Here are translated excerpts from Antonio Caballero’s column in last weekend’s Semana magazine, which revisits Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos’s recent incendiary comments about U.S. assistance and human rights.
We don’t fully endorse all the sentiments expressed here – is there a direct link between recent U.S. training manuals and abuses like the Soacha murders? -Â but they are well written and strongly argued. And I’m pleased that somebody, somewhere, wrote the clause in boldface in the third paragraph.
By Antonio Caballero
Semana magazine, March 29, 2009
Vice President Francisco Santos says that it is “undignified” that Colombia (he means: his administration) must be accountable to the United States for its human rights abuses, or risk losing Plan Colombia funds, which they call “aid.” And ex-President AndrÃ©s Pastrana leaps up to defend this so-called “aid,” saying that what is “undignified” is that these abuses occur. Both are correct. Except that, as in the evangelical parable, they don’t see the logs in their own eyes.
Santos, in effect, complains about the only U.S. intrusion in Colombians’ lives that has not been completely perverse in its effects: the only one that has saved human lives. I don’t remember any other. Not the theft of Panama, nor the defense of United Fruit to the point of provoking the  banana massacre, nor the oil contracts, nor the imposition of war against communism, nor the war on drugs, nor the demand for an economic opening, nor the reforms to the justice system, nor – of course – Plan Colombia itself, whose most notorious consequences have been the increase and dispersal of drug trafficking and production, in its anti-drug aspect, and, in its antiguerrilla aspect, the deepening and expansion of the internal war. All these U.S. interventions (and if there were no direct ones before Panama, it was because the arm of the United States at that point only reached as far as Mexico and the Caribbean) have not provoked anything more in Colombia than blood and misery. And corruption, naturally: since they have done it by buying the necessary collaboration of local toadies. From the legendary gold ingots that, a long century ago, President MarroquÃn allegedly received in exchange for the Panamanian wound, to the much-photographed medal of humiliation that George Bush hung on President Uribe a few months ago.
That this latest intrusion of the gringo finger in our affairs about which Santos protests is benign, and has saved the lives of a fistful of campesinos and unionists, or at least postponed their deaths, doesn’t mean, of course, that it hasn’t also been as hypocritical as all the rest. The North Americans (”a small sector,” Vice President Santos clarifies) protest against the excesses that they themselves sowed and encouraged. The “extrajudicial executions” (that is, murders outside of combat), torture, detention-disappearances, “false results” committed in Colombia by the Army and Police and the secret security services were carried out based on instructions and manuals from the U.S. Southern Command and the CIA, and by officials (like those of all the armed forces of the continent, with Cuba the only exception) educated and trained there. And to comply with the policy decided and approved by local bosses following the principles dictated by U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican.
These principles have been dictated there, but accepted here, and also carried out and requested from here. For those crimes of state – that is what they are – those responsible are those who have directed the State here, as President Pastrana in his indignation appears to forget.
… For U.S. legislators to start denouncing that model now is as hypocritical as Colombian vice presidents and ex-presidents suddenly discovering it – without even speaking of the current and future perpetual president. It is an indignity, yes, but not against Colombia, but against them.