FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Colombia’s Deadly "Democracy"

by DANIEL KOVALIK

In his book, Colombia: the Genocidal Democracy, Father Javier Girardo, a Jesuit priest and long-time human rights activist in Colombia, estimated that, between 1988 and 1995, more than 60,000 Colombians lost their lives to the internal conflict in Colombia – most of them at the hands of the state, either in the form of the official Colombian military or the paramilitary forces supported by the state.

As for the Colombian state’s support for the paramilitaries, also known as “death squads,” that is well-known. Thus, as the U.S. State Department has concluded in its annual human rights reports, the paramilitaries have received active support from the Colombian government and from the Colombian military which has provided the paramilitaries with weapons, ammunition, logistical support and even with soldiers. Given that the U.S. has aided the Colombian military with over $7 billion in military assistance since 2000, all the while knowing the military’s close collaboration with the murderous paramilitaries, the U.S. itself is complicit in the paramilitaries’ crimes.

The extent of the Colombian state’s connections with the paramilitaries continues to be exposed, with former paramilitary leaders revealing the heights of the government support for their activities. Within the past days, for example, former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso confirmed that the current Colombian Vice-President, Francisco Santos, and the Defense Minister, Juan Manual Santos, had close ties with the paramilitary forces. Juan Manual Santos is expected to be the next President of Colombia.

Up till recently, the prevailing estimate of civilians killed specifically by the paramilitaries has been around 30,000. Father Girardo, citing new estimates by Colombia’s own Prosecutor General, has now shattered those original estimates, announcing that the Prosecutor General is currently investigating 150,000 extrajudicial killings by the paramilitary groups – killings which took place between the late 1980’s and the current time. Even the prior, more conservative estimates would have made Colombia the worst human rights abuser in South America in recent times, having victimized more than Argentina’s fascist junta and Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship.

The new estimates place Colombia in a category all of its own as the worst human rights abuser in the Western Hemisphere. And, in terms of peoples internally displaced as a result of the conflict in Colombia – over 4 million – Colombia ranks only second in the world to the Sudan. And, not too surprisingly given the U.S.’s usual support for the worst human rights abusers, the Washington Post reported in an article by Juan Forero on April 19, 2010, that Colombia is “Washington’s closest ally on the continent.”

In this same Washington Post article, Forero relates that, even as the U.S. has provided Colombia with massive amounts of assistance – most of it military, of course – Colombia has continued to slip deeper and deeper into poverty, with 43% of its population now living in poverty and 23% living in “extreme poverty.” As the Washington Post explained, Colombia is “the only major country in Latin America in which the gap between the rich and poor has increased in recent years, according to a report by the UN Economic Commission on Latin America.”

Of course, as Father Girardo noted in The Genocidal Democracy – a book which is sadly out of print – this is all according to Washington’s plan to make Colombia a compliant country open to unchecked exploitation by U.S. companies with an endless well of hunger for Colombia’s vast reserves of oil, coal, fruits, flowers and precious metals and gems, as well as for a desperate workforce willing to accept barely-subsistent wages.

With President Obama continuing to solidify the U.S.’s relationship with Colombia through a new deal which will give the U.S. access to 7 military bases, and through a Free Trade Agreement which Obama is now pushing, despite his campaign pledges to oppose it, this deadly game plan continues unabated. Only massive resistance in this country can end such destructive foreign policies.

* * *

As this article was going to publication, we learned that Javier Girardo, and his human rights group, Justicia y Paz, have received death threats in retaliation for the above-mentioned revelations about the paramilitaries. Please take a moment to write a note of concern for the life of Father Javier to Hillary Clinton (Fax 202 647-2283) and President Alvaro Uribe at the Colombian Embassy in D.C. (Fax 202 232-8643).

DANIEL KOVALIK is a labor and human rights lawyer working in Pittsburgh, Pa.

 

WORDS THAT STICK

More articles by:

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail