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Washington Office on Latin America issued a briefing to the State Department showing that the Colombian government has failed to satisfy human rights conditions necessary for U.S. military aid and again charging that the U.S. army itself is closely linked with paramilitary right-wing death squads and human rights abuses.

The briefing offers extensive evidence that in fact human rights abuses by the Colombian military, including units directly trained and supervised by the U.S. are increasing. Last August, President Pastrana singed a law further immunizing the military from civilian investigators and increasing the army's arbitrary political powers, including the power of detention of "suspects." The brief also documents the crimes of a number of high-ranking Colombian generals and commanders who, rather than having been indicted for their crimes, are being promoted. The briefing again exposes the extensive ties between the Colombian military and the paramilitary death squads which have increased by 560% since 1996 and act ever-more publicly and with impunity. In one documented example, the report shows that "over a period of a week in early July, 2001, in the town of Peque, Antioquia over 500 armed and uniformed paramilitaries blockaded roads, occupied municipal buildings, looted and cut all outside communications, and prevented food and medicines from being shipped in....Over 5,000 Colombians were forced to flee. When the paramilitaries left, church workers counted at least nine dead and another ten people "disappeared," several of them children." Prior to this attack, local officials had "alerted the regional government that the paramilitaries were coming and they didn't send help."

Summing up the relations between the regular Colombian military and the paramilitary death squads, the report writes. "Certain military units and police detachments continued to promote, work with, support, profit from, and tolerate paramilitary groups, treating them as a force allied to and compatible with their own. At their most brazen, these relationships involved active coordination during military operations between government and paramilitary units; . . . sharing of intelligence, including the names of suspected guerrilla collaborators, the sharing of fighters, including active-duty soldiers serving in paramilitary units and paramilitary commanders lodging on military bases; the sharing of vehicles, including army trucks used to transport paramilitary fighters, coordination of army roadblocks, .... and payments made from paramilitaries to military officers for their support." Many of the worst abuses are found in regions where the Colombia army is being trained and directed by U.S. advisers.

The fact is that the U.S. propaganda about " promoting human rights" and helping the "democratic government" fight "terrorism from both the left and the right" is nothing but empty words to fool the naive.

In Colombia, the extreme right-wing terrorists include the paramilitary forces, the Colombia army which organizes and trains these death squads, and the U.S. government which trains and arms both the army and the paramilitaries. This unholy alliance of fascists is waging a real counter-insurgency war against the workers, peasants and broad masses of Colombian people who are fighting for land redistribution and other economic reforms, for political democratization and an end to U.S. domination of the country.

Already several hundred U.S. military advisers are actively involved in Colombia as well as hundreds of more U.S. mercenary armies under contract to the Pentagon and State Department. Within the last few years, the U.S. has trained several elite Colombian units and equipped them with sophisticated counter-insurgency weaponry, including attack helicopters.