Jan 30

Hannah Arendt died more than 30 years ago, but what she called “the banality of evil” is alive and well.

You can see it on full display on the website of the Colombian daily El Espectador, which has posted the entire 87-page PowerPoint presentation [update 9/08: try this link instead] that top paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso used when confessing to his past human-rights crimes two weeks ago. This was on the laptop computer screen from which Mancuso was reading as he sat before prosecutors.

Page 12 Page 12

Page 12 of 87.

Open up the file (if you can bear it) and note how much it looks like a boring sales presentation from some faceless widget company. Note how the paramilitary leader, who admitted to ordering the killing or kidnapping of 336 people, presents each massacre or execution on individual slides, complete with a map showing where each occurred.

Note how Mancuso has mastered Microsoft’s complex template feature, presenting each mass killing with pleasing colors, including the colors of Colombia’s flag at the footer and the same snappy logo (”Salvatore Mancuso – Confession 2006″) at the header of each page. Or did he hire a graphic designer to beautify this catalogue of serial murder?

Note how many of these massacres of civilian men, women and children are blithely referred to as “anti-subversive military operations.” Note how many of the victims are referred to as “people identified by military intelligence as members of the guerrillas,” even in some of the most famous, shocking and brutal cases like El Aro and Mapiripán. Note how he admits to crimes in nine of Colombia’s thirty-two departments – plus one arms purchase in Miami – which sounds like a lot, though it excludes many zones known for high paramilitary activity.

Take a look at this breathtaking file. Then spend the rest of the day rebuilding your faith in humanity.

Mancuso’s PowerPoint (from El Espectador) [9/08: use this link instead].

Jan 29

“Early one Sunday, when Colonel Mejía had barely been in command for ten days, he called me to headquarters and told me to get a weapon and come with him in the battalion’s car. We both wore civilian clothing. We went to Bosconia [in Cesar department, in northeastern Colombia] and passed through a town called San Ángel. About five kilometers from the town there was a roadblock run by paracos (paramilitaries). One of them approached the car, he [the colonel] identified himself, and they let us through. We arrived at a farm where there were some 200 paramilitaries. In the main house, seated at a table, was the entire high command of the Northern Bloc: Mr. ‘Jorge 40,’ Mr. Hernán Giraldo [both wanted in the United States for narcotrafficking], ‘Tolemaida,’ ‘Omega’ and ‘39,’ who was David Hernández, a retired military officer who had been a friend of the colonel. They greeted each other with much joy because they had been friends in school.”

This is the testimony of an unidentified retired military officer, reported in the Colombian newsmagazine Semana. It details a 2002 meeting between Col. Hernán Mejía, the new head of the Popa Batallion in the northeastern city of Valledupar, and the paramilitary drug lords who were (and perhaps still are) the true power in the eastern half of Colombia’s Caribbean coastal zone.

That day, the witness contends, “Jorge 40” agreed to pay Col. Mejía 30 million pesos per month (about US$12,500) to guarantee that the Popa Batallion left the paramilitaries alone.

“Later, they all sat down to lunch,” the testimony continues, “and Mejía said he hadn’t just come for the money, but that he came for glory, and glory meant bajas.” Bajas means guerrillas killed in combat, and Col. Mejía had already built up a reputation for commanding units that racked up large numbers of dead guerrillas. With five medals for battlefield victories, Col. Mejía was considered one of the army’s rising stars.

“Old Hernán Giraldo said that it would be easiest for ‘39′ to provide him with results. As is known, this man was the Northern Bloc’s military chief in Cesar, and hundreds of deaths are attributed to him. ‘39′ told the colonel that the only problem was that his men had different rifles from the army’s Galils, which would make it difficult to ”legalize“ the dead bodies. So the colonel ordered that four decommissioned Galils in the battalion be delivered to ‘39′ and his people. Since the order came from the colonel, nobody questioned the rifles’ removal from the battalion.”

One such example of false “bajas” occurred in October 2005, when the Northern Bloc and other paramilitary units were already very far along in negotiations with the Colombian government.  The paramilitary leader “39” carried out a purge of men under his command who, in his view, had defied him. He ordered nineteen of them killed. The dead paramilitaries were then dressed in camouflage fatigues and ELN armbands, and delivered to Col. Mejía’s  battalion, where they were presented as guerrillas killed in combat. The head of the armed forces even traveled to Valledupar to help celebrate the victory.

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Jan 27

It’s time to prepare for the Bush and Uribe governments to roll out a big new framework for U.S. aid to Colombia – the long-awaited successor to “Plan Colombia.”

Though no announcements have yet been issued, there is much reason to believe that a new U.S. aid plan could be revealed as early as next week.

  • On Wednesday, Colombia’s ministers of defense, interior, and foreign relations presented to the Bogotá diplomatic corps a six-part “Strategy for Strengthening of Democracy and Social Development.” No publicly available document yet exists, though.
  • Thomas Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Anne Patterson, the assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (and former ambassador to Colombia) will be in Bogotá on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s defense minister, will be in Washington on Thursday and Friday.
  • The Bush administration will send its 2008 budget request to Congress a week from Monday. (The 2007 foreign-aid budget never got approved – the Republican-dominated Congress that exited last month basically “punted,” passing a “continuing resolution” that continues aid at 2006 levels.)
  • International donors to Colombia will be meeting in Cartagena on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Rumor has it that the new aid request will be 50 percent military aid, 50 percent economic aid. If true, this would be a huge step forward from the current 80-20 split in favor of military/police aid. Or it could be only half true – for instance, the overall request to donors worldwide would be 50-50, while the United States would be expected to provide a mostly military package as it has always done in the past.

We may know soon enough.

Jan 26

Colombia must be the only country in the world where the guerrillas die of old age.

Paramount FARC guerrilla leader Pedro Antonio Marín ("Manuel Marulanda") is still kicking – but he will be eighty years old in May. Here is a translation of a concise but compelling memorandum to the near-octogenarian from Colombian journalist and general establishment-figure Miguel Silva, which appeared on the op-ed page of today’s edition of El Tiempo.

Memorandum to "Marulanda"

To: "Manuel Marulanda Vélez"
Re: The moment to engage in politics

I write this memorandum with the belief that nothing said here will move you a single centimeter. If I thought that a few lines in EL TIEMPO would impress you, they would accuse me correctly of being ingenuous. But in order to say something to you that few would (nobody contradicts even an average rich person in this country, so I imagine that few dare to do so before you), now that you approach 80 years of age, this column is worth the trouble.

There are some who say that politics don’t interest you. That the political FARC leader was Jacobo Arenas [who died in 1989]. That you are little more than a military leader. I, however, believe that you, an expert in military affairs, are passionate about politics. Since you turn 80 years old next May 13, it seems to me a good moment for ideas. After all, that is an age at which only a few years remain to arrange worldly affairs and to leave a last mark on this Earth.

The FARC blindly follows what you say, and although there is a Secretariat and those, like "Raúl Reyes," who have been assuming new functions and acquiring new powers, the power in the FARC is you, period.

The FARC never managed to begin what you might have wanted: a prolonged popular war resulting in victory for what you denominated the FARC-EP, Army of the People, with a clear reference to the organization’s military nature. The FARC does not have the esteem of either the urban masses or the rural population. This does not mean that democratic government institutions have much favor among these groups – perhaps they don’t – but anyone who tries to argue that the FARC enjoys popular support is simply blocking out the sun with his hands. The FARC is feared or hated, not admired.

Nevertheless, the FARC has managed to maintain an armed conflict for 40 years, and although 15,000 men in arms do not seem too many in a country of 40 million people the size of France, Spain and Portugal combined, it is enough to observe the growth of official military spending to understand how the FARC represents a challenge to the government and all Colombians.

But if everything remains the same, there will be no important changes in the balance of power. You and the Secretariat must know that, athough I suppose it isn’t part of your afternoon chats in [the longtime guerrilla stronghold of] La Macarena. There will be attacks on populations that are successful, one or another kidnapping that makes income or headlines, but not much else. More and more, the FARC will see itself isolated in the international panorama. More and more, they will be called terrorists or narcotraffickers.

There is, however, another alternative. The regional moment demonstrates that an organized left can make progress through politics. Our own national experience indicates that too. The mere existence of Chávez would be a guarantee. The door toward politics is open.

The decision to open that door is in your hands. Three unexpected political gestures would be enough to recover the initiative and make the chessboard change completely: to release Íngrid [Betancourt] and the other kidnap victims; to speak of a unilateral cease-fire, in order to initiate a bilateral one; and to accept international intermediation, without which all dialogue with the government will be unfruitful.

I know that these are all prohibited subjects in the world of the FARC, but the day you take these steps, in terms of pure politics, you will have won more for your people and their ideas than what you have won with 40 years of armed warfare. And you will be able to turn 80 in a Colombia that would have to take into account – not because it would like to do so, but because those are the rules of democracy – what you think.

Miguel Silva

Jan 25

Here in Washington, the stereotypical image of a Capitol Hill congressional staffer is that of a relatively young, sharply dressed man or woman who is a hyper-ambitious workaholic, obsessed with tactics – "good politics" instead of good policy – and who is as attached to his sense of his own power and importance as he is to the Blackberry device he constantly fiddles with.

Jon SamuelsJon Samuels, who until very recently worked as an aide to Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Illinois), shatters that stereotype. Yes, he always seems to have his Blackberry within reach. But that only ended up making him a quicker responder to our constant voicemails and emails.

Along with others who have worked for peace, social justice and human rights in Colombia and Latin America, we have leaned on Jon Samuels and his boss for so much over the past several years. Though he is extremely busy – and became more so as Ms. Schakowsky climbed the ranks of the Democratic leadership (she is one of nine "chief deputy whips") – Jon always found time for us, and was always happy to help.

He visited Colombia on several occasions, traveling outside the Bogotá bubble and listening to independent voices. He has hosted events and meetings with countless visitors from Colombia – threatened human-rights defenders, labor leaders, Afro-Colombian and indigenous community leaders, experts and reformist politicians – and always asked them what he and his boss could do to help. Many of them have come to count on Jon and Ms. Schakowsky as some of the principal and most reliable advocates of human rights in the entire U.S. Congress.

Without ever complaining about how busy he was, Jon has responded faithfully to urgent actions, requests to call the State Department or Colombian embassy in response to immediate threats, or simply inquiries about aspects of U.S. policy. He often took the initiative himself, coming to us and others with concerns based on something he read in the press or heard from constituents. With his help, Ms. Schakowsky co-sponsored legislation, signed numerous letters, and gave great speeches in support of a more humane, more effective U.S. policy toward Colombia and the Americas.

At an event I attended recently, Rep. Schakowsky made a distinction between members of Congress who are there "to do something" as opposed to those who are there "just to be something." Jon Samuels is there to do something. He comes from an activist background, as Rep. Schakowsky noted in the "Tribute to Jon Samuels" that she added to Tuesday’s Congressional Record.

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Jan 23

Here is a new dispatch from contributor Chris Stubbert in Bogotá.

On January 17, a small truck packed with over 660 pounds of explosives brazenly entered a new Nestlé dairy refrigeration plant in the town of Doncello in the department of Caquetá, a zone of strong guerrilla influence more than 200 miles south of Bogotá. After parking the truck strategically next to the milk processing tanks, the driver ran away and screamed something about a bomb, while a motor bike waited to pick him up outside the main gates. Seconds later the truck exploded, destroying the entire factory. Fortunately no one was killed, but a contracted engineer was seriously injured, losing an arm in the explosion.

Caquetá
Doncello
Caquetá.
Doncello.

For over 32 years the Swiss multinational had never had serious problems with Colombia’s violent groups. Everyone within the company was shocked to hear of this attack. Nestlé is the only multinational operating in this poor and neglected department (which USAID had recently abandoned due to the region’s prevalent connection to narcoterrorism and insecurity), providing a buyer for the local farming community. The destroyed plant had collected 45,000 liters of milk (11,890 gallons) daily from local farmers. Nestlé has blamed the FARC and is now considering whether to pull its operations from Caquetá.

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Jan 22

Under certain conditions, the human brain functions just like a computer running Microsoft Windows.

What am I talking about? Just read the following and see what happens:

The United States’ top military official said Friday that American-backed anti-drug and counterinsurgent operations in Colombia — the world’s largest producer of cocaine — could serve as a template for Afghan efforts to fight drug production.

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Colombia’s campaign to "rid certain areas of terrorists," followed by relief and jobs programs for the poor, was a "good model for (Afghan) President Hamid Karzai to consider as he looks at how to reduce the amount of drug trafficking in his country." (Source: Associated Press)

If you’re anything like me, your brain just crashed. Reading that incredible statement caused a total lockup. Like a frozen PC, the mind refuses to process any more inputs. Take a moment to re-boot – a mental "Ctrl-Alt-Delete" – before attempting any normal activity.

OK – now that you’re back, let’s ask the obvious questions.

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Jan 19

Salvatore Mancuso, one of the best known and most feared of Colombia’s paramilitary leaders, has become the first top-level leader to testify about his crimes. Over four days between December 19 and Tuesday of this week, he has begun to give his "versión libre" – a confession of his past crimes – as part of the deal which gives leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) vastly reduced prison sentences.

In a room on the fourth floor of Medellín’s main courthouse, victims of the paramilitaries – those who can prove their status as victims, anyway – are able to watch, on closed-circuit television, the proceedings taking place on the twentieth floor. They get a view of the 48-year-old, impeccably dressed warlord and cattle rancher, impassively reading his crimes off the screen of a laptop computer, as prosecutors take notes and occasionally ask questions. (At this stage – the "versión libre" – Mancuso has the floor and may confess as he sees fit. The real questioning from prosecutors is to come later.)

Reporters are not allowed to view the proceedings, so what we know about the confession so far is second-hand, based on accounts from those allowed to view the television feed. The Colombian media reports, however, that so far Mancuso has admitted to ordering the killing or kidnapping of 336 people. So far.

Much of his testimony has been vague and raised many questions, particularly since most of the collaborators he has named are either dead, in exile, or already in prison. Nonetheless, it has covered many high-profile cases, and offered some new information. Here are some of the key revelations.

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Jan 15

In early December, shortly after President Álvaro Uribe confined most of Colombia’s paramilitary leadership in a maximum-security prison, an article in El Tiempo, the country’s most-circulated newspaper, contended that the paramilitaries had one "secret weapon" left. If they felt they were getting a bad deal out of the negotiation process, they could always reveal the truth about who in Colombia’s "legitimate" society – businessmen, landowners, military officers, politicians – had founded, financed and supported them.

During the past two months, however, persons unknown appear to have launched a concerted effort to keep them from playing that card and revealing what they know. The paramilitary leaders – for years, some of the most feared people in Colombia – are now themselves quite threatened.

December saw the murders of several mid-level paramilitary leaders, including some who appeared willing to talk about who had helped them. As one top paramilitary leader began his confession to prosecutors – required by law as a condition for a lighter jail sentence – his family was threatened and his right-hand-man was murdered.

It’s still not clear who is ordering these killings. Is it the jailed paramilitary leaders themselves, in the midst of a mafia turf-war or "code of silence" enforcement? Or is it some "higher," even more powerful actor who, amid a growing scandal about politicians’ ties to the illegal groups, has a strong interest in keeping the paramilitary leaders silent about their past relationships?

The answer, for now, is anyone’s guess. But consider this recent timeline.

  • November 19: Assassins kill Jefferson Enrique Martínez, alias "Omega," a mid-level paramilitary figure who was close to two top paramilitary leaders, Salvatore Mancuso and especially Rodrigo Tovar ("Jorge 40").

  • November 24: Nineteen top paramilitary leaders, concentrated in a former recreation center in La Ceja, near Medellín, issue a statement indicating their willingness to talk about who funded and supported their past actions. "We publicly ask that those who were our co-founders, collaborators and direct beneficiaries, businesspeople, industrialists, political and economic bosses, government functionaries, regional and local leaders, members of the security forces, among others, that they accompany us in this task without fear or apprehension."
  • November 25: Daniel Mejía, alias "Danielito," disappears and is presumed killed. As head of Medellín’s feared "Envigado Office," Mejía was the right-hand man of paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo or "Don Berna," running much of his drug-trafficking network. Mejía had been released from the La Ceja facility two and a half weeks earlier, because the attorney-general’s office (Fiscalía) had no outstanding arrest warrants against him.

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Jan 12

Here is the first of what I hope will be several posts from Chris Stubbert, a Canadian citizen and frequent correspondent living in Bogotá. Here, Chris notes that Colombia’s government manages to collect lots of taxes – at least from the middle class – and wonders why people are not more outraged that they seem to get so little back.

Taxation, Corruption, and Indifference

The modern history of taxation in my country began during the First World War. During the war, the government introduced a temporary income tax to raise much-needed funds to fight the enemy in Europe. Yet after the war, the government could not give up this endless supply of finance. Canada today is one of the most taxed nations on Earth, but arguably holds some of the finest public schools, affordable universities, free universal health care of high quality, and an admirable national pension system.

This background weighs heavily when I think about the tax burden here in Colombia. Businesses in Colombia are taxed at about 38.5% of their profits, while middle-class citizens are taxed just under this amount. A 16% sales tax (IVA) raises further cash for the government.

And finally, the most bizarre taxes of them all: the financial transaction tax. All withdrawals from savings and checking accounts, credit card transactions, loan disbursements, and certain other transactions are charged 0.4%. It was originally imposed in 1998 as a temporary tax of 0.2%, but was made permanent in 2001, and today is 0.4%. The tax is an important source of revenue to the government, contributing revenues equal to about 0.8% of the GDP. It was originally enacted as a temporary measure to finance the bailout of bankrupt financial institutions. Yet today banks like Davivienda, Bancolombia, BBVA, and Banco de Bogotá have been making record profits while acquiring banks across Latin America. Many people to whom I’ve talked in Colombia claim that the real purpose of this tax is to finance the war and feed waste and corruption in the government.

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Jan 09

Fernando Araújo’s escape from FARC custody is a remarkable story. The former minister of development, kidnapped by the guerrillas in December 2000, showed up exhausted and bone-thin in San Agustín, a village near Cartagena, on January 5. He had spent five days walking in the jungles and dry thickets of coastal Bolívar department, after escaping a guerrilla encampment under military attack.

Colombia has been transfixed by images of Araújo reunited with his jubilant family, after more than six years as one of the sixty hostages whom the FARC had been holding to pressure for a prisoner exchange. “The 21st century begins for me today,” he told reporters.

Colombia’s military and defense establishment swarmed around Araujo, basking in the glow. But there is reason to fear that they are drawing the wrong conclusion from his liberation.

“We are going to continue with rescue operations, in order that some day there might not be a single kidnapped Colombian,” promised Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos.

“These [kidnapped] people who have special connotations for the FARC, because they prize them for their political or economic importance, or in the case of soldiers, as a mechanism to pressure the government – it is difficult for them to be freed by the guerrillas. This is where it is more correct to call for a successful military operation,” added the head of the armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla.

Emboldened by Araújo’s escape, are the Colombian security forces truly determined to attempt more armed rescues of guerrilla hostages? Let’s hope not:

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Jan 08

At its meeting tomorrow here in Washington, the OAS Permanent Council will be considering Ecuador’s complaint against Colombia for carrying out aerial herbicide fumigation near the two countries’ border.

At the suggestion of colleagues in both Colombia and Ecuador, we sent this letter today to Secretary-General Insulza. A PDF version is here.

January 9, 2007

His Excellency Secretary General José Miguel Insulza
Organization of American States
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Secretary-General:

The Government of Ecuador has presented to you a formal protest against the aerial herbicide fumigations that Colombia is carrying out on its side of both countries’ common border. The OAS Permanent Council will be considering Ecuador’s claim today.

The Organization of American States can play an active role in defusing the current diplomatic crisis between the two countries. The OAS can also use this opportunity to initiate a larger discussion of strategies that more effectively reduce the damage done by illicit drugs, and drug-related violence, throughout the hemisphere.

Ecuador’s complaint should receive serious consideration. Today’s debate is the latest step in a diplomatic crisis that began over a month ago. In early December, Colombia began aerially spraying "Round-Up Ultra" – a concentrated form of the herbicide glyphosate with other chemical surfractants – over coca-producing areas just over the border from Ecuador. Colombia took this step despite strong and repeated entreaties from the Ecuadorian government that spraying not occur in the border zone due to health and environmental concerns. The spraying is also occurring despite Colombia’s assent, given in January 2006, to an Ecuadorian request not to spray within ten kilometers of the border.

Ecuador’s government – both the outgoing administration of Alfredo Palacio and President-elect Rafael Correa, who takes office on the 15th – have strongly protested the renewed spraying. The damage done to bilateral relations is significant, as Ecuador has withdrawn its ambassador and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has not indicated whether he will attend President-elect Correa’s inauguration.

As the OAS considers this increasingly urgent issue, please recall the following three points about the aerial herbicide fumigation program in Colombia, the only country in the world that allows such a program. (Peru and Bolivia eradicate coca by hand.)

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Jan 05

Starting in the 1990s, the drug war in Colombia pioneered the use of private contractors to do hazardous quasi-military jobs like spraying coca fields, running radar sites, gathering aerial intelligence, and much else. Since then, the U.S. government has gone on to hire dozens of companies like DynCorp, MPRI, and Blackwater to provide manpower and services in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Unbelievably, U.S. law had been unclear about what happens when employees of these countries commit crimes – including human-rights abuse – in the countries where they have been hired to work. The Brookings Institution’s P.W. Singer explained this in an excellent Wednesday evening post to DefenseTech.org.

Previously, contractors would only fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, better known as the court martial system, if Congress declared war. This is something that has not happened in over 65 years and out of sorts with the most likely operations in the 21st century. The result is that whenever our military officers came across episodes of suspected contractor crimes in missions like Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, or Afghanistan, they had no tools to resolve them. As long as Congress had not formally declared war, civilians — even those working for the US armed forces, carrying out military missions in a conflict zone — fell outside their jurisdiction. The military’s relationship with the contractor was, well, merely contractual. …

The situation perhaps hit its low-point this fall, when the Under Secretary of the Army testified to Congress that the Army had never authorized Halliburton or any of its subcontractors (essentially the entire industry) to carry weapons or guard convoys.

This gaping loophole, Singer explains, may finally have been closed.

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Jan 03

The beginning of the new year is a slow news time in South America, as most of those who make the news have yet to return from vacation.

There are sad exceptions, though, such as the group of FARC fighters who massacred four civilians in rural Yarumal, Antioquia, on New Years’ Day, and whoever killed paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso’s right-hand man on December 27, in an apparent attempt to intimidate and silence his boss, who is giving testimony to prosecutors.

Here are a few interesting links, however.

  • The Colombian newsmagazine Semana, which has done some of the most aggressive reporting on paramilitary groups’ influence on the country’s politics and society, named “The Paramilitary Phantom” its “Personality of the Year” for 2006.
  • In Bolivia, the government of Evo Morales decreed that visitors from the United States, including tourists, from now on must apply for visas. This is an increasing trend: Bolivia is the third Latin American country (after Brazil and Paraguay, though – interestingly – not Cuba) to add a visa requirement for U.S. visitors in the past few years. They are calling it “reciprocity”: if their citizens have to apply way ahead of time and meet lots of requirements to visit the United States (everything from passport-sized photos to proof of financial status to a $100-plus fee), then U.S. visitors should have to go through a similar process. (For its part, Chile has begun charging U.S. citizens $100 upon arrival in the Santiago airport.)

    This reasoning is very sound, and these countries are well within their rights to demand reciprocity. But U.S. travelers who have become accustomed to traveling throughout the region without worrying about visas must now do their homework ahead of time. If you are a U.S. citizen, be sure to check whether the country you plan to visit has added a reciprocity requirement; if so, you may have to go through a long visa-approval process. Don’t get caught unaware and find yourself barred from boarding a plane. This happened to me in Santiago in November, when I tried unsuccessfully to visit Paraguay, which had started requiring visas in May.

  • Aldo Cívico, an Italian analyst who worked on anti-mafia efforts in Sicily before becoming a PhD candidate at Columbia University in New York, wrote an interesting column in the December 23 El Espectador. He compares Colombia’s experience with its own paramilitary mafias to Italy’s effort to rid itself of La Cosa Nostra.
  • On a much lighter note, Colombian band Aterciopelados played two wonderful sets, with much from their great new album, on Nic Harcourt’s radio show back in November. Listen to it or watch it here.
Jan 02

In a posting dated December 31, 2005, I made thirteen predictions for what would happen in Colombia in 2006. It is a year later now, and my record is not bad. Here is what I thought would happen a year ago.

  • Prediction 1: Alvaro Uribe will win re-election in May, but by a surprisingly thin margin. He did win re-election, but 62 percent to 22 percent is not a thin margin. Zero out of one.
  • Prediction 2: The left will gain in March congressional elections. But the paramilitaries will gain more. The Polo Democrático party gained seats in the March elections, and paramilitary influence over candidates and congresspeople was a huge issue all year. One out of two.
  • Prediction 3: The Bush Administration’s 2007 aid request to Congress will look a lot like the past several years’, but there will be no “Plan Colombia 2.” That’s exactly what happened. Two out of three.

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