Political Killings In Colombia
By Stephen Lendman
23 August, 2010
Colombia, America's closest South American ally, is a corrupted narco-state, a repressive death squad faux democracy, threatening regional neighbors, and reigning terror against trade unionists, human rights workers, campesinos, pro-democracy organizations, independent journalists, and legitimate resistance groups like the FARC-EP. Established in 1964, James Petras calls it the "longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world," persisting valiantly for decades.
Thanks to Plan Colombia and other support, the state is heavily militarized, more than ever now serving as Washington's land-based aircraft carrier against regional targets, including neighboring Venezuela.
The Pentagon got expanded access, former President Alvaro Uribe agreeing to US forces on seven more military bases (three airfields, two naval installations, and two army facilities), as well as unrestricted use of the entire country as-needed for internal and external belligerency, including out-of-control violence and human rights abuses, the region's most extreme to keep two-thirds of Colombians impoverished, millions displaced, corruption endemic, wealth concentration growing, and corporate predators freed to exploit and plunder.
Also to facilitate record amounts of Colombian cocaine from government-controlled areas reaching US and world markets, new President Juan Manuel Santos embracing the "Uribe Doctrine," now his. It's extremist, hard right, corrupt, brutal, corporate-friendly, and militarized in lockstep with Washington.
As Uribe's Defense Minister, James Petras explained that Santos was an assassin, deploying military forces and paramilitary death squads "to kill and terrorize entire population centers, (murdering) over 20,000 people....falsely labeled 'guerrillas.' "
UN Special Rapporteur Report on "Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions"
Mandated by the Human Rights Council (HRC), Special Rapporteur Philip Alston issued his March 31, 2010 report, based on his June 8 - 18, 2009 Colombia mission, understating the reality by citing "important gains," yet nonetheless damning, saying "very serious problems remain." Calamitous for most Colombians more accurately describes them.
Under Uribe and Santos, they're virulent, security and paramilitary forces "carr(ying) out a significant number of premeditated civilian murders," fraudulently called "combat" deaths. Killings rage "around the country," military commanders under pressure to show results by "kill counts."
A culture of violence with impunity plagues Colombia, the military adopting a "you're either for us or against us" doctrine, stigmatizing civilians as potential enemies to be targeted and eliminated. Paramilitaries also share fault, "carr(ying) out many killings and the numbers are rising."
As a signatory to international human rights law conventions, including Geneva and its Additional Protocols, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Colombia is legally obligated, international treaties automatically state laws under its Constitution's Article 93, ones the Uribe, Santos and other past governments spurned with impunity.
Calling resistance fighters "terrorists," the phenomenon of "false positives" amounts to "unlawful killings of civilians, staged" to look legitimate, including by arresting them at home, by patrols, at roadblocks, or though other means. Sometimes, "informers" rat on them for a reward, usually monetary. Once assassinated, faked legitimacy is established by planting weapons on the scene, changing their clothes to combat fatigues, and other deceptions. If family members later know, they're intimidated to silence, on threat of disappearing or death.
Government officials are in denial, claiming "civilian victims were in fact guerrillas or criminals," calling unlawful killings a few "isolated cases."
Clear evidence, however, shows a widespread problem, government and paramilitary forces responsible, a pattern "repeated around the country. There have been too many killings of a similar nature to characterize them as isolated incidents carried out by individual rogue soldiers or units, or 'bad apples.' " The entire security apparatus is involved, eyewitnesses and soldier testimonies confirming it.
Cold-blooded murder and extrajudicial assassinations are state policy, many thousands affected, the practices continuing unchecked. In 2009, the Ministry of Defense issued bogus human rights mandates throughout the Armed Forces, for show, not serious change.
At best, it's "too early to confirm the extent or nature of a drop in allegations. Past experience in Colombia shows that many (killings) remain unreported for long periods of time due to witness fear, lack of knowledge about how to make complaints and navigate the justice system, and significant communication and geographic impediments to making complaints."
In regions visited, conditions look "significantly less positive" than reported, lack of accountability a key factor, impunity for state killers "as high as 98.5%. Soldiers (paramilitaries and police) simply (know) that they (can) get away with murder" because of no serious effort to prosecute or convict.
Yet, "important steps to reduce paramilitary killings and violence," were attempted, including demobilizing and reintegrating the AUC. However, "the full picture of the demobilization....shows an alarming level of impunity for former paramilitaries." In addition, no one has been sentenced nor a full accounting of crimes produced. As a result, truth and justice has been sacrificed, including for victims, "denied the right to restitution and reparation."
In 2009, helpful legislation didn't pass because of internal opposition, the failure and demobilization flaws causing a "rise in killings by new illegal armed groups (IAGs), composed of paramilitaries who didn't demobilize and others joining new groups. They "may have spread across Colombia and, in the aggregate may number in the thousands."
The "incontrovertible reality remains that (vulnerable people) continue to be disproportionately killed or threatened and are especially" at risk. Government efforts to curb violence are weak and ineffective, unmasking a faux democracy.
High level complicity and a culture of impunity are at fault, why Colombia remains the world's most dangerous country for trade unionists, and one of the most hazardiys for human rights workers, pro-democracy supporters, independent journalists, or anyone challenging state power, Santos as militant, corrupted, and extremist as Uribe, most Colombians the worse off for it.
A Final Note
On August 17, the Constitutional Court of Colombia, its highest judicial branch, ruled 6 - 3 against granting the Pentagon more military bases (the October 2009 agreement), calling the deal unconstitutional because legislators didn't approve it.
Chief Justice Mauricio Gonzales said the agreement is "an arrangement which requires the state to take on new obligations as well as an extension of previous ones and as such should be handled as an international treaty, that is, subject to congressional approval."
The decision doesn't affect previous US-Colombian accords, so until resolved, highly likely in America's favor, US forces can be moved temporarily to permitted bases, effectively negating the high court ruling, a Santos congressional majority expected to affirm it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.