#206 US News Tells Only Part Of Colombian Paramilitary Story

Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2001
Subject: # 206 US News Tells Only Part Of Colombian Paramilitary Story

US News Tells Only Part Of Colombian Paramilitary Story


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #206 Sunday April 15, 2001

As Plan Colombia rolls ahead, U.S. News and World Reports is taking a
look at the questionable alliance between the U.S., the Colombian
government and the brutal paramilitaries who have helped to fuel the
violence in Colombia. Without going into too much detail, the magazine
does report that the paramilitaries use terror as a weapon.

While it’s important for the American people to understand what they
are paying to support in Colombia, unfortunately, U.S. News only tells
part of the story. The article ignores the fact that the paramilitary
leaders have acknowledged that they benefit from the cocaine trade
(see URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n034/a07.html). This is
profoundly ironic, as U.S. officials have said the goal of Plan
Colombia is to stop Colombian rebel forces from allegedly flooding the
U.S. with cocaine, even though paramilitary involvement in the trade
seems to be deeper than that of the rebels.

Please write a letter to U.S. News urging the magazine to tell the
whole story on the paramilitaries so American citizens can see the
true perversity of Plan Colombia.

Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts
and be motivated to follow suit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.

Contact Info

Source: U.S. News and World Report (US)
Contact: letters@usnews.com



Colombia: Making A Deal With The Devil
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01.n651.a01.html
Newshawk: David Isenberg
Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2001
Source: U.S. News and World Report (US)
Copyright: 2001 U.S. News & World Report
Contact: letters@usnews.com
Website: http://www.usnews.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/464
Author: Karl Penhaul


Colombia’s Violent Vigilantes Pave The Way For U.S.-Backed Antidrug Forces

GUAMUEZ VALLEY, COLOMBIA-Here amid the cocaine-producing drug
plantations of southern Colombia, five recruits with shaved heads and
armed with wooden stakes march down the main street in a dusty village.

A truck packed with 40 right-wing paramilitary fighters, brandishing
assault rifles and rocket launchers, heads off on a search-and-destroy
mission against communist guerrillas. More camouflage-clad combatants
of the outlaw paramilitary force are dug into foxholes in this farming
hamlet and throughout Putumayo province.

These are the warriors of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (
AUC ), who are key to the opening phase of Plan Colombia-the
government offensive, bankrolled with $1.3 billion of mostly military
aid from Washington, to wipe out the drug trade in this longtime rebel

Since mid-December, the skies above the Guamuez Valley have resonated
with the clatter of Vietnam-era helicopters, donated by the United
States, and the hum of crop-duster planes dumping defoliant on fields
of coca leaf, the raw material for cocaine.

The air assault was preceded by ground operations led by the illegal
paramilitary forces, who drove out guerrilla units and reportedly
massacred suspected civilian sympathizers in areas to be sprayed. That
cleared the way for the Colombian Army’s new, U.S.-trained antidrug
battalions to enter without fear of ambush and reduced the risk of
aircraft being shot down by the rebels. “Plan Colombia would be almost
impossible without the help of the [paramilitary] self-defense
forces,” boasts a paramilitary leader calling himself Comando Wilson,
the head of the AUC’s military operations in Putumayo who formerly
served in an Army counterinsurgency battalion.

Putumayo province, a stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia ( FARC ) guerrillas, is the hub of world cocaine production,
responsible for about half of Colombia’s annual output of more than
580 metric tons. The rebels get their take in the drug trade, and
those revenues are the mainstay of their war economy.

The AUC moved into Putumayo in early 1998 in an effort to drive out
the FARC, carrying out a wave of massacres that have claimed around
100 civilian lives a year, according to the Center for Popular
Research and Education, a Roman Catholic Church-backed human-rights
group. Since the launch of Plan Colombia, the paramilitary force has
stepped up efforts, and in January it added some 550 reinforcements to
its 800-strong combat force here, according to Wilson.

Along with the coca fields, legal crops such as plantains, maize, and
yucca are withered throughout the Guamuez Valley from defoliant spraying.

That is sparking bitter complaints from peasants like Irma Galarza,
who describes Plan Colombia as a “plan of destruction.”

Success? The Army and senior U.S. officials have heralded the initial
results as a resounding success.

But they recognize that most of the coca crop-60,000 acres of the
total 72,500 acres so far sprayed-has been in areas dominated by
paramilitary forces.

This has enabled members of the new Counterdrug Brigade to “get their
sea legs before moving into areas more heavily controlled by the
FARC,” said a U.S. military official.

The Colombian government is ostensibly under pressure from Washington
to cut ties to paramilitary groups, but there is much evidence that
paramilitary groups are doing the groundwork for Plan Colombia. A
recent U.S. State Department report echoed human-rights groups’
charges that Colombian security forces still cooperate with
paramilitaries. That hardly seems to be in dispute.

Wilson says he and Army officials swap information daily on the
position of their forces, and some soldiers turned paramilitary
fighters still wear the insignias of their former Army battalions. One
paramilitary fighter was seen eating a U.S. Army meal packet; the
meals officially were issued to the U.S.-trained military counterdrug

Publicly, President Andres Pastrana has pledged to crack down on the
paramilitary forces.

And the state security services report killing 89 right-wing gunmen
and arresting 315 others last year ( while also killing 970 leftist
guerrillas and capturing 1,556 ).

Still, it took repeated complaints by the U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights before Colombia’s attorney general opened an
investigation into alleged paramilitary collaboration with police
commanders and the former head of the Army’s Putumayo-based 24th
Brigade. Although investigators recommended prosecuting at least five
Army and police commanders, including former 24th Brigade commander
Col. Gabriel Diaz, the inquiry is moving slowly, and Diaz is in line
for promotion to general.

The brigade is currently banned from receiving U.S. military aid
because of its alleged involvement in human-rights abuses.

The brigade’s new commander, Gen. Antonio Ladron de Guevara,
acknowledged to U.S. News that at least 30 men from one of his
counterguerrilla units have joined the paramilitary force ( the
remainder of that unit, the 31st Battalion, has been sent back to
Bogota for retraining ). Paramilitary leader Wilson put the figure at
100 and said many others among his men also are former soldiers.

Military ties to the right-wing death squads color perceptions of the
U.S-backed antidrug effort. “The paramilitary phenomenon in Putumayo
is the spearhead of Plan Colombia,” said German Martinez, outgoing
municipal human-rights ombudsman in the regional center of Puerto
Asis. “It’s a terror tactic.”



To the editor of US News and World Reports:

While I applaud US News for showing how my tax dollars are going to
support brutal paramilitaries in Colombia, I was disappointed that the
story neglected to mention how paramilitary leaders have used cocaine
to support themselves financially. This is no baseless allegation –
paramilitary leader Carlos Castano has openly acknowledged the fact
(see, for example, the AP report archived at http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n034/a07.html).

US leaders have told the American people that Colombian rebel forces
must be attacked because of their involvement with the cocaine trade,
yet we are cozying up with another group that has relied on drug money
as much or more than the rebels. Plan Colombia will spill a great deal
of Colombian blood, and some American blood, but the cocaine will flow
without interruption.

Stephen Young contact info

IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number
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it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies
of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for
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TARGET ANALYSIS US News and World Reports

US News has only four published letters in the MAP archive. They tend
to be short, between 66 and 173 words, with an average of 110 words.

The published letters can be viewed here: http://www.mapinc.org/mapcgi/ltedex.pl?SOURCE=U.S.+News+and+World+Report+(US)

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://www.maximizingharm.com
Focus Alert Specialist