Friday, August 05, 2005

State-Sanctioned Impunity

This week, Human Rights Watch released a report on Colombia's paramilitary demobilization efforts. According to their press release on the report:
Nearly 6,000 people have participated in so-called collective paramilitary demobilizations since 2003. As of April 2005, only twenty-five of them had been detained for the thousands of atrocities committed by their groups, which are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. government and the European Union.

Recently demobilized paramilitaries quoted in the report openly described participating in massacres, killings, and kidnappings, and also spoke of their groups’ highly profitable involvement in drug trafficking. None of the men had been arrested for these crimes, or even questioned about them.

As the report documents, demobilized paramilitaries are not confessing, turning over substantial assets, or disclosing substantial information about their groups’ criminal networks and financing streams as part of the demobilization process. Instead, paramilitaries are taking full advantage of the demobilization process to launder their illegal fortunes and legitimize their political control.

I should note that the U.S. continues to fund this corrupt government and their paramilitary thugs under the aegis of the stupid, "War on Drugs." This war is as much a failure as the "War on Terror," so maybe we can rename it something even less direct like the "War on Chemically Induced States of Euphoria," or WCISE. I like the ring of that and its ironic to boot. But U.S. involvement in this conflict has much more to do with ending the left-wing insurgency of the FARC that has engulfed Colombian in four decades of civil war. Here's a good backgrounder on the conflict. Some left-wing analysts make the claim that the U.S. interest in the conflict has to do with oil, which resides underneath guerilla held territory. If so, this explains our attachment to Colombia's right-wing establishment.

The Colombian government is one of the most prolific perpetrators of state-terrorism in the world -- that most successful mixture of violence and fear used to pacify resistance to authoritarian rule --receiving much help in this endeavor from the paramilitaries they're supposedly cracking down on and our own government. If you think I'm a bit hyperbolic in this estimation, check out this study from HRW, "The Sixth Division: Military-Paramilitary Ties and U.S. Policy in Colombia." It's eye-opening reading.