e_legs

Colombia’s Death Squads and Another Forgotten War

In Culture of Corruption, Global War On Terror, International politics, Terrorism on February 28, 2007 at 3:30 pm

With everything going on in the Middle East, it is easy to get foreign policy blinders and neglect our approach to the rest of the world. Recently, one of George Bush’s most staunch political allies in Latin America, Colombia’s 2nd term President Álvaro Uribe, has come under fire for supposed connections to paramilitary groups and death squads operating throught the country. Considering the $4.7 Billion in aid we’ve given to the country since 2000 – not to mention all of it in the ’80s during the D.A.R.E./War on Drugs Regan years – this has our name all over it at a time when we’ve already got enough policy blunders under our belt. Columbia’s government is obviously in a state of upheaval:

“Eight pro-Uribe congressmen have been arrested for collaborating with paramilitaries, and dozens of national and regional politicians, some of whom have apparently fled the country, are under investigation. Pro-Uribe legislators, as well as the opposition, have called for special elections to “cleanse” Congress and erase suspicions that many may have won because of support from paramilitaries. A decorated colonel has been relieved of his post, and other former military officials are also under investigation.

On Feb. 19, Uribe’s foreign minister,María Consuelo Araújo, resigned after the Supreme Court arrested her brother, an Uribe-allied senator, in connection with the kidnapping of a political rival. Her father, a former governor, another brother and a cousin are also under investigation.

On Feb. 22 came the worst blow. Jorge Noguera, who served as Uribe’s campaign manager and later as head of the secret police, was arrested by the attorney general. Noguera is accused of giving a hit list of trade unionists and activists to paramilitaries, who then killed them.”

This is even more troubling when one looks at his approval ratings (in the mid 60s – 70s) among Colombia’s citizenry, and his decent progress towards peace and stability in the country. Losing a popular incumbent leader to a scandal as pervasive and ugly as this could create a serious backlash in a region already foaming with anti-Americanism, to say nothing of undermining the credibility of the Colombian government as a whole. Execution lists and subsidized murder reek of Pinochet, and though we’re not taught about these moments in our own history, be damn sure they aren’t forgotten:

“Representative William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat active in Latin American affairs, said evidence of the right-of-center government’s links to death squads ‘evokes memories of the 1980s in Central America. I think you’re going to see hearings on these issues.’

Aside from the problems in Colombia, Delahunt said that ‘what we have is a Latin America policy that is an afterthought.’ “

There really isn’t much separating this from Afghanistan, where the Taliban – remember them? – has come back in a big way even before they started takin pot shots at Cheney. I guess starting one war before finishing another has unintended consequences. Despite our financial aid and the strings holding up Mr. Karzai, neither he nor the outnumbered NATO force seem to have the muscle or authority to keep this house in order and yet another terrorist group has reaped the benefits of our folly. In Colombia’s case, it might have started as a domestic conflict between the Government, FARC and ELN, but it’s been perpetuated and escalated with our money and our War on Drugs. Plan Colombia certainly isn’t doing them any favors, and it’s ineffectiveness underscores our troubling history in the region as well as our nasty habit of starting wars but not having the ability to finish them.

Whether funded by Opium or Cocaine, it seems as though warloads and guerrillas can continue to operate well out of our reach as long as we’re tied down – militarily, financially, politically and diplomatically – in Iraq; yet another half-assed war. And just as the Afghanistan has fallen back under the thumb of the Taliban, so too is Iraq slipping more and more into the sphere of influence of Iran. If the Uribe’ administration collapses under the weight of it’s own bloody corruption, a similar power vacuum might open it’s mouth over Colombia, in which case Ahmadinejad’s best friend, the great consolidator Hugo Chavez, will be ready to make room for another country in his grand designs for domination. How many more situations like these are waiting for us? When are we truly going to know the cost of our forgotten wars?

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