[Marxism] Report Suggests "Correlation" between U.S. Aid and Army Killings

Greg McDonald gregmc59 at gmail.com
Sat Jul 31 04:16:24 MDT 2010


Report Suggests "Correlation" between U.S. Aid and Army Killings
By Helda Martínez

BOGOTÁ, Jul 30, 2010 (IPS) - "There are alarming links between
increased reports of extrajudicial executions of civilians by the
Colombian army and units that receive U.S. military financing," John
Lindsay-Poland, lead author of a two-year study on the question, told

Lindsay-Poland is Research and Advocacy Director for the U.S.-based
Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which presented a new report,
"Military Assistance and Human Rights: Colombia, U.S. Accountability,
and Global Implications", in Bogotá Thursday.

The report, produced in conjunction with the U.S. Office on Colombia
(USOC), studies the application in Colombia of the so-called Leahy
Law, passed in 1996, which bans military assistance to a foreign
security force unit if the U.S. State Department has credible evidence
that the unit has committed gross human rights violations.

The Leahy Law is one of the main U.S. laws designed to protect against
the use of U.S. foreign aid to commit human rights abuses.

"If the Leahy Law was fully implemented, assistance would have to be
suspended to nearly all fixed army brigades and many mobile brigades
in Colombia," Lindsay-Poland said.

The report points out that most military training in Colombia is
funded by the U.S. Defence Department.

Colombia, caught up in an armed conflict for nearly five decades, is
one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the world, along
with Israel, Egypt and Pakistan.

The study reviewed data on more than 3,000 extrajudicial executions
reportedly committed by the armed forces in Colombia since 2002 and
lists of more than 500 military units assisted by the United States
since 2000.

"We found that for many military units, reports of extrajudicial
executions increased during and after the highest levels of U.S.
assistance," Lindsay-Poland said.

The results were obtained by comparing the number of reports of such
killings in the two years prior to the start of Plan Colombia -- the
multibillion-dollar U.S. military aid package -- in 2000 with the
number of killings after the launch of that counterinsurgency and
anti-drug strategy.

It also found that reports of alleged killings of civilians by the
army dropped when assistance was cut.

"Whatever correlation may exist between assistance and reported
killings, there are clearly other factors contributing to high levels
of killings. Yet, while we could not fix the causes of increased
reports of killings after increases in U.S. assistance, our findings
highlight the need for a thorough investigation into the reasons for
this apparent correlation," the authors say.

"The U.S. government should respond to the questions raised by the
report," Lindsay-Poland said.

For example, "why U.S. officials neglect their duties under the Leahy
Law, not only in Colombia but in countries like Pakistan, where the
situation is very complex."

The U.S. military presence in Colombia dates back to the 1940s, when
leftwing guerrillas became active in the country. But it escalated to
a new level in 1999 when Plan Colombia was agreed by the governments
of then presidents Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002) and Bill Clinton

Plan Colombia was complemented and extended in 2004 by Plan Patriot,
signed by President Álvaro Uribe, whose term ends Aug. 7, and former
president George W. Bush (2001–2009).

The two plans have undergone radical changes since 2009, according to
Lindsay-Poland, when they reached beyond the initial aims of
counterinsurgency and counternarcotics, with a view towards
strengthening U.S. control in the region.

U.S. army Southern Command documents state the importance of
establishing a base "with air mobility reach on the South American
continent and a capacity for counter-narcotics operations until the
year 2025," he said.

Uribe offered the U.S. military the use of seven bases at strategic
points in Colombia, including both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts,
the province of Caquetá in the Amazon jungle, and the provinces of
Meta, Tolima and Cundinamarca in the centre of the country.

Lindsay-Poland and other members of FOR tried to visit the Palanquero
base in Cundinamarca, one of the seven, on Wednesday. But "they did
not let us in," he said. "They demanded authorisation from the U.S.
Embassy. So what kind of autonomy are we talking about here?"

Furthermore, the agreement for U.S. military access to the bases has
not been approved by the Colombian Congress, as required by law.

As a result, the Constitutional Court ruled the agreement
unconstitutional on Jul. 22 and gave Congress one year to approve or
reject it.

If the legislature ratifies the deal, the Constitutional Court will
once again study it, to determine whether or not it is in line with
the constitution.

The report presented by FOR and USOC coincided with the start of an
investigation of reports of unmarked graves in the La Macarena
cemetery, which is next to an army base, according to a Jul. 22 public
hearing in that town in the central province of Meta, which was
attended by opposition lawmakers and international observers,
including European legislators.

At the hearing, witnesses said military helicopters flew in the
remains of bodies to La Macarena, 340 km south of Bogotá. Human rights
groups say the bodies were those of civilians killed by the army.

"This is happening at the end of a government marked by grave human
rights violations, which have largely affected the most vulnerable
groups in society, and which are reflected in the thousands of 'false
positives', as the extrajudicial executions have been popularly
known," Alberto Yepes, director of the Observatorio de Derechos
Humanos (DIH - Human Rights Observatory), told IPS.

The scandal over the so-called "false positives" -- young civilians
killed by the army and passed off as guerrilla casualties in the
military's counterinsurgency campaign --broke in the press in
September 2008.

Although there are no hard statistics on the number of people killed,
the report by FOR and USOC puts the number at over 3,000 in the last

A group that calls itself the Madres (mothers) of Soacha, a vast
working-class suburb stretching south of Bogotá, has filed a complaint
with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights over the loss of
their 16 sons in 2007 and 2008. The young men were recruited with the
promise of jobs, but their bodies were found in morgues or mass graves
hundreds of kilometres away.

Yepes said the complaint filed by the Madres de Soacha "is a way to
pressure the state to modify this kind of behaviour."

While activists and groups mobilise to pressure the armed forces to
live up to the constitution, "the United States should assume its
responsibility through better oversight, holding (authorities in
Colombia) accountable and adopting corrective measures, so the money
of U.S. taxpayers does not end up financing killings in Colombia," he
said. (END)

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