The U.S. gave billions of dollars to Plan Colombia, and other projects, to combat and terminate the popular resistance in the country. The U.S. has never supported peace in Colombia starting with Plan Lazo in the early 1960s and the counterinsurgency team sent to Colombia to crush the Marquetalia community shortly thereafter.
By Alice Loaiza
General Yarborough who visited Colombia in 1962 said, “A concerted country team effort should be made now to select civilian and military personnel for clandestine training in resistance operations in case they are needed later. This should be done with a view toward development of a civil and military structure for exploitation in the event the Colombian internal security system deteriorates further. This structure should be used to pressure toward reforms known to be needed, perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States.”
This was the beginning of paramilitary, government and U.S. collaboration in Colombia … an alliance that continues today. The formation of revolutionary armed groups such as the FARC and the ELN was a response to the repression that followed.
In 1978-1979 the American Anti-Communist Alliance appeared as a paramilitary organization, assassinating, kidnapping and bombing Colombians. It was revealed to be a creation of the Colombian national army and the U.S. embassy in Bogota.
By 1982 cocaine was the largest export from Colombia. The paramilitary army, Muerte A Secuestradores, was formed in Puerto Boyaca by the Medellin cartel, the Colombian army, rich ranchers and the U.S.-based Texas Petroleum Company. It was decided that the resistance in the country should be dealt with by extrajudicial means so as not to be easily traced.
Political assassinations of popular leaders and disappearances increased. Most of the cocaine came to the U.S. and billions were laundered by U.S. banks. The U.S. drug cartels and banks benefited most from this business and certainly were concerned about protecting their interests in Colombia. Everyone talked about Pablo Escobar but no one pointed a finger at the U.S. drug “corporations.”
Around the same time and as a result of the same meeting, the Association of Middle Magdalena Ranchers and Farmers was formed, directed at destroying any peasant or labor organizing. U.S., Israeli, British and Australian military instructors were hired to teach at paramilitary training centers. Retired Israeli colonel Yair Klein, admitted to training troops in Puerto Boyaca.
In 1989, the Movement for National Restoration was formed to annihilate the Patriotic Union a popular, left coalition of groups that opposed the right-wing elite of the country, including disarmed guerillas who joined the group in hopes of a political solution to the conflict. Over 5,000 members of the UP were murdered and no one was ever tried for a single .
The U.S. had extensive meetings with the Colombian military in 1990 and formed a team that included representatives of the U.S. embassy’s military group, the U.S Southern Command, the DEA and the CIA. It was falsely stated that this was to control drugs, but that was never mentioned in the meetings. The Armed Forces Directive 200-05/91 was a result of these meetings and it only dealt with counter-insurgency. The process that was set up was to strengthen the paramilitaries and make it look like it was not linked to the Colombian military.
Colombian governments that supported U.S. intervention in Colombia were financed and militarily aided. Alvaro Uribe, president from 2002-2010 was the creator of the Special Vigilance and Private Security Services and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, both paramilitary groupings.
Millions were displaced from their lands; horrible massacres with chainsaws were carried out in rural communities; women and children were raped; people were assassinated in front of their loved ones; and people were disappeared. The math is easy. The paramilitaries who were accused of many of these atrocities were linked to the elite and the Colombian military which itself was linked to these terror acts and the Colombian military was bolstered and modernized by the U.S. through Plan Colombia.
Plan Colombia was a creation of President Bill Clinton in 1998, which ostensibly was called the “War on Drugs,” but had nothing to do with drugs. It was a plan to combat and terminate the left-wing resistance in the country: journalists, unionists, teachers, community leaders, campesino leaders, human right workers, and armed guerilla groups.
The U.S. gave billions of dollars to the project, making Colombia one of the top recipients of U.S. aid. Campesinos suffered aerial fumigation from glyphosate that planes constantly flew over homes and lands, poisoning the people and their crops. After fumigation the land was useless and the people had to flee. But the production of cocaine grew because campesinos had no choice but to plant it if they wanted to survive so they moved to other more isolated areas.
U.S. interests secretly supported this production, making trillions on sales in the U.S., while Colombians lived in terror. The cities grew with rings of poverty due to the six million internally displaced people from the towns and the countryside, over 300,000 were assassinated, 60,000 disappeared, there still are over 9,000 political prisoners and millions are traumatized by the war and violence.
After Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa closed down the U.S. military base in Manta in 2009, the U.S. opened seven military bases in Colombia under the Barack Obama administration, with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. It is often stated that Bogota is also a military base since the offices of the CIA, FBI, Special Forces, and DEA are all centralized there.
The U.S. bases are a threat against any progressive government or insurgency in the region, including Colombia. They are a massive intelligence-gathering tool for the entire region and there is now an extension of the School of the Americas where many Latin American military personnel are trained by the Colombian and U.S. militaries, often in paramilitary tactics. Colombian anti-insurgency forces have been trained and now travel through the Americas as well as West Africa and other areas to train other militaries. Colombian mercenaries are trained and sent to other countries to defeat movements in resistance, for example in Yemen.
There are also many U.S. companies, mines, and factories in Colombia. The exploitation of the country’s many resources is great.
Drummond Company has an enormous series of open pit coal mines in the northern state of Cesar where thousands of pounds of coal are extracted each year. Drummond owns the railroad that transports the coal to the coast as well as the port at Santa Marta where the coal is loaded onto ships.
The mining giant has been sued for the hiring of paramilitaries as security that killed about 70 workers who unionized or were labeled trouble-makers. In the court case, the accusations described “how hundreds of men, women, and children were terrorized in their homes, on their way to and from work … innocent people killed in or near their homes or kidnapped to never return home, their spouses and children being beaten and tied up, and people being pulled off buses and summarily executed on the spot.”
The company has absolutely no respect for the environment nor the communities in the region. They often import worker so as not to employ people from the region. They have employed undocumented Chinese immigrants as workers. Many small towns have become even more impoverished and have lost all sense of community. Young women become prostitutes for the miners in order to live and feed their children. It is a very sad and harsh life and there is no escape.
Dole Food Company and Chiquita Brands International paid a Colombian paramilitary organization as security that included killing union organizers. This was discovered in the trials of the two companies in the U.S. They also employ great numbers of women to work in the flower industry for low wages and in sub-human conditions.
All of this evidence points to the fact that the U.S. has too much economic, military and political interests in Colombia to ever let the Colombian people live in peace. Any statements to the contrary by U.S. officials are empty rhetoric for public consumption only.