Replaying the war in Nicaragua, El Salvador only Communism is now Cocaine
Indian peoples face “culturocide,” (the killing of a culture) in the bankrupt state of Colombia. This tyranny against Fourth World peoples is not the result only of Colombian social policy. The killing of Colombia’s Fourth World cultures is a direct result of forced removal from their territories, persistent development pressures and pressures of violence by the government, corporations, paramilitary militias and the two insurgency groups Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). More than any policy of government the war between corporate Colombia (the state, corporations and the paramilitary militias) and the corporate Colombian insurgency (FARC and the ELN) kill Indians in Colombia. When the government of Colombia with the eager support of the United States government and the paramilitary groups promote oil development by Occidental Petroleum Company in U’Wa territories (eastern Colombia along the border with Venezuela) the governments and the corporations enter into a conspiracy to kill the U’Wa culture. They do so by allowing the Occidental Company to drill for oil in the U’Wa nation’s territory against their will—better to enrich corporate interests. (The US government rewarded—in 1996—the Occidental Petroleum Company with a lucrative contract arranged with the government of Sudan—a state on the US government’s own list of terrorist states which happens as well to be engaged in a genocidal war against the Fourth World peoples of southern Sudan.) When the paramilitary groups, FARC and the ELN along with corrupt Colombian government officials (in the central as well as local governments) engage in massacres of civilians (Arboleda, August 2000) and conspire to assist cocaine production to feed the US and European drug markets for hundreds of millions of US dollars they engage in a conspiracy to kill the cultures of other Fourth World nations in central and southern Colombia.
In the shooting and bombing war between these competing forces the people caught in the crossfire, mostly Indian people, number beyond 35,000 dead. Whole communities have been targets of massacres (Mapiripán – 1997, Cienega – 2000, towns near the port of Buenaventura – 2000) at the hands of Colombia army-supported paramilitary. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army have also engaged in massacres, intimidation and relocation of Indian peoples. Indian people, Indian land and the lucrative coca leaf are the prizes sought by the corporate forces of Colombia. Like the wars against Indians in Nicaragua (1981 – 1991), in Peru and Bolivia (1980 – 1995), Guatemala (1954 – present), El Salvador (1975 – 1988) and Mexico (1994 – present) the Indian peoples of Colombia are caught in a defensive war where they are initially non-combatants in crossfire between battling corporate forces.
Into this mess that closely resembles the corruption of El Salvador in the 1970s steps the United States government to escalate the conflict with $1.3 billion in military aid. Just as the US propped up the corrupt El Salvadoran government, it now offers to prop up Colombian President Andres Pastrana’s government, security forces and military. Just as in El Salvador where the main targets and victims of violence were the Pipil Indians and civilians, the US government will now contribute to the killing of Indians in Colombia. In El Salvador the killing was done in the name of “national security” to eradicate the threat of a communist insurgency. In Colombia the killing is now being done in the name of “national security” to eradicate the threat of cocaine. For the US policy-makers cocaine has become the new “communist insurgency.”
Cocaine or Communism?
World domination is its goal. It is insidious because it seeks to control your mind. It is a threat to democracy and “our way of life.” It infiltrates. It takes one country right after the other like dominos. It must be rooted out to save the American way. Communism you say? These dire descriptions of communism were used to justify fifty years of what was called the Cold War…the competition between capitalism and communism exemplified by the relative strengths and weaknesses of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. While it was a Cold War for the Americans and the Russians, for many other peoples in the world it meant unrealized dreams, death and destruction. More than 16 million people in the Fourth World were sacrificed in that war of surrogate wars. National security served as the primary rational for countering communism. But, communism is on the run all around the world and no longer the threat it was once said to be. Capitalism—market economics is sweeping across the face of the world and cocaine is the new obsession!
Now world domination is said to be the goal of drug dealers, cocaine and heroin producers in the Colombia. Heroin producing poppy growers in Burma and Thailand (the Mo, San and Karen peoples) are now a threat to democracy and the American way of life. And countries are said be falling like dominos under the spell of violent minded drug dealers who threaten government officials with death if they attempt to obstruct the drug trade. Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Colombia, Peru, China, Mexico are just some of the sites of the new scourge. It is true that organized criminal organizations like the Medellin Cartel and Calli Cartel the Japanese Yakuza, Sicilian Mafia (as well as the other Italian groups such as the Neapolitan Camorra, ‘Ndrangheta, and Sacra Corona Unita), Nigerian criminal organizations, and Turkish drug-trafficking groups engage in extensive criminal activities regionally have sprouted all over the world. They run businesses valued in excess of $500 billion dealing in drugs, currency, prostitution, precious metals, body parts, guns and other instruments of war, banking, diamonds, cigarette smuggling, and they even deal in eco-tourism and commercial land development. Russia’s President Yeltsin, grappling with the increasing dangers of organized crime in his country, said, ”With respect to organized crime, criminals have today brazenly entered the political arena and are dictating its laws, helped by corrupt officials. They can get everywhere unless the whole of society from top to bottom joins in an effort to end this scourge.” (US International Relations Committee – House of Representatives Hearing October 1, 1997) It would appear that these criminal organizations have profits on their agenda instead of world domination.
To get their products to the market (free trade is the global mantra, remember) these criminal businesses pay for protection, safe passage and transport—in ways similar to other businesses like Nestle and Novartis of Switzerland, Citibank, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and Monsanto of the USA, Bayer of Germany and Seminis of Mexico. Criminal businesses pay money to insurgent groups and to government militaries to get their products to market. Other businesses said to be legitimate pay government politicians, train their own militias and lease these groups to governments to provide protection while depending on state’s governments and their tax payers to provide the heavy weapons. Organizations like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) battle not about ideology, but about money and power.
Not Vietnam, this is the “El Salvador Reprise”
Colombia is the new staging ground for defending U.S. security. It is the new “El Salvador” where the U.S. government provided in the 1970s and 1980s military trainers and large amounts of money to fight a “communist insurgency.” In that modest little war, US policies contributed to tens of thousands of civilians killed and less well known nearly 10,000 Pipil Indians were also killed. The U.S. government escalated a local conflict into a major war where innocent civilians became the principal targets of government, right-wing paramilitary and insurgent fighters. The introduction of US helicopters, weapons, and training increased the intensity of warring parties and more often than not the people caught in between these forces were Indian people—caught in the crossfire of what was then called the political left and right. Eventually, what was a modest intervention in El Salvador became a conflict in Nicaragua and Honduras where a major war against Indian people was carried out for ten years, militarization of Panama and heightened war in Guatemala and southern Mexico where more than 100,000 Indians became refugees in Chiapas, 1 million became internal refugees in the mountains and more than 100,000 Indians were killed. The people most directly violated in all of these wars were Indian peoples.
The American government’s point man on illicit drug control and aid to Colombia’s military, General Barry R. McCaffrey said August10 (The News , Mexico City), “There is zero probability of the U.S. armed forces being drawn into the internal conflict in Colombia.” U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs Thomas Pickering attempted two weeks later to allay fears in Venezuela and Brazil that the Colombia War will spill over into their territories. He said, “There is no plan, and there is no proposal, and there is no idea of committing American forces in Colombia to do anything but … provide training,” This statement comes from a diplomat who made similar statements about Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s. Colombia has become a stage for the United States government to carry out a surrogate war like all the others in the last thirty years—but the best model is El Salvador.
In Colombia, just as in El Salvador, the Indian people and their lands will suffer the greatest from the U.S. escalation of violence with its eight hundred military trainers and civilian support, 60 helicopters and new weapons of defoliation to be used against the jungle, the land and the people. No, Mr. McCaffrey’s war in Colombia is not a reprise of the US misadventure in Vietnam. This is General McCaffrey’s “Gulf War” that never was (See Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker May 2000). Unlike the “Gulf War” where General McCaffrey ordered the killing of retreating Iraqis to get a sense of being in a war, he now has a real war in Colombia that can get even larger—the governments of Ecuador, Brazil, Panama and Venezuela feel the heat. Colombia’s offensive in this war goes by the innocuous name of “Plan Colombia.”
President Pastrana heads one of the most corrupted governments in the hemisphere. His government turns it eyes away from frequent paramilitary initiated massacres of Indian people while he condemns “these acts of barbarity committed by the guerrillas.” ( The News , Mexico City August 2, 2000). Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Washington Office on Latin America have all condemned the folly of aiding and abetting government sanctioned killings. The U.S. government is merely carrying its failed war on drugs from the US borders to the jungles of South America. Here too the policy will fail at the cost of many thousands of innocent lives.
While McCaffrey is now gone from the post of “drug czar” his policies and initiatives in Colombia have inertia that carry on in the George Bush Government. Indeed, evidence is quickly building that the Bush Administration will pursue essentially the same policy in Colombia set by McCaffrey though with an even harsher edge. Bush’s nomination of Cuban expatriate Otto J. Reich to the important post of Assistant Secretary for Western Hemispheric Affairs (NYT, March 9, 2001 – A6) does not bode well for indigenous peoples anywhere in the hemisphere. Mr. Reich is the former mastermind behind the Reagan Administration’s covert plan to promote the American created contra forces during the war in Nicaragua (1980 – 1991). His skill as a propagandist and covert manipulator of reactionary forces in countries south of the US border fits neatly into a developing covert war in Colombia and conflicts in Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil. The Bush Administration promises to bring back the days of secret interventions in the Americas repeating the patterns of the Nixon government, Reagan and George Bush senior.
US policy-makers, Democrats and Republicans alike are making the same mistake now in Colombia as they made in Central America … and the people who will be killed—mainly Indians–will be sacrificed in the name of US national security against the “cocaine insurgency.”