“Para-Politics” investigators under threat Sorry for the silence
May 022008
  • The Colombian authorities’ takedown of the Mejía Múnera brothers this week – one killed, one arrested – is a big deal. The “twins” (they really were identical twins) were top narcotraffickers who initially sought to avoid extradition by posing as paramilitary leaders in negotiations with the government. Later, they decided to become fugitives instead. They were believed to be some of the principal sponsors of “new” or “emerging” paramilitary groups.
  • Also significant was Tuesday’s capture in Cúcuta of Raúl Hasbún, a fugitive paramilitary leader who was the main go-between collecting money from Chiquita Brands to paramilitaries after 1997. If he tells what he knows, Hasbún will be a key witness in investigations of banana companies’ illegal payments.
  • A lengthy report in last weekend’s El Nuevo Herald details the testimony of a former paramilitary who says he recalls Álvaro Uribe, then governor of Antioquia department, participating in a meeting to plan the 1997 El Aro massacre. Here is an English translation (PDF).
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists places Colombia 4th in its worldwide “Impunity Index” of countries that fail to prosecute murders of journalists. Only Iraq, Sudan and Sierra Leone had worse indices.
  • A new report from the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Amnesty International questions the United States’ vetting of Colombian military units that receive aid, alleging that many of those units face allegations of carrying out abuses like extrajudicial executions. “Geographic regions with the highest levels of reported extrajudicial executions of civilians by members of the armed forces in 2006 were also largely regions with the most military units receiving US assistance.”
  • The latest Gallup poll of 1,000 people with telephones in Colombia’s four largest cities shows little change in approval ratings of President Uribe and other major figures and institutions. All are down ever so slightly, as indicated by this large powerpoint file on the El Tiempo website.
  • President Uribe testified for four hours Tuesday in his slander suit against César Julio Valencia, who until recently was chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court. Justice Valencia told reporters that Uribe, in a surprise phone call last September, asked him about the case against his cousin Mario Uribe, now in jail awaiting trial for colluding with paramilitaries. According to Colombia’s Caracol Radio network, “The hearing was prolonged amid the constant attacks, some of them virulent, between Uribe and [Valencia's defense lawyer, former DAS (presidential intelligence) chief Ramiro] Bejarano, during with the president offered at least ten times to resign if Valencia’s representative’s statements could be proved.”
  • “In less than a decade, this thousand-headed monster [paramilitarism] has taken over the state, infiltrating it at all levels. It is serious that this far into their supposed demobilization, it is still not possible to know how far they have penetrated the political sphere, much less the military, financial or business spheres. The scandals of the last few months (’para-politics’ in Congress) are nothing but the tip of the iceberg. … The violent ones, and their accomplices in power, never imagined that some men in togas, like a true suicide squadron, would stand up to defend the fatherland. The Penal Tribunal of the Supreme Court is the institutions’ last bastion against the barbarians.” – Parmenio Cuéllar, former Colombian justice minister, senator, and governor of Nariño department.
  • Meanwhile in Bolivia, the relatively wealthy, relatively less-indigenous province of Santa Cruz will be holding a referendum Sunday to seek greater autonomy from La Paz. The central government says that the vote is illegal. Violence is expected: the U.S. embassy in Bolivia has put out a “warden message” warning U.S. citizens in the country to be on guard. “Americans are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any protests. … You could become a convenient target of opportunity.”
  • [Added 5/3, I almost forgot:] On the website of The Atlantic, Robert “The Coming Anarchy” Kaplan, clearly not a reader of this weblog, writes that “Colombia is what Iraq should eventually look like, in our best dreams. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has fought — and is winning — a counterinsurgency war even as he has liberalized the economy, strengthened institutions, and improved human rights.” Kaplan’s three-paragraph polemic should remind us of what is turning out to be a central lesson of our post-9/11 foreign policy: beware the snap judgments of a foreign policy generalist, left or right.

4 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Kyle Says:

    The importance of the capture of the twins is incredibly great; we’ll see just how it affects the narcotrafficking world in the future. Many traffickers , I assume, will think that Mejia Muneras just got too big therefore stressing the mirco- or baby-cartel strategy. I doubt anyone will step out of the business because of this though.
    And thanks for friday links. I been looking for that FOR/AI report since Chris Kraul mentioned it in his story on extrajudicial executions.

  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Maybe Adam is being too hard on Kaplan, maybe he genuinely thinks the best future for Iraq would be to see it turned into a well oiled narco State.

  3. jcg Says:

    Without a hint of irony or sarcasm though…of all the places on Earth that have conflicts right now, you could do far worse than Colombia. In many different senses and areas, not just economically.

  4. jcg Says:

    That is not to say that Colombia isn’t a place where many other things aren’t horribly wrong, shamefully and morally wrong to say the least, but at least this isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan, with all due respect to those who hail from there and, logically, know more about either country than I ever could.

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