LA Times and Colombia
The LA Times followed the lead of many more conservative rags in praising the recent extradition of 14 right-wing paramilitary leaders (called terrorists by US authorities) to the US last week. I expected the Wall Street Journal and House Republicans to praise the deal, but with all major victim and human rights groups criticizing the maneuver, I might have expected a different tone.
For those who haven't been following the story, the 14 militia chiefs were supposedly safe from extradition as long as they respected the 2005 "justice and peace law" that governed the demobilization of the far-right paramilitary groups (responsible for at least 80% of the Civil War violence). The peace law required that victims confront their tormentors and that the leaders tell the truth about their links with the political and military authorities.
The Uribe Government says they extradited the 14 because they were not cooperating with authorities and continuing their operations from jail. However, the latter issue has a simple fix (holding them incommunicado), while the former is blatantly untrue, as the revelations coming from the investigations seemed to come every day for the last couple months. More than 60 lawmakers, nearly all of them pro-Uribe, were under investigation for their ties to the paramilitaries, as part of what has been dubbed the "parapolitics scandal." They include the rightwing president’s cousin and main political ally, Mario Uribe.
The extradition will end the investigations. All motivation for the 14 (and all other paramilitaries) to cooperate are out the window. The US will try them for drug crimes and care little about getting to the bottom of the troubling allegations. Their lawyers will tell them to plead the 5th to the other questions.
Uribe is clearly tired of the mounting and deadly serious allegations against his Party and Government coming out of these folks mouths. Perhaps Mancuso's offer the other day to name all the (other) multinationals who "freely" gave payments to the paramilitaries was the straw that broke the camels back. Uribe and Bush want the trade deal and more Chiquita's would have been the death knell. So, just as Uribe wanted, the paramilitary-political scandal will now end: As the lead investigator Claudia Lopez said, "They've taken away all the witnesses.”
So much for the victims whose bodies are still missing. So much for the bodies without names. So much for the victim's families. So much for truth. So much for Colombian justice. Everyone knows what this is about, Uribe just hopes no one is paying attention. He apparently, is getting his wish, with even the “liberal” LA Times taking him at his word. Here is my letter in response to the editorial.
The Times' editorial board ought to consult with the victims of Colombian paramilitary violence or human rights groups, not Bush Administration talking points, when talking about President Uribe's recent extradition show. Far from demonstrating his Government’s "independence and impartiality,” the extradition of 14 paramilitary leaders to the US only put justice further away for the thousands of families who are demanding answers about their loved ones. It also assured that the dirty secrets that were beginning to come out about the relationship between Uribe-allied politicians and the abuses will never be found. Free from the confines of a peace process that permitted limited jail sentences in exchange for truth telling, the 14 leaders in the US now have no incentive to cooperative with investigations and will go to their grave with their secrets. The reality is that the investigations were getting too close to Uribe and the multinationals and therefore had to be terminated. Extradition did just that, with the added bonus of fooling US editorialists into thinking it was progress.