Friday, August 22, 2008

Details on the Deaths Colombian Paramilitaries Cause (and How the U.S. Is Involved)

I've talked repeatedly (here and here, for example) about the significant role paramilitary groups play in the high levels of violence in Colombia and the continued impunity they enjoy. The L.A. Times has a good article up giving detailed statistics on how the paramilitaries are directly responsible for growing violence in Colombia.

There were 329 so-called extrajudicial killings by the Colombian military and police last year, a coalition of Colombian rights groups asserts in a report, a 48% increase from the 223 reported in 2006."

In addition to this, the article states that, out of 900 cases of murder brought against military members and police officers, only 18 cases have resulted in convictions, and 14 of those 18 happened only after a special prosecutor's office was created in the middle of 2007. And politicians tied to paramilitaries still aren't being held responsible or accountable for their ties; indeed, just yesterday, one of Colombia's top senators (and a top ally of President Uribe) closely tied to the paramilitaries was released from jail after only four months. The prosecutor's office claimed a lack of sufficient evidence, but the likelihood that politics played a part in the inability/refusal to find enough evidence against him is pretty decent.

The LA Times article is also really worth checking out because it details the ways in which the U.S. under Bush has tacitly supported the paramilitaries' killing of innocent civilians that it later labels "subversives" (much in the way the innocent in Brazilian favelas are invariably "traficantes" once they're dead) by sending over $4 billion dollars in military and economic aid to a government that, again, is repeatedly and closely tied to the paramiliary groups; the best defense a U.S. spokesman could offer in face of the statistics above was the tepid defense that "such numbers were only "examples among a wide variety of statistics" gathered by various civil society groups that monitor human rights in Colombia.". Again, it's worth checking out the article in full, and it offers some bitter reality-checks for those who think that, just because the FARC has recently suffered some significant setbacks both politically and morally, Colombia is heading towards peace.