Colombia: Massacre in the Americas
On the eve of an amnesty deal signed between right-wing paramilitary forces and the Colombian government, it appears the militias decided to go out on a bang. 22 peasant farmers were killed December 4th in Cesar Province by the rightist AUC Bloque 40 group. The group is linked to drug trafficking and more than a few hundred murders this year alone.
Under the deal inked with president Uribe, Bloque 40's commander Rodrigo Tovar is due to receive amnesty from murder and trafficking charges, "return to civilian life" and possibly receive a seat in the Legislature. Just for the record, we call that appeasing terrorists in this country (in fact the AUC is on our State Dept. terrorist list... it was added by Colin Powell in late 2001 despite Bush Admin. resistance. By that time it was clear the majority of displacement and killings were attrributable to this group, rather than the left-wing groups FARC and ELN. Still, State Dept. chooses to describe the group's mission as "to protect economic interests and combat insurgents locally."
It is also widely understood that previous deals to have the group give up their weapons have not been fully implemented and has left them in an even stronger position... they just hand in old rusty guns. Meanwhile, the book will be closed on thousands of horrendus crimes against humanity and some of the biggest known drug dealers in the world are free.
You would think with Billions of our money going to Venezuela - and 500 US personnel there "training troops" - there might be at least some coverage in the US press of what is going on in Colombia. I have found exactly ZERO mentions of the massacre in the US press. There is lots of upbeat news about the amnesty deal for 2,000 AUC fighters but not one mention of the mass killing that took place a week before.
In a great piece of irony, on the very day the massacre in Cesar took place, our State Department decided to release a press statement titled "US Says Colombian Army Opposing Colombian Terrorists." Two weeks earlier the State Dept. said that Uribe's "stance against drug trafficking" is good for us all. We must take that to include an endoresement of the amnesty given to drug producers, sellers, traffickers and murderers.
But to end on a somewhat hopeful note, I offer today's Chicago Tribune piece by Gary Marx on the peace talks starting this week in Havana, Cuba between the left-wing ELN group and Colombian Government. Uribe did a 180 on his criticisms of past "cease-fire zones" and accepted such a premise under heavy rpessure form the Europeans (the US is against such moves - for left-wing groups at least). Marx notes that the ELN talks may be a convenient buffer against criticism that he is too close to right-wing paramilitary groups. But lets hope for the best to end the bloodshed and improve the social situation in Colombia.