The struggle for agrarian rights in Colombia caused thousands of deaths after 1946. 200,000 others were killed between 1948 and 1958. From then until 2018, the class war involving leftist guerrillas, drug traffickers, paramilitaries , large landowners and the Colombian army claimed the lives of another 260,000 Colombians.
The 2016 agreement ending 50 years of armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government could have brought peace. Since the signing of the agreement, however, killers, presumably paramilitaries, have claimed the lives of 292 former FARC combatants and 1,241 “social leaders”.
Special Forces General William Yarborough, reporting on a US advisory mission to Colombia in 1962, recommended “a civil and military structure …[that could] carry out paramilitary, sabotage and / or terrorist activities against known Communist supporters. Even so, paramilitary activities remained inactive until the 1980s. Since then, paramilitary assaults have multiplied in rural areas, leaving in their wake death, misery and displacement.
The rekindled counterinsurgency tendencies and enduring anti-communism of the Colombian elite, including the military, were contributing factors. Local drug traffickers and landowners, in search of wealth and also protection against leftist guerrillas, have cooperated to form new paramilitary units. Violent incidents have multiplied since, the media attributing them to “unknown assailants” or others. Colombian and American political leaders generally ignore them.
Today, two court cases shed new light on Colombia’s paramilitary problem, as does the comment by a prominent leftist politician on the capture of a prominent drug trafficker. The role of the Colombian government in maintaining the paramilitaries becomes clear. And what looks like a facilitator role of the United States raises the question of the responsibility of the United States.
Piedad Cordoba, a lawyer and former senator for the center-left Liberal Party, used the arrest on October 23 of Colombia’s “most wanted drug trafficker” to explore the link between drug trafficking and the paramilitary. Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, ran the Gulf Clan, which exports cocaine to the United States. The US government offered $ 5 million for his capture.
Cordoba refers to the “counterinsurgency essence” of the Gulf Clan, which is a “de facto agent of the state”. He participates in this “large capitalist and transnational drug company”. But, “we cannot deny that they are paramilitaries. They were directly involved in the war against communities and social movements.
Cordoba denounces the practice of his government to extradite drug traffickers and paramilitaries to the United States. She denounces the “profitable business of [U.S.] DEA by removing the main drug traffickers to have them replaced automatically, with the criminal structures intact. The process “contributes to perpetuate the narco-paramilitary phenomenon”.
The peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC established a Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) to establish the truth about the crimes and victims associated with the civil war. The objective was to obtain “justice, reparations and no duplication”. Piedad Cordoba wants the JEP to include the Otoniel affair in its “new process currently being opened concerning relations between the paramilitaries and the country’s army and police”.
Piedad Cordoba wants the JEP to include the Otoniel affair in its “new process currently being opened concerning relations between the paramilitaries and the country’s army and police”.
The JEP, she hopes, will document paramilitary crimes that extend beyond drug trafficking and “narco-terrorism”, in particular killings, disappearances and torture. She wants the JEP to show that the Colombian military, police and intelligence services facilitated these crimes.
In court in Florida
A US court ruling on September 27 points to a wide range of paramilitary crimes. Judge Edwin Torres of the Southern District of Florida has said paramilitary leader Carlos Mario Jiménez, alias Macaco, was responsible for extrajudicial killings and torture in Colombia. Relying on declassified intelligence documents provided by the National Security Agency, the judge implicated Colombian state agencies.
The plaintiffs in this case, which began in 2010, were members of the family of Eduardo Estrada Gutiérrez. Paramilitaries constituting the Central Bolivar Block, commanded by Carlos Mario Jiménez, killed this Colombian community leader and journalist in 2001. Jiménez, now imprisoned in Colombia, must pay the family $ 12 million.
Jiménez’s story is representative of paramilitary leaders extradited to the United States by the Colombian government during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe (2002-10). As with the 600 prisoners extradited there by the Uribe government until 2008, these paramilitaries are said to be prosecuted exclusively for drug trafficking.
Jiménez’s extradition took place on May 7, 2008; 14 other high-level paramilitaries followed a few days later. Found guilty, they would serve light sentences in the United States, as prescribed by Uribe’s pre-existing program for the demobilization of the paramilitaries. Jiménez received a 33-year sentence for violating the terms of this program. US authorities sent him back to Colombia in 2019 to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Claiming the paramilitaries would escape punishment for serious crimes, critics in Colombia and around the world have protested their extradition. Their complaints found little echo among officials of a Colombian government which itself had scandalous links with the paramilitaries.
National security archives Istates on its website that, “In ruling for the plaintiffs, Torres cited” an abundance of evidence “that the BCB” operated in a symbiotic relationship with Colombian state actors. ” sources.
Judge Torres’ ruling gives credence to accusations that the Colombian government has been working in tandem with the paramilitaries. American complicity is suggested. After all, the US government still provides military support to a Colombian government associated with criminal-leaning paramilitaries. After prosecuting extradited paramilitary leaders for a lesser offense, he helped cover up the Colombian government.
In court, in Colombia
Legal proceedings in Colombia on October 21 also shed light on who controls the paramilitaries. The JEP is studying the case of Andrés Mario Espinosa Garcés as part of its investigation into the origins of the massacres after 1985 of members of the electoral coalition of the Patriotic Union (UP according to the Spanish initials).
At the time, the UP consisted of demobilized FARC fighters, members of the Communist Party and other leftists, of whom more than 4,000 were ultimately killed. The president of the JEP affirmed that “a systematic model of extermination… existed against the members of the Patriotic Union”.
Espinosa Garces’ testimony before the JEP reflected the content of a report he had previously submitted to the Supreme Court of Justice. This court was examining homicide and criminal association charges against retired police general Miguel Alfredo Maza Marquez, who was Espinosa Garcés’ senior officer. The latter was then a forensic investigator for the Colombian intelligence agency DAS.
In this capacity, Espinosa Garcés interviewed soldiers and others, thus accumulating information that contributed to his written and verbal testimony. He told the JEP‘s President that the paramilitaries coordinated the deadly operations with the Colombian army, also that the paramilitaries killed most of the UP members, as well as trade unionists and students. He elaborated on “the relation of the paramilitaries with the national army”.
Espinosa Garcés has provided indirect evidence of the involvement of the US government in the UP massacre. He “signed orders to monitor, profile and track members of the Patriotic Union, including their families.” The US government is involved because Espinosa Garcés was an American agent. The media describe him as a “criminal investigator for the FBI” and as “an intelligence analyst for the State Department”. His name appears as a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Piedad Cordoba’s comments and information from these two legal proceedings are relevant to how the US government treats military allies. The Leahy Law supposedly prohibits the US government from providing military aid to a country that violates human rights.
There are two Leahy laws. One, in effect since 1961, applies to the State Department. The other, dating from 1991, demands that the Defense Ministry not use funds “for any training, equipment or other assistance for a foreign security force unit if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that this unit committed a GVHR ”(serious violation of human rights).
For decades, the US government has provided its Colombian ally with vast capabilities in personnel, money, equipment, and intelligence. An opportunity awaits you. US critics of their country’s intervention in Colombia must hold the US government to account. To do so with petitions, open letters, lobbying and more would be an awareness and a prelude to a new American campaign for justice in Colombia.