Nov 19

Every year, the State and Defense Departments have to produce a very interesting report on U.S. aid for military training around the world. The Foreign Military Training Report is interesting not just because of the big PDF files listing who was trained, in what and where, but because you can discern some trends over time in the U.S. relationship with other militaries.

CIP and WOLA have put together a memo on what trends the latest report, released at the end of October, reveals where Latin America is concerned. It’s a 7-page PDF file available here. Below are a few interesting graphics taken from that memo.

  • The number of Latin American military and police trainees in 2005 was the second-highest since the report began in 1999. Most are funded by the Defense Department’s counter-narcotics budget (known as "Section 1004"), a program that isn’t even considered to be part of the foreign aid budget.

Trainees by Funding Source

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Nov 19

After a week in which several pro-Uribe members of Colombia’s congress were arrested for paramilitary ties, how did President Álvaro Uribe respond yesterday? By accusing his critics of being guerrilla supporters.

When I ask that the total truth be known, it is because one can see their prejudices. Many of those who attack the government saying that the president is a paramilitary, basically what they are is enraged that the president attacks the guerrillas. They are not able to say that they defend the guerrillas, and that they are very bothered because the government is fighting them. They should be more authentic, more sincere.

That has been the pretext to which they have appealed historically. When a government fights against the guerrillas, immediately they call it "human rights violator, paramilitary." Forty years ago, when they wanted to discredit someone, they called him "homosexual." Fifteen, twenty years ago, when they wanted to discredit someone, they called him "mafioso." And today, when they want to discredit an honest government, the call it "paramilitary."

This is not only offensive, it’s positively unhinged.

First, nobody beyond a radical fringe is accusing Uribe of having direct paramilitary ties. No proof exists, so it would be irresponsible to do so.

Second, shouldn’t Uribe be profoundly disturbed that many of his supporters appear to have close ties to illegal warlords who have killed thousands and sent hundreds of tons of cocaine to the rest of the world? Instead of attacking his critics, shouldn’t he be condemning this energetically and taking all possible measures to ease the work of investigators and prosecutors? Isn’t that what an "honest government" would do?

One of Uribe’s advisors should tell him that he is not helping himself. In the face of such serious charges against his legislative supporters, he should be demanding a thorough investigation and offering to help reveal the truth. If instead he chooses to attack a set of straw-man critics and accuse them of supporting guerrillas, it only arouses suspicions about the president’s own relationship to paramilitarism.