Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Hideous and Appalling Violence and Tactics Colombia's Paramilitary Groups Employ

I have written several times before about how paramilitary groups are responsible for a not-insignificant amount violence in Colombia. This article shows just how repulsive and appalling the paramilitaries' tactics are:

Prosecutors and human rights researchers are investigating hundreds of such deaths and disappearances, contending that Colombia’s security forces are increasingly murdering civilians and making it look as if they were killed in combat, often by planting weapons by the bodies or dressing the corpses in guerrilla fatigues.
With soldiers under intense pressure in recent years to register combat kills to earn promotions and benefits like time off and extra pay, reports of civilian killings are climbing, prosecutors and researchers say, pointing to a grisly facet of Colombia’s long internal war against leftist insurgencies.
The deaths have called into question the depth of Colombia’s recent strides against the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and have begun to haunt the nation’s military hierarchy.

The whole article is depressing, but must be read. The U.S. tacitly supports these tactics via its financial support for the Uribe administration and its funding in the "drug war," whose funds often end up in the hands of these paramilitaries. Additionally, the complete failure to categorize such tactics as "terrorist" simply because Colombia is the U.S.'s biggest ally in the region, while nothing new, is no less inexcusable.

And then there's the issue of Uribe's leadership. He can insist he has nothing to do with these groups, and make public demonstrations of his "intolerance" for such actions, but they ring hollow, considering how closely paramilitary groups have been tied to Uribe's administration and friends, allies, and cabinet members.

This is in no way an apologia for the FARC or its actions; still, it has become increasingly clear of late that the FARC is far from the sole responsible agent for the civil war that plagues Colombia, and at times it seems the paramilitary groups are willing to go even further than the FARC in their "war." It's things like this that make me suspect that the disappearance of the FARC would not lead to the disappearance of violence in Colombia, in spite of what many both in and outside of Colombia may believe. As long as these groups act with relative impunity, and as long as there is a president who is unwilling to go after these groups in anything but a symbolic fashion when things get too appalling, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of hope to me that the violence in Colombia will go down anytime soon.