[News] End The Silence About Colombia's Paramilitary Death Squads

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 31 11:43:22 EDT 2017


  End The Silence About Colombia's Paramilitary Death Squads

10/31/2017 - Dan Kovalik 

Though you would not know it from the utter silence of the mainstream 
press, Colombia continues to be plagued by right-wing paramilitary 
violence. As Justice for Colombia in the UK explains, over 100 social 
and political activists 
been killed so far in 2017, and the paramilitaries are responsible for 
the lion’s share 
of these killings. The BBC recently explained 
<http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39717336> that the murder 
of social, political and human rights activists is actually increasing 
in Colombia even as the overall murder rate in Colombia is decreasing, 
and despite the disarming of the left-wing FARC guerillas as part of the 
Colombian peace accords. Indeed, it is quite clear that the paramilitary 
groups are exploiting the very absence of the FARC guerillas to acquire 
territory and to violently wipe out peaceful social movements in 
Colombia. And, this is all according to plan.

Thus, the paramilitary death squads trace their roots back to the early 
1960’s when U.S. General William P. Yarborough first conceived of them 
<https://www.hrw.org/reports/1996/killer2.htm> as an instrument to 
advance U.S. economic interests by violently destroying progressive 
social movements. The idea was that because the paramilitaries are not 
official military forces, the U.S. and its allies would have plausible 
deniability for their conduct. In other words, they would be a “/hidden 
weapon/ . . . of hired killers” which carry out the dirty war which the 
regular troops “cannot do officially.”

The paramilitaries continue to serve these very same functions to the 
present day, and the Colombian and U.S. governments claim complete 
deniability for their atrocities by denying their very existence. As 
explained in a recent article:

    Paramilitary groups in Colombia are typically linked to powerful
    oligarchs within Colombia as well as multinational companies seeking
    to secure economic interests in resource-rich Colombian land. Many
    of these armed right-wing civilian groups also stocked their
    arsenals thanks to Plan Colombia, a 1999 counterinsurgency
    initiative that saw the U.S. pour billions of dollars into the
    country for the purpose of further militarizing the region. The year
    2016 witnessed the blossoming of such far-right paramilitary and
    narco-paramilitary groups, who extended their regional presence and

    The Colombian government, however, has largely denied the existence
    of such armed groups, even when the groups post videos of themselves
    training in the rural countryside. 

And, of course, the mainstream U.S. press is complicit in covering up 
the very existence of these paramilitary groups by giving them zero 
media coverage.

The results of all of this are devastating, especially for the 
Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities who, as usual, bear the brunt 
of paramilitary violence. According to Amnesty International 

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    In some departments, including Chocó, Cauca, Antioquia and Norte de
    Santander, crimes under international law and human rights
    violations persist, including the murder of members of AfroColombian
    communities and Indigenous Peoples, collective forced displacements,
    confinement of communities in certain areas of the country, forced
    recruitment of children to serve in the armed groups, sexual
    violence, and the use of anti-personnel mines. 

In terms of the forced displacements, the numbers in Colombia are 
staggering. Colombia has over 7.4 million internally displaced peoples 
(IDPs) — out of a total population of about 50 million — and, as the UN 
High Commission on Refugees notes 
a disproportionate number of these are Afro-Colombians (10% of the IDPs) 
and Indigenous (3%). In the northern region of Colombia’s Chocó 
Department, which is largely Afro-Colombian, the paramilitaries now 
control 17 of the 23 communities there 
and they rule over these communities by intimidating and restricting the 
movement of the residents and by threatening the lives of community 
leaders and human rights defenders.

The good news is that the people of Colombia are fighting back with an 
indefinite national strike 
social, peasant and labor groups called a week ago to protest the 
increasing killings of their leaders and members. However, protesters 
involved in this strike are themselves being attacked by Colombian state 
particularly in the peasant region of Catatumbo, near the Venezuelan 

Of course, as we know, if such repression were taking place in 
Venezuela, this would make the front page of the newspapers and the top 
of the NPR news hour. One must ask themselves why there is such a 
disparity in coverage. The answer is both simple and disturbing. As Noam 
Chomsky taught us long ago, the U.S media focuses on the crimes — 
whether real, fake or imagined — of the U.S.’s ostensible enemies and 
adversaries while remaining relatively silent about the crimes of the 
U.S and its allies. The silence about the extraordinary human rights 
crisis in Colombia — the U.S.’s closest ally in the Western Hemisphere — 
has been deafening for way too long, and too many innocent lives are 
being lost as a result.

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