America "Works With" Her International Partner 1/9/98

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This Week, the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the work of Father Leonidas Moreno, a Catholic priest in the town of Pavarando, in northwestern Colombia. Pavarando has recently become a virtual refugee camp, housing as many as 10,000 people who have fled the southern part of the country to escape violence and death at the hands of paramilitary groups and aerial bombardments by the Colombian army in the province of Riosucio.

The Center for Research and Popular Education told The Chronicle that a campaign, begun in mid-December by paramilitary groups, aims to "cleanse" the Riosucio region of political insurgents and their alleged supporters, and has led to the massacre of dozens of peasants.

It is well-known, though rarely admitted, that the paramilitary groups are aligned with elements in Colombia's military. It is also widely understood that these groups perform much of the "dirty work" of a military that has gotten a great deal of international attention due to its abominable record on human rights. Late last year, the Clinton Administration agreed to provide $150 million dollars in military aid and equipment to Colombia to support its "anti-narcotics" efforts in the southern half of the country. The real purposes for which the equipment would be used was muddled by Colombian officials however who told the press that it was free to use it however it saw fit within the southern, rebel-controlled half of the country.

According to a Human Rights Watch report cited in the Chronicle article, paramilitary groups grew and multiplied soon after the US government sent a team of CIA and US Military "advisors" to Colombia to improve the "efficiency and effectiveness" of their military. The report also notes that this cooperation between the US advisors and the Colombian military "provided a blueprint for... a secret network that relied on paramilitaries not only for intelligence but to carry out murder."

The brutality of these groups is also well-documented, with innumerable reports of the killing, often by machete, of women and children, as well as live dismemberments.

Coletta Youngers of the Washington Office on Latin America spoke with The Week Online about the situation in Colombia.

"The paramilitary groups originally emerged out of an alliance between the Colombian military and the landowning and economic elites, who set up what were then known as Vigilantes. Major drug traffickers, of course, represent a portion of those elites. The groups were legal, and operated in outright cooperation with the military until the late 1980's when they were outlawed. Ties to the military remained strong after that, although those relationships vary from region to region."

"As to the military aid that the US recently promised to Colombia, that aid has been delivered only to the police, navy and air force. The aid which has been earmarked for the army has been held up because under the Leahy bill, the US government is prohibited by law from providing assistance to individual military units which have been responsible for human rights violations and which have not been held accountable by trial. Due to the recent spate of massacres in the southern, coca-growing region of the country, they are still searching for a unit of the Colombian army which would be eligible under this provision."

You can visit the web site of the Washington Office on Latin America at http://www.wola.org. Human Rights Watch has a site at http://www.hrw.org.

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Issue #24, 1/9/98 A Look Ahead at 1998 | War on Patients to Escalate: Federal Government Announces Plan to Raid Cannabis Buyers' Clubs | DRCNet Exclusive!! British Euro-MP's Ordered by Blair to Vote Against Commission Recommendations for EU Drug Policy | Ann Landers, Anthony Lewis Trash Drug War: DRCNet subscribers are urged to respond! | Candle Correction | Giuliani Pledges a "Drug Free New York" | Heroin in New England -- Cheaper, Purer Than Ever | Federal Anti-Drug Ad Campaign to Hit Airwaves | America "Works With" Her International Partner | US Counternarcotics Base to Replace Air Force Base When Panama Canal is Turned Over | Signature Drive Underway for Industrial Hemp Ballot Initiative in California | UK: Home Secretary's Son Found Dealing Cannabis, Legaliation Debate Rages | Australian Cops: "Policign is not the Answer" | "Smoke a Joint, Lose a Limb?:" Pending Mississippi Bill Threatens Dismemberment For Convicted Drug Violators | Student Suspension Overturned | Jury Nullification Ballot Initiative in California | Job Opportunity at DPF | Editorial: A "Drug Free New York?" C'mon Rudy
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