CINEP: extrajudicial executions still a big problem 127 different military schools
Jul 112008
  • In the aftermath of the FARC hostage rescue, we are alarmed that Luis Eladio Pérez, the former senator and hostage whom the FARC released in February, was forced to leave Colombia this week by threats that probably came from the FARC. We note that Ingrid Betancourt also has no plans to return to Colombia soon, for fear of FARC reprisals.

The Post explains that the idea of a guns-blazing military rescue was only abandoned in June, when a Colombian Army major hatched the “Operation Check” plan, and that the Colombians did not alert U.S. officials immediately.

Although the Americans and Colombians work together closely, Colombia’s Defense Ministry does not always tell the American Embassy what plans are in the works. U.S. officials discovered on their own that a rescue plan was taking shape.

In June, the Americans noted that three FARC units, all of them known for holding hostages, began moving together into a region southeast of the Guaviare capital, San Jose.

Brownfield said he and his team deduced that the Colombians, using fake communications, were executing a deception plan aimed at freeing the hostages. Later that month, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told Brownfield about Operation Check, as in checkmate.

AP describes “Operation Alliance,” a crafty U.S. plan, with heavy FBI involvement, to infiltrate more than 5,000 guerrilla communications by providing the FARC with wiretapped telecommunications equipment.

U.S. law officers arrested the Miami contacts, who in exchange for promises of reduced sentences put [guerrilla supply chief Nancy] Conde in touch with an FBI front company, according to a U.S. law enforcement official involved in the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

Over more than four years, that company provided wiretapped satphones and other compromised telecommunications equipment that threw the rebels off balance and eventually helped authorities strangle their supply lines.

  • Congratulations to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) for a far-seeing letter [PDF] to President Uribe that calls for creative steps to end the conflict at the negotiating table.

With the FARC on its heels for the moment, I encourage you to press for its disarmament and its renunciation of drug trafficking and extortion in exchange for a seat at the negotiating table. In this regard, I applaud Colombia’s decision to seek direct talks with FARC rebels to explore further hostage releases; these steps could lay the groundwork for broader gains in the interest of peace for the people of Colombia. In addition, I would urge you to consider including the National Liberation Army (ELN) as part of future talks to end the violence. Lastly and more generally, I would encourage you to consider Brazil, a country with a record of bridging ideological divisions and displaying an awareness of regional sensitivities, as a possible mediator for any discussions.

  • The hostage rescue has meanwhile inspired some right-wing commentators to get back on the old “human rights NGOs love the FARC” hobbyhorse. The Wall Street Journal’s Mary A. O’Grady is back at it again. And don’t miss this informed exchange between the Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes and NPR’s Juan Williams that took place on Fox News a few days ago:

Barnes: [Y]ou have a kind of iron triangle. I’m calling it an iron triangle, of the human rights groups in Colombia, and organized labor in the United States, and then Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Fox host Brit Hume: But why did the Colombian guerillas not smell a rat?

Barnes: Well, one, because the military guys were all dressed up as guerillas, but particularly the helicopter was one they thought was from one of these non-government organization which they thought with — it was perfectly normal for those organizations to actually be on very friendly and supportive terms with the FARC guerillas.

Hume: Do you agree with that, Juan?

Williams: Well, I don’t think there’s any question about it. I don’t think the facts can be disputed here left or right.

… Now the point at which I think Fred goes too far is to say, listen, of course Americans have every legitimate right to be concerned about human rights and the way people are treated, but what the FARC had become, in the midst of its disarray, was involved with cocaine smuggling and trying to undermine the legitimate government of Colombia.

And at that point, you would have hoped that somehow these human rights groups and labor in the United States would have taken a step back. Apparently it didn’t happen.

Take a step back from what exactly, Mr. Williams? Do these journalists really believe that non-governmental organizations, including U.S. groups like ours as well as labor unions, sympathize with the FARC? That we’ve somehow managed to ignore their horrific atrocities, including hostage-taking, committed over so many years? Or are they just cynically employing the hostages’ rescue to score cheap political points?

Anyone who chose to do a bit of homework and investigate would find a community of groups that supports Colombia’s state – not the violent groups that confront it – as well as the idea of U.S. support to Colombia’s state. A community that wants this state – and U.S. aid to it – to improve the quality of its governance and its accountability to its own citizens.

It is highly irresponsible – and very dangerous, given the frequency of attacks on human-rights defenders in Colombia – to use heavily-viewed forums like the Journal and Fox News for these uninformed “terrorist sympathy” slurs. If these news outlets value their credibility at all, they will publish rectifications.

  • A post earlier this week linked to this article, but it’s worth highlighting again because, as it was written at the height of the “Baby Emmanuel” fracas late last year, it didn’t get much attention. Semana magazine’s security editor, Marta Ruiz, provides a very helpful overview of the shifts in strategy that have done so much to weaken the FARC over the past year and a half. Ruiz notes that success required the Colombian military, in 2006-2007, to break with its own super-hard-line approach.

The true change that the armed forces required had to do with doctrine. The visions inherited from cold-war counterinsurgency, which regarded the civilian population as an enemy or “the water in which the insurgents swim,” began to be left behind. This sort of vision predominated at the outset of Democratic Security and Plan Patriota. Mass arrests, “rehabilitation zones” and the absurd criminalization of coca-growers did nothing more than deepen distrust of the government among the inhabitants of regions controlled by the guerrillas. Questions remained about the sustainability of a model that achieved the control of much territory through purely military means, with all that this implied with regard to keeping troops in each locale, and with regard to the financial effort required. What would happen next?

The Consolidation Plan, although far from perfect, hits the nail on the head of the crucial problem that the state confronts in this war: its legitimacy in the eyes of the inhabitants of remote regions. An important sector of the military high command has begun to understand that counting bodies is not the road to defeating the FARC. Even though in its first few years Plan Patriota fought the guerrillas fiercely, and there were many dead on both sides, the losses did not have a significant impact on the FARC. That combat, while carrying a big human cost, would have little effect if the government did not launch a plan for these marginal zones where war is a part of everyday life.

  • The widely cited Colombian human-rights NGO CODHES (Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement), the go-to organization for information about the country’s internal-displacement crisis, estimates that a horrifying 113,473 Colombians were displaced during the first three months of 2008. [PDF] This is the highest quarterly figure that CODHES has counted since 1999.

The reasons for the displacements were, mainly, the aerial spraying of illicit crips within the framework of military operations; forced recruitment [mainly by guerrillas]; the planting of landmines [mainly by guerrillas]; the presence of paramilitary groups in 17 departments [out of 32] in the country; intense combat between the army and FARC guerrillas, which included bombardments and use of arms with indiscriminate effects; as well as confrontations between the FARC and ELN in some regions of the country.

  • The OAS verification mission in Colombia released its eleventh report [DOC format] on the paramilitary demobilization and reintegration process at the end of June. As usual, the summary and recommendations are neutral and general (demobilization is a good thing; the process faces challenges). But the region-by-region overview of reintegration programs and re-arming paramilitary activity is indispensable.
  • In a column in Wednesday’s Guardian, Richard Gott has a suggested Latin America policy memo that the next U.S. president, in his view, should write after assuming office. It includes the following appointment:

I have asked Wayne Smith, our oldest former US state department official with an intimate knowledge of Cuba, to come out from academic retirement to become the chief of our embassy in Havana, the so-called US Interests’ Section of the Swiss Embassy. Smith is a former member of the US Marine Corps, and he held this post between 1979 and 1982. He will work toward the normalisation of our diplomatic relations with Cuba.

To Wayne Smith, a CIP senior fellow since 1991 whose office is two doors down from mine: We’ll miss you!

27 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Good reviews on the Colombia pandemonium.

    I will add my two cents, though.

    According to a book by Eladio Perez, former guerrilla’s hostage, Clara, another former hostage, tried to drown her baby son, Emmanuel while next to a river. Ingrid, according to him, was the one who took the baby away from her, and that’s why their relationship suffered a dramatic deterioration not likely to be repaired in the future.

  2. jcg Says:

    I agree, it’s a good overview and I will read the linked articles shortly.


    “It is highly irresponsible – and very dangerous, given the frequency of attacks on human-rights defenders in Colombia – to use heavily-viewed forums like the Journal and Fox News for these uninformed “terrorist sympathy” slurs. If these news outlets value their credibility at all, they will publish rectifications.”

    One would hope, but I would not bet on it, unfortunately, and such language will probably continue.

  3. lfm Says:

    Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us, shuttling hostages in a helicopter from an NGO was Standard Operating Procedure for the FARC. Who knew? The guys have their own little air force! Makes you wonder why they haven´t seized power yet.

    I just read somewhere else a far-left post arguing that Washington (whatever that means) is not interested in defeating the FARC, but simply in pushing it to the borders with Venezuela to bring the US closer to the thick, black stuff. I rolled my eyes, of course and now I turn to and find this. Seemingly, the US hard-right wants to use the FARC to get at the American labor unions!

    Note to self: each time you feel like choking the ultra-leftists with your bare hands, take a look at O´Grady. She´ll sure restore your sense of solidarity.

  4. Block Says:


    You´re right about the Washington-FARC-Venezuela plot sounding far-fetched. But there is evidence that U.S. interest in Colombia is little more than oil-based. Consider:

    - Discovery of billion-barrel Caño Limon oilfield in 1983, which turned Colombia from a net importer of oil to the 8th largest crude exporter to the U.S. (taken from an article off of this website

    - The next year, 1984, a concerted propaganda campaign begins in the U.S. against the alleged “narco-guerrilla,” a term largely derided by experts as not reflective of reality in Colombia. The campaign included an alleged FARC-Sandinista-Medellín/Escobar plot that was later shown to be falsified, most notably the parts about FARC´s involvement, and the fact that it wasn´t the Medellín cartels but the Cali cartels that were the most responsible (the guys also linked to people like paramilitary Carlos Castaño, other Colombian military, and the CIA). (See Peter Dale Scott´s “Drugs, Oil & War”)

    - 1986 (three years after the discovery of oil), Vice President Bush signs National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 221, which for the first time defines drug trafficking as a matter of national security and allows for the presence of U.S. military.

    - 1989, Bush signs another NSDD expanding the capability of U.S. troops in Colombia.

    -1998, Gen. Charles Wilhelm, then head of the U.S. Southern Command, told Congress that oil discoveries had increased Colombia’s “strategic importance.” (”Oil Rigged,” Thad Dunning/Leslie Wirpsa,

    -April, 2000, ‘Sen. Bob Graham (D-Florida) and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft warned in a Los Angeles Times editorial that Colombia’s reserves would “remain untapped unless stability is restored.”’ (ibid.)

    And then, of course, we get . . . (drum roll please) Plan Colombia. Yayyyy.

    ‘Stan Goff, a now-activist and former U.S. Special Forces intelligence sergeant, retired in 1996 from the unit that trains Colombian anti-narcotics battalions, says that Plan Colombia’s purpose is “defending the operations of Occidental, British Petroleum and Texas Petroleum and securing control of future Colombian fields,” quoted by the Bogotá daily El Espectador. “The main interest of the United States is oil.”’ (ibid.) Occidental Petroleum thinks it can get to 1.4 billion more barrels in the U´wa indigenous community, where three U.S. outreach workers were killed in 1999 by FARC.

    BTW, BP also has a 1.5 or so billion barrel field going on in Colombia, so I don´t mean to imply it´s purely an evil U.S. type thing. The British corporation has also been accused of paying off the paramilitary deathsquads.

    Moral of the story: There are wild conspiracy theories and then there are conspiracies that have actually happened. The JFK assassination is one of the latter, as is the oil-leading-to-IraqWar2 proposition. It´s up for everyone to decide for themselves whether they think there is an oil conspiracy in Colombia or not, but let´s at least consider the possibility that there is.

  5. jcg Says:


    Oil is a factor, certainly. That much makes it clear, I agree.

    Oil as the main factor…the jury’s out on that one, but I would say “no” until proven otherwise. And that requires more evidence than just the above, I would think.

    As for the term “narco-guerrilla”…while I don’t use it myself, and it was almost certainly an exaggeration of considerable proportions when it was first invented, at least in its literal meaning…time has slowly but surely reduced the gap between that exaggeration and reality, if you know what I mean. I still wouldn’t use the term today, just as I do not use many others, but FARC’s relationship with the trade has, if anything, increased and not decreased, in the subsequent decades.

  6. Chris Says:

  7. Chris Says:

  8. Chris Says:

  9. Chris Says:

    FYI… I posted the latter links for your consumption. They don’t necessarily relate to this post.

  10. MZR Says:

    Excellent post, Block.

    To assume that oil plays no part in US foreign policy and, indeed, with US involvement in Colombia is to be totally naive.

    It’s also worth noting that much of Colombia’s oil is thought to be uncharted and Colombia shares with Venezuela and Ecuador the Venezuela-Orinoco belt, an area that is largely suspected of hosting the largest pool of hydrocarbons in the world.

    Oil playing no part in US foreign policy? If only this were true!

  11. Chris Says:

    FYI… OIL/PETROL/Natural GAS/etc. plays a major role in the foreign policy of every industrial country.

    Maybe I am not getting it… but what are you trying to say? What is it that you’re saying should be done? i.e. are you saying that the U.S. should not be allowed access to Colombian oil?

  12. Block Says:

    JCG -

    I realize that the facts I listed don´t constitute nearly enough evidence to convince someone like yourself. As a matter of fact I admire your posts for your careful consideration of all the facts, your deliberation is something I could use more of. All I was trying to do was point to some interesting circumstancial evidence, and indeed the last sentence in my post says this succinctly.

    I am in complete agreement with you about the term “narco-guerrilla.” You actually enunciated what I was trying to point out: the fact that while the term, when originally created, was no more than a fantasy of certain incrupulous hawks in the Pentagon and CIA, it has since become a reality. The irony is that it appears to have been made a reality by the very efforts to curb drug-trafficking that the U.S. has been implementing in Colombia since the late 80s (e.g., driving coca production into lands outside the control of the central government), but that´s another discussion. Now, descendents of the same 80s hawks can point to the “long history” of “narco-guerrillas,” when the reality is that the FARC/drug phenomenon has only grown within the last 10-15 years to be comparable in size to the original AUC/drug connection.

    There´s an interesting analogy here with the current Iraq War. The U.S. went in ostensibly to “fight terrorism,” (one of the 3 reasons given, along with ousting Saddam and their WMDs), terrorism which was shown not to exist once we had already invaded. Of course, now, as a direct result of our intervention, Al-Qaeda has begun to operate extensively in Iraq, which is Bush et al´s current excuse for staying the course (and a justified one, I have to say).


    I don´t fully know how to respond to your question, but I´ll give it a try.

    “Are you saying that the U.S. should not be allowed access to Colombian oil?”

    Who are you saying is “allowing access” to the U.S.? Is it the Colombian government? Is it still considered “allowing” access if they are facing pressure — covert and otherwise — from the U.S. gov´t via certain large oil companies? Isn´t that more like “being coerced into granting” access?

    I suppose I´m an idealist. In an ideal world, the country of Colombia would get to control its oil as it saw fit, without the intervention of foreign countries and governments. Those foreign countries who say they want to help Colombia would actual help them by supporting the construction of in-country, Colombian-owned refineries so that they could control the distribution themselves of their own natural resource. The foreign interests would certainly receive some sort of incentive or reward for doing this, but they wouldn´t end up with total control of another country´s resources.

    Furthermore, in this ideal world, foreign oil companies extracting Colombia´s natural resources certainly would not get to continue their enterprise once it was discovered that they had engaged in the killing of innocent Colombians, as happened with both BP and Occidental. In an ideal world, murdering the citizens of the country you´re financially exploiting would certainly be a dealbreaker. As would funding terrorist groups on both sides of an armed struggle.

    But like I said, I´m just a hopeless idealist.

    But idealism or no idealism, it´s hard to argue against the statement that what´s happening today — the manipulation of governments and corruption of high officials to grant ridiculously free reign to foreign interests — is nothing more than neo-colonialism, the haves continuing to exploit the have-nots.

    (I owe credit to Galeano´s “The Open Veins of Latin America” for much of the above sentiment).

  13. MZR Says:

    What we (well, some of us) are trying to say, Chris, is that US involvement in Colombia is motivated, in part, by the proposition of access to Colombia’s oil.

    “are you saying that the U.S. should not be allowed access to Colombian oil?”

    Yes, I am saying exactly this, if access to Colombian oil is a reason for human suffering which many people across the world have endured for the sake of the USA’s insatiable demand for oil. What do you think Chris? That the US should be able to intervene in other people’s countries for the sake of oil? This is morally wrong – even the illiterate Bush can understand this, hence why he and his friends lied about WMDs and terrorism in Iraq to instigate war. He could hardly come out and say “Hey guys, we’re going in for the oil!”. Moreover, it isn’t simply “access” that we’re talking about here: as Block points out, following neo-liberal restructuring programmes in countries like Colombia, resources become dominated and controlled by foreign companies.

  14. Chris Says:

    I like Block’s idealist approach on this issue, specifically.

  15. MZR Says:

    Chris, I wouldn’t say in an ideal world countries should have control of their own resources. I would simply say in a fairer world, which we should all strive to achieve. And, in fact, we are seeing this process happen in many countries now, following many of the disastrous neo-liberal experiments of the 1990s/early 2000s to open-up markets and let the foreign firms take control of key industries, from telecoms to natural resources. Venezuela and Bolivia are two notable examples, and the most pertinent to this discussion (given that this is a Colombian blog). So, maybe Block isn’t such an idealist after all…

  16. Jaime Bustos Says:

    MZR, there’s something in what you say that prompted me to write. Throughout history, the big fish has been eating the smallest ones, and though sometimes the small fishes unite and get back to big fishes, that continues to be a rule of thumb.

    It’s sad, it’s unfair, call it whatever you want but it’s the law of life.

    A different thing is realizing you are a small fry, and being proud of the big potato pushing you around at will. That is pretty much what happens in Colombia today. Most of the people are fezzed up, but happy to be.


  17. MZR Says:

    Jamie Bustos,

    I wouldn’t say it was the “law of life”, and we can all strive for a fairer society. I am not envisaging a Utopian society, either. For example, take universal health care in the US. Obviously, this wouldn’t be the “proletarian” revolution predicted by Marx, nor would it be a Utopia; and, yes, the “big fish” would still rule. Nor would it mean a completely fair society. But it would, nonetheless, make for a *fairer* society (and indeed, from opinion polls up and down the US, the majority of US citizens want a fairer, universal health care system).

    We can apply this kind of logic to all different kinds of problems in society. This include the extraction of oil, including oil in Colombia. A fairer percentage of profits from oil sales, for example, should go towards government programmes for development rather than in the pockets of petroleum companies. Does this constitute a Utopian society? Of course not. But, is it a *fairer* use of the profits generated from the extraction of natural resources within a given country. Yes.

    I’m not predicting a revolution, JB.

  18. MZR Says:

    Sorry: I meant “Jaime Bustos”… Not “Jamie”… Apologies…

  19. Randy Paul Says:

    Luis Eladio Perez was the man that Camilla hinted as being someone who would do the FARC’s bidding.

    Any plans for apologies, Camilla?

  20. Jaime Bustos Says:

    MZR, casually I was listening on the radio yesterday, some nut talk about health care. There was this guy who said that if you carefully read the constitution there’s nothing in there that says that the government, not central nor federal, should take care of this issue, that’s been debated all over mostly as of late. :(

    However I do agree, with your response, we should be striving for a different society.

    Personally I don’t think either capitalism or socialism or something in between would do it. We should have different ideas and carry them out. I guess in the future we will, because as of now, mankind is thinking with its head in its butt.

  21. c Says:

    I suggest all write letters of concern to the editor of the WSJ regarding Ms. O´Grady´s extremely irresponsible “reporting.”

  22. c Says:

    I, and I alone, cracked the case! The latest and greatest of American/Colombian intelligence work. Readers are you ready? Camilla is a pseudonym for….that´s right, Mary Anastasia O´Grady! Yes!

    What do I win Adam? I think a CIP T-shirt at least…

  23. Chris Says:


    Others ( I think Jaime Bustos) has been calling Camilla — Ms. O’ Grady for some time now… you’re late.

  24. MZR Says:

    Good article by Gary Leech regarding Ms O’Grady A.K.A. Camilla, if you are interested?

  25. Randy Paul Says:

    Kudos to Senator Lugar for that letter. His comment regarding bringing in Brazil is spot on: Brazil has some of the savviest diplomats in the world.

  26. Camilla Says:

    RP: No. Inquiry is always legitimate, and that goes for everyone, not just leftists such as yourself. I don’t do double standards like you do.

  27. Randy Paul Says:

    Groundless, baseless accusations are not legitimate. If you have something, prssent it. If not, stfu.

Leave a Reply