FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The U.S., Colombia & the Spread of the Death Squad State

Colombia continues to be ground zero for the U.S.’s crimes against Latin America, and its continued quest to subjugate the region.   Several recent events, virtually uncovered in the mainstream press, underscore this reality.

First, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report just this week detailing the grisly practices of paramilitary death squads in the port town of Buenaventura. [1]   These practices by the paramilitaries which act with impunity and with the tacit support of the local police, include disappearances of hundreds of civilians; forced displacement; and the dismemberment of individuals, while they are still alive, in local “chop houses.”   That the port town of Buenaventura was to be the model city of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is instructive as to what the wages of free trade truly are.   Jose Vivanco of HRW called Buenaventura “the scandal” of Colombia.   Sadly, it is not Colombia’s only one.

Thus, this past weekend, the VI Division of the Colombian Army entered the peasant town of Alto Amarradero, Ipiales in the middle of the night, and, without warrant and in cold blood, gunned down four civilians, including a 15-year old boy.  Those killed were  Deivi López Ortega, José Antonio Acanamejoy, Brayan Yatacue Secue and José Yiner Esterilla — all members of the FENSUAGRO agricultural union.  [2]

The Army then displayed the bodies of those murdered for all to see, and falsely claimed that they were the bodies of guerillas killed in combat.

kovalikdead

Official military photo of deceased, courtesy of Equipa Nizkor.

These are the latest victims of the ongoing “false positive” phenomenon in which nearly 6,000 civilians have been killed by the Colombian military and then falsely passed off as guerillas in order to justify the continued counterinsurgency program in Colombia and the U.S. aid that funds it.  As my Colombian friend, Father Francisco de Roux, S.J., recently stated at a peace conference in Washington, “if these ‘false positive’ killings had happened anywhere else, they would have been a scandal!”  However, having happened in Colombia, the U.S.’s closest ally in the Western Hemisphere, the killings have elicited a collective yawn from the media and policy-makers.

A damning report just released by the Fellowship of Reconciliation – a report which, in a just world, would have been covered on the front page of The New York Times — demonstrates how there is a direct correlation between U.S. military funding and training, particularly at the School of the Americas (aka, WHINSEC), and the incidence of human rights abuses, including “false positive” killings.  [3]

As to the latter issue, the report concluded that “[o]f the 25 Colombian WHINSEC instructors and graduates for which any subsequent information was available, 12 of them – 48% — had either been charged with a serious crime or commanded units whose members had reportedly committed multiple extrajudicial killings.”    Moreover, “[s]ome of the officers with the largest number of civilian killings committed under their command (Generals Lasprilla, Rodriguez Clavijo, and Montoya, and Colonel Mejia) received significantly more U.S. training, on average than other officers” during the high water mark of the “false positive” scandal.

How revealing, then, that, as reported by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the head of the U.S.’s Southern Command, General John Kelly, recently explained to a Congressional hearing that the U.S. is utilizing Colombian military personnel to do military training in other Latin American countries in order to get around human rights restrictions which prevent the U.S. from doing the training directly.  [4]

As Kelly explained, in a moment of candor:

“The beauty of having a Colombia – they’re such good partners, particularly in the military realm, they’re such good partners with us. When we ask them to go somewhere else and train the Mexicans, the Hondurans, the Guatemalans, the Panamanians, they will do it almost without asking. And they’ll do it on their own. They’re so appreciative of what we did for them. And what we did for them was, really, to encourage them for 20 years and they’ve done such a magnificent job.   . . .   But that’s why it’s important for them to go, because I’m–at least on the military side–restricted from working with some of these countries because of limitations that are, that are really based on past sins. And I’ll let it go at that.”

In other words, the U.S. is exporting the abysmal practices of the Colombian military – practices the U.S. has trained them in to begin with — throughout the region.   Sadly, the silence in response to this nightmare reality is deafening.

Daniel Kovalik is labor and human rights lawyer and teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Notes. 

[1] http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/03/20/crisis-buenaventura

[2] http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/doc/indig48.html

[3] http://forusa.org/content/report-rise-fall-false-positive-killings-colombia-role-us-military-assistance-2000-2010

[4] http://www.securityassistance.org/content/human-rights-laws-way-use-colombian-trainers

 

More articles by:

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

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 27, 2020
Jesse Jackson
The Important Word in “Democratic Socialism” is Democratic
John Stanton
Democratic Socialism: From Fromm to Sanders
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail