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Old 05-09-2007   #21
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Is there any analysis available about the impact of the AUC militias on FARC? I think any analysis that focuses exclusively on FARC vs Colombian Army is very incomplete.
Do you read Spanish? There is some material, but I don't think it's been translated.
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Old 05-09-2007   #22
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Since 1985 in LATAM.

Last 4 years, 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year, from LTCs to privates, military and police, everything from classroom theory to high risk practical do ya?

Will work for Copenhagen and beer.
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Old 05-10-2007   #23
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Wildcat, are you the dude that promised me beer, then blew me off? Nice AAR.
Affirmative, sir. That was me. Sorry again, but as you can tell from the AAR, we were slammed with wall-to-wall meetings. The only break we had while in Bogota was the night we went to the BBC to get smashed and armwrestle each other and play drinking games with hot Colombian university chicas. Good times...

If I ever return to Bogota, or you get back to the States, you may have some beer (or some Cope) inbound.

P.S.: Dectac03 over at MarineOCS.com just gave me a heads-up on your post here (I believe his handle here is "jcustis"), which is good because I didn't have email notifications turned on at the SWC, and I haven't been here in weeks, so your post would have gone unnoticed for a long time if he hadn't made me aware of it.
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Old 05-10-2007   #24
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Default How to Lose an Ally

10 May Washington Post commentary - How to Lose an Ally by Robert Novak.

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Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, returned to Bogota this week in a state of shock. His three-day visit to Capitol Hill to win over Democrats in Congress was described by one American supporter as "catastrophic." Colombian sources said Uribe was stunned by the ferocity of his Democratic opponents, and Vice President Francisco Santos publicly talked about cutting U.S.-Colombian ties.

Uribe got nothing from his meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders. Military aid remains stalled, overall assistance is reduced, and the vital U.S.-Colombian trade bill looks dead. Uribe is the first Colombian president to crack down on his country's corrupt army officer hierarchy and to assault both right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas, but last week he confronted Democrats wedded to outdated claims of civil rights abuses and rigidly protectionist dogma.

This is remarkable U.S. treatment for a rare friend in South America, where Venezuela's leftist dictator, Hugo Chavez, can only exult in Uribe's embarrassment as he builds an anti-American bloc of nations. A former congressional staffer, who in 1999 helped write Plan Colombia to combat narco-guerrillas, told me: "President Uribe may be the odd man out, and that's no way to treat our best ally in South America."...
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Old 05-10-2007   #25
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Uribe is the first Colombian president to crack down on his country's corrupt army officer hierarchy and to assault both right-wing paramilitaries and left-wing guerrillas
Amnesty and "demobilization" (light or nonexistent prison sentences) for the paramilitaries is an interesting way to define "assault." Novak also omits the fact that the AUC funds itself almost exclusively through drug trafficking to the United States --- that is, they are the problem, at least as much as the FARC, in terms of U.S. interests in Colombia.

That the paramilitaries/narcotraffickers enjoy widespread connections through Colombia's security hierarchy and with President Uribe's administration, up to (at least) President Uribe's brother, is worth some concern. Uribe remains, for instance, unwilling to sanction extradition of any of his paramilitary/narcotrafficker allies to the U.S. You'd think that a free trade deal would be worth sacrificing one or two drug kingpins.
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Old 05-10-2007   #26
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Or, alternatively, we could be seeing a return to the Jimmy Carter-era "punish your friends and reward your enemies" form of foreign relations.

We've been hearing for years how much more sophisticated and astute the Democratic foreign relations would be, if we only gave them the chance. Without any concrete details of what they WOULD do, of course. It will be interesting to see, going forward, how foreign policy develops.

It seems that Bush & Co. aren't the only Idealogues in D.C....
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Old 05-10-2007   #27
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Who says President Uribe is a friend given his refusal to do anything about narcotrafficking? Because he can give us a verbal massage for his $5 billion while cocaine purity increases and prices drop?

Some results would be nice for $5 billion.
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Old 05-10-2007   #28
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Default The results were....

The rollback of FARC and the ELN, which was the primary intent behind the Clinton administration's Plan Colombia, adopted and ramped up by the Bush administration. Drug issues were secondary though the pro forma and de jure justifications.

Everyone on the Hill at the time ( which includes Pelosi) understood that military aid to Colombia disguised as " drug interdiction" assistance was handed over to Bogota with a straight face but a wink and a nod. Toward the end of blunting a narco-Marxist takeover of Colombia, it was an effective and wise policy in my view, if a costly and risky one.

Let's be blunt. The left-wing of the left-wing of the Democratic Party in the House sympathizes with FARC and were bitterly opposed to aiding Colombia against Communist guerillas from the inception. Unlike with Clinton, more moderate Democratic House leaders feel no obligation to carry water for George Bush on Colombia policy. They have enough headaches with their leftist wing over Iraq.
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Old 05-10-2007   #29
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Toward the end of blunting a narco-Marxist takeover of Colombia, it was an effective and wise policy in my view, if a costly and risky one.
The danger of a "narco-Marxist" takeover of Colombia has always been zero. This is due to FARC's total lack of a program that appeals to any of Colombia's urban educated classes, as well as its general inability to appeal to anyone beyond a narrow band of the impoverished peasantry. FARC only exists because of the structural weakness of the Colombian state in the countryside, not due to any genuine popular support of its own.

It seems to me rather odd that we are subsidizing a domestic government's ties to paramilitaries whose main sustenance is the export of illegal drugs to the U.S. It's almost as if we are prioritizing the welfare of certain factions of the Colombian government (which is hardly in existential danger) over that of American citizens.
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Old 05-10-2007   #30
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"The danger of a "narco-Marxist" takeover of Colombia has always been zero. This is due to FARC's total lack of a program that appeals to any of Colombia's urban educated classes, as well as its general inability to appeal to anyone beyond a narrow band of the impoverished peasantry"
Prior to Plan Colombia, FARC ruled over a significant section of Colombia. If they could have maintained or expanded that base while pushing the rest of Colombia into state failure a different dynamic would have emerged. That in my book is a tipping point scenario that effects foreign investment, currency flows, emigration.

Agree with you on the narrowcasting nature of the ideological appeal of FARC but that doesn't mitigate their ability to disrupt, only to attract.

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"It seems to me rather odd that we are subsidizing a domestic government's ties to paramilitaries whose main sustenance is the export of illegal drugs to the U.S."
The paras and FARC rely on drug money to pay for their operations ( or at least defray costs. So do many other non-state actors. Our domestic policy on drug use seriously boomerangs against the U.S. on a strategic level.
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Old 05-10-2007   #31
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I usually have little use for Robert Novak but this time he is right on the money. I have been engaged in Latin America for the past 45 years, I am a LATAM FAO and served as the Chief of Policy & Strategy in the USSOUTHCOM J5. Until I retired from government service last summer, I was on the faculty of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies where we taught Latin American civilians and military from the defense sector of their countries about the management of the defense sector. Among my students was the former Vice-Minister of Defense for Colombia and the current deputy chief of the DAS (intel service) was my immediate subordinate while I was research director. I am putting this out only to establish that I have some bona fides on this subject.

The Colombian civil war is one of the most complex insurgencies I have ever come across. Most scholars suggest that it dates from the founding of the FARC in the 1960s. They are wrong. This war began in 1946 and evolved into the Violencia of 1948 - 54 +/- and after a short truce began again and seriously heated up in the 60s. Central to both periods is the figure of manuel Marulanda (Tiro Fijo) who emerged in the 80s as the major leader of the FARC.

It should be pointed out that the AUC (commonly called the paramilitaries) were founded in the 80s by members of the Medellin and Cali drug cartels AND, independently, by the cattle ranchers to defend against the depredations of the FARC, ELN, and M-19 guerrillas. As an aside, it should be pointed out that Colombia has perhaps the best record in South America of continued democracy while at the same time the worst record of political violence. Indeed, the only period of relative peace since independence was from 1902 when the War of 1000 Days ended until 1946 when La Violencia began.

Perhaps, the best way to describe Colombia's troubles is to use COL Joe Nunez' term, the Hobbesian Trinity, as a metaphor for the war among the government, FARC, and the AUC. Note that one past president of Colombia was so involved in drug trafficking that the Clinton Administration cut all support to his government. Only when Andres Pastrana was elected was Plan Colombia put forward. This was an international plan with both security and developmental components to it - a majority was financed by Colombia itself; the second largest increment (mostly development funding) was to come from the EU; the smallest amount from the US was mainly security assistance. Only the EU never met its goals.

The situation was complicated when President Pastrana ceded a significant part of the country (on the plains) to the FARC under a ceasefire. Referrred to as the despegue, it provided the FARC a sanctuary to regroup, grow coca, and make cocaine. Much of the debate over the FARC consists of whether they retain any revolutionary ambitions or are simply another cocaine cartel. Journalist Linda Robinson, of US News, who has interviewed FARC leaders believes they are still very much interested in overthrowing the government.

In turn, this sort of brings us to the Uribe government - which inherited the situation left by Pastrana. The latter, at the end of his term, did recognize the error of the despegue and rescinded the agreement. But it was up to Uribe to dismantle the depegue which he has done. Uribe has had success in getting the AUC to both demobilize and disarm and most have been reintegrated. Some, however, have refused and remain outside the agreement. So, while the Hobbesian Trinity is no longer quite the problem it once was, it does remain. Uribe's most successful COIN effort is a program known as CCAI (the Combined Center for Integrated Action) which brings together military, police, and civilian agencies to provide security and development in the conflict zones. CCAI's major weakness is that Uribe has not institutionalized it and it is likely to disappear when he leaves office. But, in the meantime, it has achieved much success along with AUC demobilization and efforts to defeat and destroy the FARC.

Finally, it is worth noting that the Uribe Administration has been prosecuting those who are tied in with death squads and drug traffickers and is the source of the media's stories on the links between high placed individuals and nefarious actors.
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Old 05-10-2007   #32
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The situation was complicated when President Pastrana ceded a significant part of the country (on the plains) to the FARC under a ceasefire. Referrred to as the despegue, it provided the FARC a sanctuary to regroup, grow coca, and make cocaine. Much of the debate over the FARC consists of whether they retain any revolutionary ambitions or are simply another cocaine cartel. Journalist Linda Robinson, of US News, who has interviewed FARC leaders believes they are still very much interested in overthrowing the government.
Agreed on all aspects of this, including FARC's continued delusions. Nonetheless FARC did not win the safe zone militarily - it was ceded by the Pastrana government in a failed attempt to see a political solution, an attempt that foundered again on FARC's delusion that it can win a military victory.

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In turn, this sort of brings us to the Uribe government - which inherited the situation left by Pastrana. The latter, at the end of his term, did recognize the error of the despegue and rescinded the agreement. But it was up to Uribe to dismantle the depegue which he has done. Uribe has had success in getting the AUC to both demobilize and disarm and most have been reintegrated. Some, however, have refused and remain outside the agreement.
I think you are a little bit over-optimistic with regards to the success of the "demobilization" program and also with regards to the non-state nature of the paramilitaries' origins. AUC originally formed out of the narcotraffickers and their private armies, in alliance with the cattle barons, but also with the assistance of state interests, namely the Convivir militia which were famously backed by Uribe when he was governor of Antioquia, and which proved key in the recent indictment of Chiquita for its collusion with the AUC. Uribe has admitted meeting with AUC leaders like Salvatore Mancuso when he was governor of Antioquia, though he has declined to specify why.

Moreover the "reintegration" program has succeeded mainly in enabling the paramilitaries to consolidate areas under their control. Paramilitaries were not required to divulge or return any assets that came about from drug trafficking, confess their crimes including participation in massacres, or even to give their aliases. Indeed, while large-scale massacres at the hands of the AUC have largely stopped, the selective killings of trade unionists, journalists, and witnesses against it go on at the same level as they have since the 1990s.

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Finally, it is worth noting that the Uribe Administration has been prosecuting those who are tied in with death squads and drug traffickers and is the source of the media's stories on the links between high placed individuals and nefarious actors.
I really doubt that Uribe is the driving force behind the parapolitics scandal. Firstly, the scandal only kicked off when an opposition politician revealed connections between paramilitaries and certain Uribe supporters in the Colombian Congress in 2005. Also if he was so aggressive in rooting out paramilitaries, I doubt that he would be so critical of the Colombian news media for divulging things like the connections of the DAS, which reports directly to him, with paramilitaries and death squad murders, or have been so conciliatory or employed Jorge Noguera as his head of DAS for so long.
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Old 05-10-2007   #33
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Hi Tequila--

My former colleague at the Center, COL (Ret.) Bill Spracher was the DATT in Colombia during the Convivir period. He is of the opinion that it was a pretty successful program that should not have been disbanded. That said, I find it interesting that every insurgency I have ever encountered demands the disbanding of the civilian defense groups and accuses them of of atrocities.

It is clear that these organizations work - they are effective in dealing with insurgents, if backed up by the regular military. I am also suspicious of research that fails to identify more specifically than interviews with demobilized AUC members, government officials, etc. I know that it is sometimes difficult to reveal sources but somewhat greater precision is possible than HRW used. I was also looking for the author of the report and found no names which also concerns me when citing those sources - as well as similar ones on the other side of this/other issue(s). HRW has a political agenda as does, say Heritage Foundation, and I take that into account when I read their stuff. However, if it is Heritage on Latin America, then it was written by Steve Johnson (who is identified as the author) who has pretty good credentials developed over a long period.

Cheers

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Old 05-10-2007   #34
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Hi Tequila--

My former colleague at the Center, COL (Ret.) Bill Spracher was the DATT in Colombia during the Convivir period. He is of the opinion that it was a pretty successful program that should not have been disbanded. That said, I find it interesting that every insurgency I have ever encountered demands the disbanding of the civilian defense groups and accuses them of of atrocities.

It is clear that these organizations work - they are effective in dealing with insurgents, if backed up by the regular military. I am also suspicious of research that fails to identify more specifically than interviews with demobilized AUC members, government officials, etc. I know that it is sometimes difficult to reveal sources but somewhat greater precision is possible than HRW used. I was also looking for the author of the report and found no names which also concerns me when citing those sources - as well as similar ones on the other side of this/other issue(s). HRW has a political agenda as does, say Heritage Foundation, and I take that into account when I read their stuff. However, if it is Heritage on Latin America, then it was written by Steve Johnson (who is identified as the author) who has pretty good credentials developed over a long period.

Cheers

John
Convivir involvement with death squads has been pretty well documented, for instance in this embassy cable listing the involvement of a convivir local president in the massacre of 14 peasants in La Horqueta in 1997. There is also the indictment of Chiquita where Carlos Castano explicitly instructs Chiquita execs to pay the AUC through the local convivir. Is it your contention that they did not commit atrocities? Note that effectiveness vs guerrillas using similar tactics does not necessarily rule out the use of massacre and atrocity. Indeed, similar tactics in Iraq used by the Mahdi Army against Sunnis are largely behind its popularity in Baghdad, for instance.

Also, what do you mean when you say you need more specificity from HRW with regards to the status of demobilized paramilitaries? Given the very nature of such groups, which principally traffick in drugs and homicide, one of the best ways to gain an understanding of them is to interview former members, especially those recruited as children who served as "foot soldiers" and may not have benefited in the same way as commanders did in the wake of "demobilization."
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Old 05-11-2007   #35
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What is the substantive moral difference between guerillas and paramilitaries?
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Old 05-11-2007   #36
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Not much of one. Both traffick drugs and use terror to cow the civilian populations. The paramilitaries tend to specialize in brute terrorization of civilians, though, and spend much less time fighting the FARC than the FARC does the Colombian Army.

The Colombian government in general, of course, is a far worthier cause and represents the Colombian people far better than the bloody dreams of the FARC high command. That doesn't mean they necessarily deserve $5 billion, not with the people they're in bed with.
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Old 05-11-2007   #37
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Perhaps someone should remind the new Congress that Plan Colombia is a Clinton initiative. And that Colombia is not in the ME.

The problem could be they are so focused on getting the POTUS, they can't find Colombia on a map.
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Old 05-11-2007   #38
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Not much of one. Both traffick drugs and use terror to cow the civilian populations. The paramilitaries tend to specialize in brute terrorization of civilians, though, and spend much less time fighting the FARC than the FARC does the Colombian Army.

The Colombian government in general, of course, is a far worthier cause and represents the Colombian people far better than the bloody dreams of the FARC high command. That doesn't mean they necessarily deserve $5 billion, not with the people they're in bed with.
This is basically a gross over-simplification and simply not true.
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Old 05-11-2007   #39
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Amnesty and "demobilization" (light or nonexistent prison sentences) for the paramilitaries is an interesting way to define "assault." Novak also omits the fact that the AUC funds itself almost exclusively through drug trafficking to the United States --- that is, they are the problem, at least as much as the FARC, in terms of U.S. interests in Colombia.

That the paramilitaries/narcotraffickers enjoy widespread connections through Colombia's security hierarchy and with President Uribe's administration, up to (at least) President Uribe's brother, is worth some concern. Uribe remains, for instance, unwilling to sanction extradition of any of his paramilitary/narcotrafficker allies to the U.S. You'd think that a free trade deal would be worth sacrificing one or two drug kingpins.
You've never been to Colombia have you.
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Old 05-11-2007   #40
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The danger of a "narco-Marxist" takeover of Colombia has always been zero. This is due to FARC's total lack of a program that appeals to any of Colombia's urban educated classes, as well as its general inability to appeal to anyone beyond a narrow band of the impoverished peasantry. FARC only exists because of the structural weakness of the Colombian state in the countryside, not due to any genuine popular support of its own.

It seems to me rather odd that we are subsidizing a domestic government's ties to paramilitaries whose main sustenance is the export of illegal drugs to the U.S. It's almost as if we are prioritizing the welfare of certain factions of the Colombian government (which is hardly in existential danger) over that of American citizens.
GEEZUS! Where do you get this stuff?
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