Though weâ€™re reluctant to bring up Robert Novak again, we must recall this passage in his June 26 column on Colombia. Here, the columnist cites as a sign of progress the Colombian authoritiesâ€™ investigation of a military massacre of anti-drug police in Jamundi, near Cali.
During the June 9 House debate, floor manager [Rep. Jim] McGovern and other left-wing Democrats harped on the May 10 drug-related slaughter of 10 crack national anti-drug policemen by the army’s High Mountain Battalion. The unit’s commander, Col. Bayron Carvajal, has been imprisoned and removed from jurisdiction of military court-martial (which has a conviction rate of 4 percent). Carvajal is being prosecuted by Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran, who has evidence of the colonel’s ties to drug trafficking.
In response to this evidence of Colombia’s escape from degradation as a narco-terrorist state, Democrats in the House voted 161- 28 for McGovern’s disastrous cut in U.S. aid.
Sadly, â€œthis evidence of Colombia’s escape from degradation as a narco-terrorist stateâ€ has become just the opposite. Yesterday, in what a representative of Colombiaâ€™s attorney-generalâ€™s office called â€œa judicial barbarity,â€ a judge decided that Col. Carvajal and the other soldiers accused of massacring the police unit should be tried in the military justice system, with its â€œconviction rate of 4 percent.â€
Col. Carvajal, reports Semana magazine, could not disguise his glee at the surprising decision.
Both he and his soldiers exploded with jubilation at the news, so much that part of the public in attendance believed that they had won the case, when in reality they were being notified that a military penal judge would head the investigation.
Judge Oscar Hurtado, notes Semana, has been questioned before for decisions that have benefited narcotraffickers. But his decision cannot be appealed.
While we can hope for a miracle from the military justice system, right now it looks very likely that even a case as shocking as the JamundÃ massacre might end up going unpunished. Once again, Robert Novak is wrong, and Rep. McGovern got it right.