Legislators as well as administration officials were calling for more military support to be sent to Colombia in the wake of admissions by both President Ernesto Samper and Colombian military officials that their nation's 35 year-old civil war will not be won without substantial help. Congress this week passed, by voice vote, a resolution urging the Clinton administration to provide three sophisticated Black Hawk helicopters to the Colombian National Police.
According to the Washington Post, the Administration is considering supplying advanced communications equipment, intelligence support and additional training to the Colombian military. The Colombian government has also requested 12 Cobra attack helicopters. Other U.S. military aid, some of which has been held up as the Colombian army searches for a unit which has not been implicated in human rights atrocities, and which would therefore be eligible to receive it, includes 1,000 M-16A1 rifles and 500 M-60 machine guns.
The aid, of course, is labeled as "counter-narcotics" but virtually no one familiar with the situation believes that there is any way to keep their use separate from the counter-insurgency activities of the military. There are no units of the Colombian military dedicated solely to counter-narcotics operations. Complicating matters is the fact that the right wing paramilitaries, who operate with the unofficial backing of the military and who have been widely implicated in the massacre of thousands of civilians, are also heavily financed by the coca trade. In addition, it is well known that much of the Colombian military, as well as elements within the national Police, have been corrupted. Even President Samper is believed by the U.S. to have taken millions in contributions from traffickers.
The State Department recently opposed the transfer of the Black Hawks to Colombia's police. An unnamed State department official told the Post, "We are really not interested in getting sucked into this."
(If you missed our special report on Colombia, check it out at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/3-27.html#colombia.)