FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Paramilitaries Continue Rampage in Colombia: the Case of El Bagre, Antioquia

by

The peasant residents of El Bagre, Colombia, in the Department of Antioquia, have been brutalized this year by the paramilitary group known as the Autodefensas Gatinastas, a successor group to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (“AUC”) – the paramilitary umbrella group which was designated as a “terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department, and which feigned a demobilization back in 2006.

Thus, according to reports coming out of Colombia, at least 17 peasants have been brutally murdered in the first half of this year by the paramilitaries.   As Contagio Radio explains, these victims were “killed, dismembered, [and] thrown into rivers or buried in mass graves.”   As a result of these assaults, peasants have set up a humanitarian refuge within El Bagre for the now hundreds of peasants displaced by this violence.  I first learned of the this crisis from messages on the Twitter account of former Colombian Senator, Piedad Cordoba, who has been one of the lone voices calling for international attention to the situation in El Bagre, Antioquia.

The Department of Antioquia is ground zero for paramilitarism in Colombia, and its former Governor, and later Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, one of the key intellectual authors of the paramilitaries.  As one AUC leader explained, Uribe “was our commander . . . .  He never fired a gun; but he led, he contributed, he was our man at the top.  . . .  The massacres, the disappearances, the creation of an [AUC] group: he is responsible.”  Indeed, for years there have been credible allegations that Uribe was responsible for the formation of an AUC bloc while governor of Antioquia department from 1995 to 1997, and that he used the AUC to coerce millions of voters into electing him President in 2002.

But again, this is not news to the U.S. government which has been quite aware of Uribe’s paramilitary ties for years.   Thus, as Colombia Reports points out:

In 2004, a declassified US Intelligence Report, originally written in 1991, stated that Uribe had “worked for the Medellin Cartel,” run by notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who the report described as a “close personal friend.”

In 2007, another US intelligence report – leaked to the Los Angeles Times – alleged that Uribe instructed General Mario Montoya, a local army commander who was later promoted to become the army’s top commander, to lead a controversial counter-insurgency push in the city of Medellin in which AUC forces played a major role. At least 14 people were killed in “Operation Orion” and dozens were forcibly disappeared.

Uribe’s known paramilitary ties did not prevent the U.S. from arming his military to the teeth, nor did they prevent President George W. Bush from considering Uribe his closest friend in the region and even awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Moreover, despite the continued allegations against Alvaro Uribe, and the recent arrest of his brother Santiago on charges that he himself was a paramilitary leader responsible for dozens of assassinations, Alvaro Uribe continues to be an important figure in Colombian politics, and the most outspoken public figure in Colombia against the ongoing peace discussions between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas.

This puts the current grisly violence in El Bagre, Antioquia into context.  This violence is but further proof that there can be no lasting peace in Colombia in the absence of the Colombian government putting an effective end to the paramilitaries which continue to have powerful political allies.  So far, the Colombian government, which continues to deny the very existence of the paramilitaries, has shown little will to do this.   And, it certainly has shown no will to do so in El Bagre, thus sending military forces to that town to dismantle illegal mining operations set up by local residents to eke out a living, while at the same time leaving the paramilitaries alone to terrorize these residents.

The U.S., which itself denies the existence of the paramilitaries, and which has in fact encouraged paramilitarism over the years in order to combat the threat of progressive change in Colombia, must be vocal in its opposition to the paramilitaries now in order to ensure the success of the peace process – a process which represents the only real hope for war-torn Colombia.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail