NEWS ANALYSIS - Columbia: the weapons pour in
WORKERS, JUNE 2008 ISSUE
While the US and Britain direct hostility at Venezuela's progressive government, no attention is paid to the crimes committed by its enemy the Colombian state, whose armed forces are supplied and trained by US and British special forces.
Blair welcomed President Álvaro Uribe to Britain and described him as a democrat. Uribe is actually linked to Colombia's biggest drug barons and death squads: in 1991, the US Defence Intelligence Agency reported that he "worked for the Medellín Cartel" as a "close personal friend" of the cartel's chief, Pablo Escobar.
Under Plan Colombia, the US state has given Colombia more than $6 billion worth of arms, planes, special forces, mercenaries and logistics.
In a study of 31,656 extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances between 1996 and 2006, the Colombian Commission of Jurists found that right-wing death squads had murdered 46 per cent of the victims and Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas 14 per cent. The death squads were responsible for forcing most of the three million internal refugees from their homes. This misery is a product of Plan Colombia's pseudo "war on drugs", whose aims are to eliminate the Farc and to put pressure on new democracies, especially Venezuela.
The Labour government is now the second biggest donor of military aid to Colombia, but of course Whitehall refuses to disclose the extent of British involvement on the grounds of national security. "We provide some military aid but we don't talk about the details," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
Counter-insurgency assistance to the Colombian military and its death-squad allies includes training by the SAS of units such as the High Mountain Battalions, condemned repeatedly for atrocities. Other key areas include SAS training of the narcotics police, an increased supply of military hardware and intelligence equipment, and assistance in setting up an intelligence centre and a joint intelligence committee.
On 8 March, the Foreign Office invited Colombian officers to a counter-insurgency seminar at its conference centre, Wilton Park in West Sussex. One keynote speaker was Colombian Vice-Minister of Defence Juan Carlos Pinzon. Rarely does the Foreign Office so brazenly parade the killers it aids.