Will they extradite “HH” before he finishes testifying? Friday links
Aug 062008

Here is a translation (thanks to CIP Intern Stephanie DiBello) of Camilo González’s grim assessment of the “Justice and Peace” process. Three years ago last month, Colombia’s Congress passed the law giving paramilitary leaders light sentences in exchange for full confessions and reparations to victims. González, a former health minister and the director of Colombia’s INDEPAZ think-tank, published this piece in today’s El Tiempo.

A Balance in the Red
Camilo González Posso
Director, INDEPAZ

The third anniversary of the passage of Law 975 of July 2005, inappropriately known as the “Justice and Peace Law”, came and went almost unnoticed. The media’s attention was concentrated on other urgent items, such as the arrest of the President of the U Party [the largest pro-Uribe political party] and his transfer to jail to accompany other presidents of parties of the government’s coalition and other former presidents of the country’s Congress.

The Prosecutor General’s report is a good starting point for taking stock and asking the competent authorities about the outcomes of justice, reparation, truth or guarantee of non-repetition. Some of the figures are noteworthy: in three years no one has yet been sentenced; out of 3,431 people being processed for atrocities, only 9 have finished the confessions process. As of yet there is not one single victim who has been able to process his/her demands in a reparation proceeding, and not one peso from the perpetrators has been taken away through judicial sentencing.

Out of a total of 3.5 million paramilitary victims, only 147,000 were brave enough to enlist for some kind of compensation. Barely 10,500 of them were able to attend a hearing, without any result, and less than 2,000 have legal representation.

The 20 paramilitary heads who have given confessions turned in a paltry US$2 million and 99 farms (75% of the total money belonged to the “Mellizo” [narcotrafficker and sometime paramilitary leader Miguel Ángel Mejía Múnera, captured in May]). This contrasts with the US$5 billion accumulated by the narco-paramilitaries via narcotrafficking operations, the expropriation of more than 1.5 million hectares of land, and the appropriation of public funds in alliance with their “para-politician” partners.

And to give the complete picture, at the moment in which the internal fights among those being processed began evolving into denunciations of the government, Doctor Uribe considered it a high priority to get those paramilitary heads and guardians of the secrets of “para-power” out of the country, to be processed in the United States for some tons of cocaine.

The ex-narco-paramilitaries’ revelations about their partners in crime ended up being subordinated to the narcotrafficking proceedings, and their “truths” turned into bargaining chips for sentences even lighter than those anticipated under Law 975.

The result of the extraditions show that Law 975/2005 was misguided from the start: it was defined as a law having nothing to do with narcotrafficking and crimes of government officials, and was intended to apply to narco-paramilitiaries by assuming them to be anti-subversive or quasi seditious. The most important proceedings abruptly ended when the situation got out of control and the government extradited them, recognizing that in essence they actually were narcotraffickers.

On balance there are, of course, documented statistics, some truths revealed, cases in the Supreme Court, an idea of the profundity of the barbarity, and a break with the strategies of dirty war. But in the red lies the battered goal of justice and peace. In this country so accustomed to the the law being something to be evaded … there is also a law of evasion.

28 Responses to “Justice and peace: a balance in the red”

  1. Jaime Bustos Says:

    So, this article is telling us that law has been evaded? Darn! But, by whom? Hmmmm. That’s a good question that maybe, in his continuous pellucid interpretation of events, jcg can show us for certain. :mrgreen:

  2. El Común Says:

    Three years ago last month, Colombia’s Congress passed the law giving paramilitary leaders light sentences in exchange for full confessions and reparations to victims.

    Based on Article 1 of the Ley 975, it applies equally to paramilitaries or guerrillas:

    “Article 1: The objective of the present law is to facilitate the peace processes and the collective or individual reincorporation into civilian life of members of illegal armed groups….it is understood that “illegal armed groups” are either guerrilla or paramilitary groups or a significant or integral part of those groups…”

    In fact, I believe many demobilized guerrillas have submitted themselves to the J&P process, including the ex-FARC commander “Karina”. A different perspective on the J&P process appeared in a column by Eduardo Pizarro who writes:

    “First, several years ago, Colombia was the most violent country in Latin America. Today, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, five countries surpass Colombia in the continent (El Salvador, with 55.3 homicides per ten thousand inhabitants per year, followed by Jamaica (49), Guatemala (45), Venezuela (45) and Honduras (43). The drop in homocides in Colombia from 90 to 37 can be based in large part to the demobilization of paramilitaries, and the crumbling of the FARC and ELN….

    Secondly, thanks to the J&P Law, for the first time in Latin American history, there is judicial truth. Given that the Central American peace processes and the transitions from dictatorship to democracy in the Southern Cone and Brazil were predominated by total impunity….thanks to the 1,400 versiones libres, the fiscalia has been able to establish individual responsibility for more than 6,000 homicides, and locate more than 1,000 common graves.

    Finally, an important indicator of the efficacy of this law has been the capacity to disentangle the responsibility of multiple regional elites with the paramilitaries. More than 50 members of congress are currently under investigation…”

    My view is that the J&P process should be given a chance to work itself out.

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Posted: February 23, 2007

    “My apologies; I’ve misled readers about my native South Africa. I called it the most violent place on earth outside a war zone. I was wrong. BBC World recently – and reluctantly – disclosed that South Africa jostles with Iraq and Colombia for the title of most violent country in the world, war zones included. ”


    And the winner is ……


  4. Jaime Bustos Says:


    Global Peace Index.


  5. jcg Says:

    I wouldn’t say that the law is useless, but that it was, and remains, too slow, full of loopholes and without enough internal and international support. Does that mean we should pull the plug? Maybe not, as some good things have come out of the current process as even this article admits, but without some changes the situation isn’t going to improve, to say the least.

    Jaime Bustos: By several people depending on how you interpret that, including the paramilitaries, members of the government and others, but I’m far from necessary to say that, thank you.

  6. Jaime Bustos Says:

    According to what I’ve been hearing and read today in El Tiempo, Colombia would sen soldiers to fight Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Not happy to be the most violent country in the world and top cocaine exporter now Colombia, wants to export violence too. This country has gone mad.


  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    “The Columbian government has one of the worst human rights records in the world and much of the repression is facilitated by the billions of dollars they get from the United States via Plan Columbia. Again, James Petras details the effects of US support for the Uribe regime:

    “With an unprecedented degree of US financing and advanced technological support, the newly elected narco-partner and death squad organizer, President Alvaro Uribe took charge of a scorched earth policy to savage the Colombian countryside. Between his election in 2002 and re-election in 2006, over 15,000 peasants, trade unionists, human rights workers, journalists and other critics were murdered. Entire regions of the countryside were emptied — like the US Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam, farmland was poisoned by toxic herbicides. Over 250,000 armed forces and their partners in the paramilitary death squads decimated vast stretches of the Colombian countryside where the FARC exercised hegemony. Scores of US-supplied helicopter gun-ships blasted the jungles in vast search and destroy missions — (which had nothing to do with coca production or the shipment of cocaine to the United States). By destroying all popular opposition and organizations throughout the countryside and displacing millions Uribe was able to push the FARC back toward more defensible remote regions.”


  8. jcg Says:

    Jaime: “According to what I’ve been hearing and read today in El Tiempo, Colombia would sen soldiers to fight Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Not happy to be the most violent country in the world and top cocaine exporter now Colombia, wants to export violence too. This country has gone mad.”

    Now that is, at least in my opinion but opinions are the whole point of these comment sections I guess, very debatable. I wouldn’t seriously call sending about 100 soldiers to Afghanistan “exporting violence”, unless you are going to apply that kind of reasoning to everyone, including Spain and several other countries who have already done so. The decision to do so can be debated, quite so in fact, but on those grounds? Not really.

    And it should be mentioned that the statistics in the link are from 1998-2000. Whatever you want to say about the government’s past and present methodology, where do you think the UN gets those figures from? The Police, I believe, or if not them Medicina Legal. A more recent survey would use more recent figures, instead of ones that are about 8-10 years old and which, for better or for worse, can’t be automatically equated with their predecessors.

    Finally, that Mike Whitney link in general and that James Petras quote in particular aren’t exactly trying to provide a fair and complete description of the situation and how it came about, even if we were ignore their expressed sympathy for FARC. If I were to try and question or nitpick them, which I’ve done before in other circumstances in the case of Petras at least, I’d waste too much time, to be honest.

    Yes, many of the mentioned abuses are real and deserve to be denounced publicly, which other people have also done, including to a certain extent this very blog. From that perspective, their articles are in fact useful. You don’t have to tell me that. But describing them in such a way as Mr. Petras and Mr. Whitney do, and in the context of their own public sympathy for FARC, is something else entirely.

  9. Jaime Bustos Says:

    pssstt pssstttt.

    Global Peace Index.


    jcg, I know that you live in the “relativesphere”, but there’s no denying Colombia is still one of the most violent countries in the world, not to mention, once again, top cocaine exporter. Even El Tiempo, your favorite news feed, has recently consented that way.

    For those who are not blind, Colombia leader is as Petra says, what Petra says. So who would expect anything else from a law that is custom made by its boss to its henchmen?

    Colombia is a Rogue State by all standards.

  10. Santiago Garcia Says:

    Wow, to quote the murder rates from 2000 as indicative of Colombia’s situation today is so stunningly dishonest it makes my head spin.

  11. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, I am sorry, when I wrote “its boss to its henchmen” I meant “the boss for his henchmen” ;-)

  12. Jaime Bustos Says:

    I was not aware of this condemnation, or not at least at such extent: is it true?

    People’s Tribunal condemns Colombian government

    …. “When reporting resumed, the audience heard the full extent of the terror the Colombian people have faced. It is an “economic laboratory”, the damning report said, and the result has been thousands of deaths and disappearances, millions of displaced people, the destruction of the environment and the trade union movement, and a wholesale selloff of the country to transnational corporations.

    The tribunal held dozens of transnationals responsible for these “crimes against humanity” and pledged to send its findings to the International Court and the governments of more than 100 countries where the transnationals operate. But it reserved its strongest indictment for the Colombian government.

    President Alvaro Uribe government’s “democratic security doctrine” has paved the way for mass exploitation, allowing corruption to run unchecked, the tribunal said. Sixty members of the Congress and Senate are being investigated for illegal activities, including involvement in paramilitary death squads. Among those being investigated is Uribe’s own cousin.

    The government consciously assisted in the creation of a paramilitary system that led to forced takeovers of large portions of land for the growing of coca to supply the $5 billion annual cocaine-exporting business.

    The Uribe government is complicit in the murder or displacement of thousands of rural peasants, Afro-Colombians and aboriginal peoples. With nowhere to go, the displaced populate the large cities, living in slums with few services. The tribunal also charged the government with the near genocide of 18 indigenous communities. ….”


  13. jcg Says:

    Jaime: Colombia is one of the most violent by far, yes and sadly so, but that is different from what you wrote and why you did, in the context of your “exporting violence” argument.

    And just because I do read EL TIEMPO, as well as other sources if you don’t mind, doesn’t mean it’s my “favorite”.

    “For those who are not blind, Colombia leader is as Petra says, what Petra says.”

    So let me get this…if one doesn’t agree with Petras, partially or entirely depending on the specific subject or statement (and what you quoted was about *more* than just the “leader”), is that automatically “blindness”?

    Then maybe I wouldn’t hesitate, in turn, to call Petras and anyone who agrees with him “as is” of a similar or worse “blindness” as well. But that’s just as bad of a move, so it’s utterly pointless.

    “So who would expect anything else from a law that is custom made by its boss to its henchmen?”

    Considering that it partially failed even on that count (if it were *completely* custom made, they would be happy with it, wouldn’t they?) and that even some critics recognize a few positive elements in that law…do you really think that’s all there is to it?

    “Colombia is a Rogue State by all standards.”

    Depends on what you consider “all” standards.

    As for the ” Permanent People’s Tribunal”, it runs into many of the same problems: it points to certain real problems, abuses and crimes that are undeniable, but it hardly seems like a venue where the issues were addressed fairly and completely. That is no real tribunal, as its powers and interests are only political.

    But well…sorry if I don’t always “blindly” agree with everyone who says, in whatever way imaginable, that something bad is bad, regardless of everything else.

  14. El Común Says:

    I said:
    “First, several years ago, Colombia was the most violent country in Latin America. Today, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, five countries surpass Colombia in the continent (El Salvador, with 55.3 homicides per ten thousand inhabitants per year, followed by Jamaica (49), Guatemala (45), Venezuela (45) and Honduras (43).

    and should have said:

    …homicides per hundred thousand inhabitants per year…

    The source is likely to be Figure 4 of the following document .

  15. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, whatever, you know I always have to agree with your implicit postulate “everything’s relative”, and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

    But if you believe all the drama surrounding the Colombian circus, particularly that the paras are really upset with their boss, for having sent them statewards, then I am afraid you have been taken in too.

    Read this (Be sure to catch the date)


  16. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Comun you will have to decide who you believe, the bank, or the piece index, latter of which reports Colombian being the most violent place in latin america.

  17. Jaime Bustos Says:

    peace, sorry :mrgreen:

  18. El Común Says:

    Hello Jaime,

    The data on the IDB web site is from a paper published by two researchers on violence. One from Vanderbilt University, the other from La Universidad Externado de Colombia. They in turn got their data from the Pan American Health Organization and from the National Police.

    There is an additional source of homicide data here, which references its sources and agrees with the IDB data (scroll down to the bottom). According to this source the homicide rates in Colombia between 2000 and 2006 are:
    62.7 64.6 65.8 51.8 44.6 39.3 37.3

    I am not sure what the “Peace Index” is, but based on their 2008 rankings from the URL you provided, there are 10 countries that are ranked lower than Colombia which would again contradict your statement that “[Colombia is] the most violent country in the world”.

  19. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Colombia, Venezuela Y Haití, Los Más Violentos De América Latina

    Colombia, Venezuela y Haití son los países más violentos de la región y figuran entre los más violentos del mundo, según el Índice Global de Paz (Global Peace Index) 2008, una clasificación que compara el grado de pacifismo de las naciones y que fue presentada ayer en Londres. (VER GRAFICOS)

    Miércoles 21 de mayo de 2008 | eltiempo.com | Internacional | ARTICULO

    This was published in EL TIEMPO.

  20. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Colombia es el país más violento de América Latina

    Agencias|Mayo 20 de 2008.

    Colombia es el país más violento de América Latina según el Índice Global de Paz 2008, una clasificación que tiene en cuenta 24 variables como los niveles de crimen violento, la inestabilidad política, el número de policías, la incidencia de los homicidios, el número de personas encarceladas y los niveles de acceso a las armas.


  21. Kyle Says:

    I just have a couple questions, as I don’t feel like jumping into the debate so late. First, where did Posso come up with the following numbers?:

    $5 billion US in narcotrafficking profits for just one group of armed actors involved in narcotrafficking, albeit some for many years?

    Secondly, 3.5 million victims of paramilitaries? How did he arrive to this conclusion? It seems high even for paramilitary violence. Even if we give the AUC 3 million victims of displacement (which I give because it is already incredibly high, and in my opinion, an over-statement), the rest of the AUC’s crimes do not add up to 500,000 victims. Disappearances probably 15,000; homicides between 15,000 and 20,000 in the last 12 years or so; kidnappings about 1,300 since 1996… Other crimes probably do not fill the 460,000 places left. Maybe robbery of sorts and contracts from government entities; these constitute crimes but legally one would be hard-pressed to define a direct victim(s) without applying some wide-brush strokes that would not be guaranteed as confident and accurate.

  22. AR Says:

    Justice and Peace law has achieved neither justice nor peace, three years after its birth. The fact that the GOC extradited the paramilitary commanders who submitted themselves to the process shows not even the very GOC is willing to stand by its so-called “peace process”. The state has proved unable to stop paramilitaries from continuing to organize and commit crimes from prison, incapable of seizing the lands and monies to compensate the victims, unwilling to let the truth surface. The victims rather represent a nuisance when not objects of contempt for GOC officials as they have repeatedly demonstrated. Actually the GOC is now entangled in the para-politic issue which is just another chapter of the same story.

    Común: So how much more time do you think the J&P process needs to work itself out?. Oh, and you cite Eduardo Pizarro to defend it? What an independent opinion that of the GOC reparation and reconciliation commissioner!

    Kyle: Your questions motivate further questions. You do not believe victims of paramilitaries (including the dead, displaced, disappeared, disabled and dispossessed) add up to 3.5 million? or do you think any of those should not be considered as victims? On what grounds? Do you know of UNHCR’s recent figures on displacement in Colombia (those the GOC did not like)? They amount to 3.5 million displaced persons only. Do you think UNHCR is over-stating the case?

  23. Kyle Says:

    AR, I just think that the victims of paramilitaries may not add up to 3.5 million. I don’t think the UN is overstating the case; I’d put 3.5 million displaced victims, at this point, as a minimum. For me, it is hard for me to see 3.5 million victims of paramilitaries, especially in a legal sense. Which is to say, for all the clientelism and contracts that paramilitaries were able to get from government entities, there are victims without a doubt. But it would be hard for a person to show up to register at a government office and say “The paramilitaries stole from me when they got their business got x contract.” For me, that is a crime more directly attributable to the government entity than the paramilitaries. So leaving this possibility out, I just don’t see 3.5 million victims.
    Of course, it just came to mind, that if a whole family is counted as a victims of, say, their father/mother/sister/brother’s murder or disappearance than I can see 3.5 million victims. I don’t know if many methodologies count this as such. I’ve usually seen victim’s family (who still of course has all the rights granted to them.)
    I’m sure it just comes down to methodologies of counting who is and isn’t a victim.

  24. jcg Says:

    I think Kyle has a good point, but I would add a couple of different observations.

    Not all displacement can be exclusively attributed to the paramilitaries, even if most could and has. There are also people who have been displaced by government security forces, by the different guerrillas, by combat between any of the armed actors, by fumigations or for other reasons or entities.

    Sometimes it seems like the other kinds of displacement do not exist and that all displaced persons are automatically considered to be paramilitary victims. Most doesn’t mean all.

    Also, to cite CODHES, a human rights NGO which is specialized in the field of studying and denouncing displacement:

    “El Sistema de Información sobre Desplazamiento Forzado y Derechos Humanos SISDHES, que opera CODHES desde 1995 y que recoge la cifra de la Conferencia Episcopal de Colombia del período 1985-1994, indica que alrededor de 3.832.527 personas han sido desplazadas en los últimos 20 años (primero de enero de 1985 y el 30 de junio de 2006).

    Es decir, persiste una falla estructural en el Estado por su incapacidad para garantizar los derechos civiles y políticos de cerca del 10% de su población que en las últimas dos décadas fue obligada a huir de sus sitios de vivienda o trabajo, falla que se prolonga en la negación de los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales de las personas en situación de desplazamiento, como lo ha dicho con claridad la Corte Constitucional.

    Es posible que muchas de estas personas hayan superado su condición de desplazadas, estén fuera del país o hayan muerto en estos veinte años.

    Pero las causas estructurales del desplazamiento siguen vigentes y la realidad social y humanitaria del desplazamiento emerge como un desafío al Estado Social de Derecho.”


    I’ve quoted a bit more for context, and I agree with the fact that displacement remains a structural problem woefully and shamefully un- or under-addressed.

    CODHES, however, recognizes that when you are adding up figures accumulated over 20 years, it’s possible that many people may no longer be living as displaced persons, for one reason or another.

    This was written in 2005-2006, and it’s likely that the number of people displaced over 20 years may well be above 4 million by now, at least. But that same statement remains valid. In other words, the total number of people displaced over 20 years doesn’t mean that right now, in 2008, all those people are still living as displaced persons, even if you would want to argue that it would only be a few hundred thousand less or something along those lines.

  25. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Colombia, Between the Devil and the deep blue sea

    2008 US renews warning to Colombia travellers on risk of narco terrorist violence.

  26. Kyle Says:

    JCG, that is exactly my point. Not all displacement victims come from paramilitaries. I generously attributed 3 million to them not as a statistic but to demonstrate my point. Even if 3 million were displaced by the AUC, or other para groups, I still do not think their total number of victims reaches 3.5 million. If there are 4 million displaced in Colombia, which is I think is accurate, as a minimum my estimate would be 1.5 by paramilitary groups, leaving some 2 million to be accounted for by Indepaz; how 3.5 million is the conclusion, i do not know.
    On more thinking, $5 billion does not seem to far off, yet still slightly high for me.

  27. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Conclusion: Colombia is not such a narco criminal country, as some people allege. It’s just a little less than that. :mrgreen:

  28. Kyle Says:

    Better conclusion: Some actors in Colombia’s narco-criminal world may not have been/be involved as Posso puts it.

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