Thursday, June 02, 2005

Is the US Arming Colombian Terrorists?

As I mentioned last week, drugs seem to follow US foreign policy as flies follow a horse's hind quarters. The "liberation" of Afghanistan is many ways the liberation of the global opium supply from the control of the Taliban. Iraq is becoming a major distribution point for middle-eastern drugs. And, of course, cocaine production and trafficking has always been a part of Colombian history and or the US relationship with Colombia.

And so have right-wing paramilitary groups, who frequently protect wealthy businessmen and drug lords.

The Colombian police heard in early May that a big deal was going down inside a gated luxury community southwest of Bogotá. On May 3 they followed Colombian suspects, two of whom turned out to be retired Colombian Army officers, to a house filled with twenty-nine metal crates of arms and 32,000 rounds of ammunition. The police were still taking inventory of the cache when two more suspects knocked on the door. The police arrested them, only to learn they were US soldiers. The Colombian police said the arms were bound for an illegal paramilitary group that the State Department considers to be both a drug-trafficking and a terrorist organization.
The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) were only designated a terrorist organization by the State Department on (ironically) September 10, 2001. Before that, we considered them to be part of a larger Colombian intelligence scheme to keep order.

Back in the 1960s the US military, according to its own documents, encouraged the Colombian military to organize rightist paramilitary forces to help fight leftist guerrillas. By the early 1980s, Colombian drug traffickers and large landowners together organized the paramilitaries into a national force to ward off kidnappings and other forms of extortion by leftist guerrillas.... One new intelligence network killed at least fifty-seven people, including trade unionists, community leaders and a journalist, according to judicial testimony. But charges were dropped after most of the witnesses were either murdered or disappeared.
So were these US weapons going to the AUC?

The State Department spokesman in Washington, Richard Boucher, denied that the arms were part of a secret US effort to arm Colombian paramilitaries. But he still refuses to say whether the arms are part of the unprecedented $3.3 billion in military aid the United States began sending in 2000 as part of Plan Colombia. The Colombian attorney general's office, which is now investigating the case, said that the arms had been diverted from US stockpiles. The Colombian television station RCN broadcast footage of arms with US markings.
And the two US soldiers?

US warrant officer Allan Tanquary and Sgt. Jesus Hernandez are now back in the United States, where officials say they may face criminal charges. "We're committed," said spokesman Boucher, "to a full investigation."
Uh-huh. Yeah. Okay.

Now, let's get this straight: Colombia is our ALLY in Latin America, and Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and other left-of-center social democracies constitute a "New Axis of Evil,"TM do I have that right?

There's something dreadfully wrong here.

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