US-funded Columbian Army slaughtered 2,000 in mass grave
Also on this page are the following articles:
Disturbing reports came out of Columbia this weekend regarding the accidental discovery last year of a mass grave near an army base in La Macarena, Colombia. The Colombian Army claimed responsibility for the grave, alleging that the 2,000 buried there were FARC guerillas. The Columbian government pays fighters for killing insurgents. However, the army did not follow proper protocol, and buried the bodies there in secret. Because of a recent "false positive" scandal, which involved killing civilians and then dressing them as armed guerillas to earn the funding, there is reason to believe that these newly discovered 2,000 bodies also belonged to civilians.
Adrienne Pine, professor of anthropology at American University, reports that Colombia has received $6 billion in United States aid, 80 percent of it military. Further, over 10,000 Columbian soldiers have received training at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. The abuse of this aid by killing civilians directly links the U.S. to a massive human rights violation.
I believe that the primary motive for America's funding of the Columbian military is to intimidate the Venezuelan government led by President Hugo Chavez. The move is purely political, as Venezuela is not a security threat to the United States. In December of 2009, Columbia announced that it was building a new military base on the border of Venezuela. The move was interpreted as a threat to Venezuela, and Chavez called on his countrymen to "prepare for war."
Congress must immediately act to end all foreign aid to Columbia, whether military or other, and begin a rigorous evaluation of all foreign aid to Latin America and then the rest of the world. Our interference in Latin American affairs could instigating further human rights violations and a violent international conflict between Latin American nations.
The accidental discovery of mass graves outside in Colombia has raised questions about the victims and what role the US might have played. Mass graves have been found in Columbia, and while the army has claimed responsibility for the bodies, many questions surround the site.
The mass graves were discovered last year outside a Colombian army base in La Macarana, a rural area south of the capital, Bogota. None of the 2,000 bodies in the site have been identified, but they are believed to be victims of Colombia’s ongoing “false positive scandal,” in which civilians are killed and then disguised as militants.
Adrienne Pine, professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, DC, says that Colombia’s system of paying fighters for killing insurgents is to blame.
“Columbia has received $6 billion in US aid, 80 percent of it military,” said Pine. “Troops are paid for how many FARC insurgents they kill, so the military has started killing civilians to justify the funding they are getting from the US military.”
These accusations directly tie US aid to a massive human rights violation, yet the issue is not being covered in the mainstream media.
“I think the mainstream US media has an interest in not portraying the US government negatively,” said Pine. “The US government has been directly involved in training the Colombian military to root out insurgents. Over 10,000 Columbian soldiers have received training at the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia.”
The accidental discovery of this mass grave implies that more exist. The deepening of this scandal could affect not only Columbia’s upcoming presidential elections, but also the close relationship between the US and Colombia. US President Barack Obama and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed an agreement last year to allow the US military access to more Colombian military bases.
The Bodies of the Innocent
The biggest human rights scandal in years is developing in Colombia, though you wouldn’t notice it from the total lack of media coverage here. A mass grave – one of a number suspected by human rights groups in Colombia – was discovered by accident last year just outside a Colombian Army base in La Macarena, a rural municipality located in the Department of Meta just south of Bogota. The grave was discovered when children drank from a nearby stream and started to become seriously ill. These illnesses were traced to runoff from what was discovered to be a mass grave – a grave marked only with small flags showing the dates (between 2002 and 2009) on which the bodies were buried.
According to a February 10, 2010 letter issued by Alexandra Valencia Molina, Director of the regional office of Colombia’s own Procuraduria General de la Nacion – a government agency tasked to investigate government corruption – approximately 2,000 bodies are buried in this grave. The Colombian Army has admitted responsibility for the grave, claiming to have killed and buried alleged guerillas there. However, the bodies in the grave have yet to be identified. Instead, against all protocol for handling the remains of anyone killed by the military, especially the bodies of guerillas, the bodies contained in the mass grave were buried there secretly without the requisite process of having the Colombian government certify that the deceased were indeed the armed combatants the Army claims.
And, given the current "false positive" scandal which has enveloped the government of President Alvaro Uribe and his Defense Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is now running to succeed Uribe as President, the Colombian Army’s claim about the mass grave is especially suspect. This scandal revolves around the Colombian military, recently under the direction of Juan Manuel Santos, knowingly murdering civilians in cold blood and then dressing them up to look like armed guerillas in order to justify more aid from the United States. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pilay, this practice has been so "systematic and widespread" as to amount to a "crime against humanity."
To date, not factoring in the mass grave, it has been confirmed by Colombian government sources that there have been 2,000 civilians falling victim to the "false positive" scheme since President Uribe took office in 2002. If, as suspected by Colombian human rights groups, such as the "Comision de Derechos Humanos del Bajo Ariari" and the "Colectivo Orlando Fals Borda," the mass grave in La Macarena contains 2,000 more civilian victims of this scheme, then this would bring the total of those victimized by the "false positive" scandal to at least 4,000 --much worse than originally believed.
That this grave was discovered just outside a Colombian military base overseen by U.S. military advisers -- the U.S. having around 600 military advisers in that country -- is especially troubling, and raises serious questions about the U.S.’s own conduct in that country. In addition, this calls into even greater question the propriety of President Obama’s agreement with President Alvaro Uribe last summer pursuant to which the U.S. will have access to 7 military bases in that country.
The Colombian government and military are scrambling to contain this most recent scandal, and possibly through violence. Thus, on March 15, 2010, Jhonny Hurtado, a former union leader and President of the Human Rights Committee of La Cantina, and an individual who was key in revealing the truth about this mass grave, was assassinated as soldiers from Colombia’s 7th Mobile Brigade patrolled the area. Just prior to his murder, Jhonny Hurtado told a delegation of British MPs visiting Colombia that he believed the mass grave at La Macarena contained the bodies of innocent people who had been "disappeared."
Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer working in Pittsburgh, Pa.
COPYRIGHT NOTICE: IndyTruth does not make legal copyright claims to its original content, on the principle that readers should be able to freely spread information for educational purposes. If you repost anything, please respect our hard work by crediting the author and linking to the original source.