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Colombian blood and lies.

It is appalling to read the biased U.S. press coverage of the current state of emergency in Colombia. The government in Bogota, we are told, is "cracking down" on "subversives" in response to a rash of violence by leftist guerrillas. In order to end the violence, the military is getting more serious about pursuing guerrillas and drug traffickers.

Guerrillas, right-wing narcotics traffickers, and government forces all contribute to the violence in Colombia. But according to a recent report by the Andean Commission of Jurists (a reputable, nongovernmental human-rights monitor), government forces were responsible for more political assassinations than any other identifiable group during a recent fifteen-month period.

For many years, gross abuses perpetrated by the Colombian military against the civilian population have been well-documented by human-rights groups around the world. The pretext for such abuses has always been to suppress "subversive" activity. Among the groups accused of subversion are Christian human-rights organizations, unions, and peasant cooperatives. Members of these groups are targets for shootings, death threats, kidnapping, torture, and disappearance at the hands of the government soldiers. [See "Colombia's Dirty War, Washington's Dirty Hands," by Ruth Conniff, May 1992.]

The repressive measures taken by the Colombian government under the state of emergency - increased military firepower, punishment for "guerrilla sympathizers," and a ban on reporting their views - are unlikely to end the violence.

One result so far is that a priest and several human-rights workers accused of "subversive activities" by military leaders have fled the country.

The crackdown may well succeed in helping create a better foreign-investment climate in Colombia - which is what President Cesar Gaviria (and the U.S. Government) really wants.

Gaviria abandoned negotiations with Colombia's guerrillas, last May. In declaring the current state of emergency last November, he took a new, hard-line approach to political unrest. The message: Colombia's political problems can only be solved through force of arms.

It is a discouragingly familiar refrain. Throughout Colombia's history, the government has responded to demands for rural electrification, labor organizing, and other "subversive" activities by sending in troops to mow down demonstrators and unionists. Gaviria's neo-liberal plans for privatization similarly enforce neglect of poor workers and farmers, and deal with the subsequent unrest through repression and a beefed-up military.

The United States is heavily implicated in this state of affairs. Presidents Reagan and Bush twisted Colombia's arm, demanding privatization in exchange for investment. And in 1990, Colombia became the biggest recipient of U.S. military aid in the Western Hemisphere. Washington continues to fund Colombia's military, ostensibly to fight the "war on drugs," despite ample evidence that that war has done nothing to stop the flow of drugs into this country.

The United States has the power to do something about the situation in Colombia. It can call attention to the Colombian military's abysmal human-rights record. Recognizing the enormous human toll of the failed war on drugs, it can stop all military aid until Colombia acts to end the violence. We can hold our own Government accountable for its actions in Colombia.

First, we must push aside the veil of lies that permits Colombia's immoral war to go on.
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Title Annotation:government terrorism
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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