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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Une Colombie sous la botte militaire

by Cathy Ceïbe

Colombia under the military boot

Translated Monday 5 May 2008, by Patrick Bolland

Author and journalist, Hernando Calvo Ospina, analyzes the mechanisms of state terrorism in a major new book on the internal conflicts in Colombia.

Huma: The book you have just published is entitled “Colombie, derrière l’écran de fumée, histoire du terrorisme d’État” .(1) What is the smoke screen to which you are referring?

Ospina: Colombia has the reputation of a democracy but an unparalleled number of crimes have been concentrated in this country. I don’t want to make comparisons, particularly as to the number of deaths, but how can one speak of democracy when, from 1986 up to today, there have been more assassinations and disappearances in the country than during all the years of military dictatorship throughout America’s southern cone? Just because every four years we elect a civilian as head of State, people say we live in a democracy. In fact, it is the military boot that is running the country.

Huma: How would you describe the Colombian State today?

Ospina: It is a narco-paramilitary State. Whether it happens to be Alvaro Aribe or anyone else supposedly running the State, just as the ex-president Andreas Pastrana left it, the pillar of the State is narco-paramilitary power structure which is not there to eliminate the guerillas. Its goal is to exploit the natural resources, particularly petrol. And to do this in all tranquility. We often forget that the terror is keeping open the routes to Colombia’s borders, to Venezuela and Panama, for exporting cocaine which has enriched one sector of the economy and financed the counter-insurrection. In numerous regions where the narco-paramilitary forces have control, there are no guerillas. But there are immense natural resources.

Huma: What is the US role in this?

Ospina: Through the “Colombia” and “Patriot” plans, they are active militarily in the counter-insurrections and they are engaged against the counter-insurrections and drug traffickers. Yet, since they arrived, drug trafficking has increased. Moreover, the United States has established a permanent presence in political and economic decision-making because of its strategic interests.

Huma: Colombia has practically ceded sovereignty to Washington. How can one explain the re-election of Alvaro Uribe?

Ospina: He was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, thanks to the terror. The paramilitaries forced the Colombians to vote for him. I don’t deny that many people, particularly the petite bourgeoisie, support Alvaro Aribe because he had promised that we would adopt a hard line against the guerillas. But you have to remember that he won the election with 53% of the votes and with an abstention-rate of 53%, and that he was supported by the dominant media.

Huma: Don’t the legal proceedings against more that 60 parliamentarians for purported links with the paramilitaries reveal also a breakdown of the official institutions?

Ospina: In the 1980s, the paramilitaries gradually took over the control of the structures of the State to the extent that the State was unable to function without them. They also became the main force against the insurrection and of repression in the strategically economic regions. The State, and particularly the Alvaro Uribe government, survive through the unstinting support of Washington. Uribe’s greatest fear – and this is why he sought a second mandate – is that he will become a simple civilian. I like to recall a phrase of ex-secretary of state Henry Kissinger: “It’s dangerous to be our enemy; being our ally is worse”. The United States has important files on the relations between Alvaro Uribe, paramilitarism and drug-trafficking. Today, the man is still useful to Washington, even if the United States will not win militarily. Alvaro Uribe is also useful to them to destabilize the Presidents of Venezuela and Equator. This is his key role right now as the US is losing its grip in power in Latin America. As long as he remains their Trojan horse, he’ll keep getting their support.

Translator’s note
(1) (Columbia, Behind the smoke screen: this history of state terrorism, but not yet available in English) Éditions le temps de Cerises, 2008, 406 pages, 20 euros) His best known work in English is: Bacardi: the Hidden War (Pluto Press, London, 2002)

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