“At Ubérrimo’s Gates” Change is coming, but not drastic change
Dec 122008

    One killed 3,000 people. The other inspires “impure thoughts.”

  • The DEA announced yesterday that its estimate of cocaine prices on U.S. streets has nearly doubled since January 2007. The agency’s release gives the credit not to coca eradication – the amount of cocaine produced in the Andes has changed little – but to increased law-enforcement activity against cartel leaders in Mexico and Colombia. Over the last year or so, Colombia saw a spike in arrests or killings of top narcotraffickers (Diego Montoya, Wilber Varela, Juan Carlos Abadía, the Mejía Múnera twins) and the extraditions of much of the top paramilitary leadership. The drug mafia is likely in a state of chaos, even if drug supplies are largely steady.
  • Here [PDF] is an English-language overview of the human rights situation in Putumayo, Colombia, prepared by the Colombian human rights group Corporación MINGA to coincide with the November 17-21 visit of a delegation of victims’ leaders from that badly battered southern Colombian province. The document asks how Putumayo’s humanitarian catastrophe – 3,000 people disappeared or killed over a six-year period – could have happened at the same time that the zone was the principal focus of U.S. “Plan Colombia” assistance.
  • On Thursday night Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) gave a strong speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about his mid-November trip to the Ecuador-Colombia border region.

As I traveled further north towards the border frontier, I found a growing humanitarian and security crisis. Eight years ago, the United States started pouring military aid–$4.8 billion of it–into Colombia, much of it focused on military operations in the violent coca growing zones just across the border from Ecuador.The result has been an alarming spillover of violence into Ecuador’s peaceful but impoverished borderlands. Over 200,000 Colombians–a number rivaling many refugee crises in Africa–have fled to Ecuador to escape the violence and intense fighting between guerilla groups, the Colombian military, and Colombian paramilitary militias.

As the GAO recently reported, harsh U.S. counter-drug strategies have failed to halt cocaine production in Colombia or ease the violence that comes with this illegal economy. Instead, organized crime has been pushed across the border into Ecuador.

Mr. Speaker, I stood on the banks of the San Miguel River, which marks the border between Putumayo, Colombia, and Sucumbios, Ecuador. Only a few hundred yards of water separate the two.

Mr. Speaker, Colombia’s war is literally bleeding, violently, into Ecuador, which has no history of illegal drug cultivation or insurgency from its own people. Tensions between the two nations are high and diplomatic relations remain cut off.

  • The Ecuadorian government took a surprising step against Colombian migrants this week: all Colombian citizens are now prohibited from entering Ecuador until they first furnish a certificate of their “judicial history.”
  • Ecuador meanwhile announced today that it will default on foreign debt it considers to be “illegal and illegitimate.” Also, President Rafael Correa received a US$40 million loan from Iran during a visit this week to Teheran.
  • The very useful Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris analyses of the current state of Colombia’s conflict, summaries of which we translated last week, are presented in more detail in the latest issue of the organization’s magazine, Arcanos.
  • In a report published last month, the human-rights group CODHES adds up all of the armed-group members that the Colombian government claims to have killed, captured or demobilized since the beginning of 2002, and comes up with the remarkable – not to mention improbable – figure of 114,259 people.
  • Opposition Senator Gustavo Petro denounced yesterday that a “political reform” bill in the Congress includes a section, proposed by pro-government legislators, which would exclude demobilized combatants from holding public office. If this section were to become law, Petro – a member of the M-19 guerrillas who negotiated peace with the Colombian government almost twenty years ago – would have to step down.
  • And finally, what list of Latin America-related links this week would be complete without a reference to Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina. Speaking at a tribute to honor dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet on Wednesday – the second anniversary of the despot’s death – the retired cardinal paused to denounce what he viewed as the real danger to morality: pop star Madonna, who was giving a concert in Santiago. “This woman comes here and in an incredibly shameless manner, she provokes a crazy enthusiasm, an enthusiasm of lust, lustful thoughts, impure thoughts.”

15 Responses to “Friday links”

  1. lfm Says:

    OK, I’m cheating, this belongs to the previous thread, so what?

    I’m not a lawyer or a cop and certainly I have no inside information about Uribe’s activities in Cordoba. If you ask me, I think that most likely he will never suffer any consequence for whatever he did there. Moreover, chances are he never did anything illegal. But turns out that sometimes the scandal is not that somebody does something illegal, the legality ITSELF is the scandal. I know, I know, those of us who are outraged at this will likely never be able to bring any charges and a lot of this is in the eye of the beholder. But to some of us precisely the scandal is that you can spend decades being a political beneficiary (somewhat directly) of the unsavory characters in Cordoba and still become President. This isn’t just sitting on a board with Bill Ayers. Uribe has been for decades tip-toeing close to the line of legality to be close with these people. It’s not like he was screaming bloody murder about them in the Senate or as a governor, quite the opposite, he was friendly with many of them.

    So I’ve had it with hearing the typical uribista defense that “all this is legal.” Maybe it does it for you, but not for me: for me it is the very fact that all this is legal which implies that there’s something deeply rotten in Colombia’s political system.

  2. Marcos Says:

    lfm, that same point applies to the left and its own ugly associations, no? Unless you think those do not exist or are “different”. I wonder if you will ever look at the biographies of people with unsavory associations to the guerrillas or to individuals and organizations that are close to them.

    I think CODHES fails to recognize that all those figures will always be estimates and that they have to include some people who were wrongfully accused, who were not part of the groups or who were later freed due to lack of evidence, among other possibilities that are natural to any law enforcement system in the world. Just trying to mock the figures without any serious consideration is childish and pathetic.

    I have to say that someone should remind McGovern about many things, because guys like him seem to forget too quickly about what has also happened in Ecuador, now and in the recent past.



  3. Randy Paul Says:

    If there’s any further evidence needed that sometimes fate has a strong sense of irony, it’s the fact that Pinochet died on Human Rights Day.

  4. El Común Says:

    It’s not like he was screaming bloody murder about them in the Senate or as a governor, quite the opposite, he was friendly with many of them.

    lfm, many of those in Colombia’s congress whom you wish Uribe had screamed “bloody murder” at, are now in jail as a result of the parapolitica scandal, thanks in part to Mario Iguarán, whom Uribe appointed as Colombia’s Attorney General. In another bit of from the past week, Salvatore Mancuso will get a maximum of 30 years after a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice, with the possibility of reduced time if he cooperates with Colombia’s Justice and Peace Law, and confesses to additional crimes and compensates his victims. Mancuso, as you know, was extradited by Uribe to the U.S. last May.

  5. x Says:

    No comment on Uribe’s expression of remorse to the indigionous?

  6. Camilla Says:

    If cocaine prices are skyrocketing, it means the poison is not getting to its snort-happy markets. Less cocaine, fewer overdoses, less taxpayer cost to rehabilitate the addicted basketcases. That’s pretty much the aim of the drug war, is it not? If producers are producing coca, I guarantee you they won’t keep doing it if they can’t sell it for a profit. Of course, Hugo and Evo are doing their parts to ignore any enforcement at all in their countries, turning them into crime-infested hellholes, pretty much what Colombia under its appeasement leadership used to be. But overall this shoots a lot of holes into the argument that we shouldn’t finance the drug war. Obviously, it’s having an effect, based on Colombia’s current leadership, something the left will never say ‘thank you’ for.

    Meanwhile, Semana reports that Colombia has snagged so much trafficker swag from narcothugs, Marxist terrorists, and paramilitary scum that it literally doesn’t know what to do with it. I suggest they ebay it over here.


  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Everybody is full of it. Nothing I or anybody else can do. And, yes including me, Marquito! ;-)

  8. lfm Says:

    Slow and lazy weekend so I won’t elaborate much more on what I said before. But I saw a glimmer of a civil discussion in this thread and so I’ll oblige. Those things endear me.

    I understand that Uribe’s supporters like this narrative of “Uribe as the scourge of the paramilitary” that has eliminated it from the map. This narrative has two problems:

    1. Paramilitarism isn’t finished. It’s been recycled, there’s been a relay in leadership and so on but it isn’t finished. There is a long history in Colombia of armies doing the dirty work of politicians to see themselves later in jail. That’s what happened with many “pajaros” in the 50s. Before the shouting match begins, I’m not saying that this is exactly what’s going on right now. (But I suspect it is.) Only that it is a possibility and we haven’t seen enough evidence to deny it. In fact, the economic powers buttressed by such death machines seem to be thriving like never before.

    2. The current state of the paramilitary leadership is not the outcome of Uribe’s single-handed decisions. In fact, there has been a disturbing pattern along these years that, whenever the Executive has the chance, it chooses the path of most leniency. It made cushy deals in Ralito, it proposed a toothless law of “Justice and Peace”, it has badly understaffed and undermined the efforts of the “J and P” system and so on. What we’re seeing is the result of a tug of war between the Executive, Congress and, especially, the Courts. If you want to get a measure of what Uribe really wanted to do, look at what he has proposed, not at what has finally transpired, look at what he does whenever he has the chance. There the patters is pretty disturbing.

    OK, so this means that Uribe is not a dictator, doesn’t it? Hell it does! I never said he is. I dislike him deeply, but I leave that heavy stuff to more fevered imaginations.

  9. El Común Says:

    lfm, first of all, I am not an Uribista, but I will defend his right to that pesky “burden of proof” standard. I will also point out when others attempt to indict him on the basis of his associations with politicians and landowners from Cordoba, since as you know, guilt by association is a non-sequitur in Western jurisprudence. I personally do hope that when Mancuso talks, that he names people who funded his militias, and if Uribe happens to be one of them, then so be it.

    I do happen to believe that the J&P process is not as toothless as you claim. I am not alone in this, Jose Vivanco from HRW has said as much (full report):

    ‘Colombia’s justice institutions have made enormous progress in investigating paramilitaries and their powerful friends,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But the Uribe administration keeps taking steps that could sabotage these investigations.’

    The report also mentions the constitutional court ruling that greatly strengthened the J&P Law. Yes, I agree with your point 2 that Uribe has hampered these investigations, but keep in mind that the Fiscal General that he nominated (Iguaran), started many of these investigations and Uribe must walk a delicate political tightrope between what Iguaran is doing and his supporters in congress. I value the role that this blog, HRW, and the Dems in congress play in promoting human rights and in moving the J&P process forward, but I think the J&P process should be allowed to play itself out. It is the best hope for a lasting peace that Colombia has seen in many decades.

    Secondly, since you clearly want to go after Uribe, may I suggest that you instead go after the intellectual authors of the doctrine of paramilitary counter-terror, who happen to be right in your own backyard.

  10. Jaime Bustos Says:

    El comun, I know you try to keep your sanity in the outrageous mess we are trapped by using your logic. But remember, one thing is justice, tribunals and laws and another thing is what we grasp with our common sense and independent thinking, and the conclusions we might reach by own selves. In my opinion and taking into account countless reports and rumours referring the issue, his behaviour his speeches and defaults, Uribe is (was?) part of the Medellin cartel and reportedly, Uribe was one of the main actors in extending autodefensas groups in Colombia (Mancuso included). Some of the claims might be diversion, yes, but to think all of them are, is out of the question. Additionally to hope that a president is going to be judged by the corrupt colombian establishment, beyong being naive is completely ridiculous. And that backyard you talk about in your post, is one of the many interested factors responsible that this thug and his cohorts are ramsacking the colombian territory currently without being punished.

  11. Marcos Says:

    Jaime Bustos is truly the judge, jury and executioner that Colombia needs, or is he…



  12. Camilla Says:

    More bad news for the drug-war-is-hopeless-let’s-quit crowd:


    Another big pillar of their argument crashes to earth.

  13. Adam Isacson Says:

    From the same LA Times piece: “From 2003 to 2007, cocaine production in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru increased from 790 to 865 metric tons, the report said.”

    This is the second year in a row that the NDIC gives nearly all the credit to Mexico. So Colombia = progress on security, no progress on drugs, and Mexico = progress on drugs, no progress on security. A very complicated picture.

    NDIC report is at http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/topics/ndtas.htm

  14. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Adam, I wonder what “security” means for the writers of those reports, to conclude that there has been progress in Colombia, given several bombs going off this year in the main cities (Bogota, Cali and Medellin), not to mention false positives (that have been going for a while now, but only received mass attetion this year), indians and blacks killed and bereft from their lands as usual, alarming unionist murder rate , etc etc etc.

  15. Marcos Says:

    Shhh….only Jaime Bustos is allowed to determine what is progress on security.



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