Drug Warriors Eye Colombia's FARC as Possible Target in War on Terror 10/19/01

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


The September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center are being used by congressional hard-liners to promote a more aggressive policy toward Colombia's leftist guerrillas, the FARC. The organization was already on the State Department's global list of 29 "terrorist" groups (just last month, the State Department added the AUC, the rightist paramilitary death squads allied with the Colombian government, to that list), but in the post-September 11 atmosphere, the terrorist designation is taking on considerably more heft.

Although there is no evidence that the FARC, which has been engaged in a civil war with the Colombian state since 1964, is linked to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, the guerrilla army earned the terrorist designation for repeatedly attacking US-owned oil installations in Colombia and for killing three American indigenous rights activists in 1999. The FARC has been widely criticized for human rights abuses in its guerrilla war, including most recently the murder of popular former Culture Minister Claudia Araujo.

The guerrilla group has also been in the hardliners' sights since three members of the Irish Republican Army were arrested by the Colombian government after traveling to the FARC's Switzerland-sized safe haven. After the August 11 arrests, US and Colombian government sources accused the FARC of inviting the IRA men to provide it with training in urban terrorism. The IRA men remain in jail in Colombia.

"Members of Congress at a senior level are making the link between drugs and terrorism," an unnamed Republican Senate staffer told the Baltimore Sun on Sunday. "As we focus our policy on Colombia, that is going to become a very important part of our debate."

But wielding the terrorism card to advance anti-drug agendas is a bipartisan exercise. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) jumped on the terror connection in an op-ed in the Augusta Chronicle over the weekend. "One of the biggest bastions of terrorism is not a world away, but right under our nose," wrote Miller. "A two-hour flight south from Miami will land you in Colombia, the most dangerous and terroristic country in the world."

Miller noted recent signs of political and economic stress in the region, but rather than focus on structural causes, he suggested that "what should concern us most is that this region is home to well-established, well-financed criminal networks. A third of the world's identified terrorist groups have operations in Latin America," he wrote. "While all eyes are now on the Middle East, the forces of evil to our south are scheming and stretching their reach around the globe."

Stretching even further, the former Georgia governor turned Latin America expert next attempted to falsely link the FARC with the Al Qaeda network. "While Osama bin Laden is hiding in a cave in far-away Afghanistan, his lesser-known lieutenants are a two-hour flight away from Miami. Soon, this snake is going to bite us," Miller warned.

Carrying the snake imagery a little further, the FARC has in essence responded to post-September 11 attacks on it with "don't tread on me." In a late September communique, the FARC accused the US of using the attacks to justify a "witch hunt" against revolutionary movements around the world and interfering in Colombia's internal affairs with its hundreds of soldiers and mercenaries. The FARC also questioned Washington's right to decide "who are the terrorists and who are not."

One area where the new, more aggressive US attitude could manifest itself is President Pastrana's long-delayed decision on whether to extend the FARC's safe haven, an area in south-central Colombia from which the military has been barred for the past three years. US officials had been taking aim at the safe haven even before September 11.

Now, said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, US attention on Colombia will probably decrease. "But to the extent US officials focus on Colombia, they are going to be less tolerant, less willing to accept that this is part of a peace strategy to give a group they call terrorists control over a vast amount of territory," he told the Associated Press.

The FARC has said that if the safe haven is ended, the slow-moving peace process is dead.

In the meantime, the war continues. A wave of killings by right-wing paramilitaries of the AUC left 49 dead, with the worst massacre taking place in the town of Buga, an agricultural village 160 miles southwest of Bogota. Local authorities have found the bodies of 24 village men killed by the paramilitaries. Another six are missing and feared dead.

"They took the people out of two buses and from their homes," Buga Mayor John Jairo Bohorquez told Caracol radio. "They separated the women, old people and children, and then killed the men."

Paramilitaries also killed six fishermen, four soldiers, two congressmen and a union leader in recent days, according to the Associated Press.

The Colombian military has also been busy lately. It reported killing dozens of FARC guerrillas in Putumayo and Cundinamarca provinces since late September in battles for control over the country's lucrative coca fields.

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #207, 10/19/01 HEA Campaign Update and SSDP Conference | Drug Warriors Eye Colombia's FARC as Possible Target in War on Terror | Colorado Poll Finds War on Drugs Ineffective, Voters See Drugs as Health, Not Police Problem | San Diego Needle Exchange Program Inches Closer to Reality -- Close City Council Vote Looming | Bolivia: Violence Continues, Mediation Commission Formed | Another Court Rejects Cincinnati "Drug Zones" as Unconstitutional | Newsbrief: Senate Committee Votes to Lift DC Needle Exchange Funding Ban | Newsbrief: British Researchers Discover Kids Like to Party | Drug Testing Should Focus on Chronic, Not Casual Drug Users, Study Says | Newsbrief: Sales of Anti-Depressants Surge in New York and Washington | Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Drug Czar Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana | The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]