Colombia’s Truth Commission Is Highly Critical of U.S. Policy

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — It was a 58-year battle, concerned nearly each sector of Colombian society, and price a whole lot of hundreds of lives and billions of American {dollars}.

And on Tuesday, a government-appointed fact fee launched probably the most complete examination but of Colombia’s brutal inside battle, which spanned 1958 to 2016.

The report was extremely crucial of the safety mannequin that dominated the nation for many years, which the authors stated handled a lot of the inhabitants as inside enemies, and it referred to as for sweeping transformation of the police and army.

It additionally delivered a pointy rebuke of United States coverage in Colombia, saying that mounting a battle in opposition to drug trafficking had disastrous social and environmental results, turning poor farmers into enemies of the state and poisoning as soon as fertile landscapes.

“The results of this concerted and largely U.S.-driven strategy,” the report stated, led to a “hardening of the battle during which the civilian inhabitants has been the primary sufferer.”

Declassified paperwork used to compile the report, which had been obtained by The New York Occasions, present that Washington believed for years that the Colombian army was engaged in extrajudicial killings and was working with right-wing paramilitaries, and but continued to deepen its relationship with the armed forces.

The report, which was 4 years within the making and concerned greater than 14,000 particular person and collective interviews, was a product of the 2016 peace deal between the Colombian authorities and its largest insurgent pressure, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. It’s meant to assist in therapeutic after the battle, and included a brand new estimate of the useless: 450,000 individuals, almost twice the quantity beforehand believed.

At a ceremony marking the report’s publication, some victims cried of their seats, whereas others shouted for recognition for his or her family members. A few of the commissioners, who had been answerable for creating the report, wore T-shirts that learn: “There’s future if there may be fact.”

The checklist of victims “is endless and the gathered ache is insufferable,” the Rev. Francisco de Roux, who led the reality fee, advised a packed theater in downtown Bogotá, the capital. “Why did we watch the massacres on tv, day after day, as in the event that they had been an inexpensive cleaning soap opera?”

However the report rapidly change into a part of a extremely polarized political panorama in Colombia, during which some consider the army was complicit in battle crimes and wishes systemic reform and others blame leftist guerrillas for many of the trauma.

President Iván Duque, a conservative who campaigned in opposition to the peace deal and who is understood for an unwavering protection of the army, didn’t attend the ceremony or remark publicly on the report.

His social gathering, the Democratic Middle, released a statement referring to the report as an “interpretive fact.”

President-elect Gustavo Petro, who in August will change into the nation’s first leftist president, attended the ceremony with Vice President-elect Francia Márquez. Mr. Petro has promised to make Colombia’s peace deal a precedence, and referred to as on the marketing campaign path for army reform.

Mr. Petro advised the viewers he believed that the report may assist “finish, definitively, the cycles of violence” the nation had suffered for generations, however that that would occur provided that the report was not used as a weapon for vengeance.

Societies will all the time have battle, he stated, “however battle can’t be synonymous with loss of life.”

Pastora Mira García, 65, whose father was killed within the battle, had traveled greater than 200 miles to attend the occasion. She referred to as the report’s launch “a really hopeful second for our nation.”

The Colombian battle started as a battle between the federal government and the FARC, however ultimately advanced into a fancy battle that additionally concerned paramilitary teams and the U. S. authorities, which supplied billions of {dollars} in support to the Colombians to assist them struggle the insurgency and the drug commerce that funded it.

The report will ultimately include 10 chapters; two of these chapters had been launched Tuesday, together with an 896-page abstract of findings and suggestions for the long run.

The abstract provides an in depth account of struggling, inflicted most frequently on civilians, documenting massacres, compelled disappearances, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, extortion, torture, sexual assault and youngster recruitment, amongst different human rights violations.

These crimes, the report stated, had been dedicated by the FARC, by paramilitaries, by state safety forces and by others.

Among the many fee’s suggestions for the police and army are elevated oversight and accountability; restructuring of the state safety forces that removes the nationwide police from the protection ministry; shifting the circumstances of members of the army accused of crimes to the civil justice system, from the army one; and elimination of agreements between the army and personal corporations during which state safety forces are paid to guard non-public entities, like oil corporations.

“These are essential proposals,” stated Juan Carlos Ruiz, a political scientist at Rosario College in Bogotá who research the Colombian police.

Requires change have existed for years, he stated, however have by no means been profitable.

Among the many proof used to jot down Tuesday’s report had been hundreds of declassified U.S. paperwork gathered and arranged by the Nationwide Safety Archive, a Washington-based nongovernmental group that makes a speciality of supporting post-conflict fact commissions.

A digital library of the paperwork can be revealed in August, however the Nationwide Safety Archive supplied The Occasions with some forward of time. They reveal that the USA had many years of information of alleged crimes dedicated by the Colombian army — “and but the connection continued to develop,” stated Michael Evans, director of the Archive’s Colombia mission.

Notably noteworthy, he stated, are a sequence of C.I.A. operational experiences not usually accessible to the general public, even after a document request.

One report, written in 1988 throughout a interval during which leftist activists had been being killed frequently, discovered {that a} wave of assassinations carried out in opposition to “suspected leftists and communists” was the results of “a joint effort” between the intelligence chief of the Colombian Military Fourth Brigade and members of the Medellín narcotics trafficking cartel.

A lot of these killed had been related to a political social gathering referred to as the Patriotic Union. The report stated it was “unlikely” that this happened “with out the data of the Fourth Brigade commander.”

Later within the doc, a C.I.A. officer writes of a 1988 bloodbath during which 20 farmworkers, a lot of them union members, had been killed. The C.I.A. officer signifies that the U.S. authorities believed the assassins “obtained the names of their supposed targets” from the Colombia Military’s tenth Brigade intelligence unit.

Different paperwork present that the USA knew oil corporations had been paying paramilitaries for cover, and that at the very least one firm gathered intelligence for the Colombian army.

One firm was “actively offering intelligence on guerrilla actions on to the Military,” in keeping with the C.I.A., “utilizing an airborne surveillance system alongside the pipeline to show guerrilla encampments and intercept guerrilla communications.”

The Colombian Military “efficiently exploited this data and inflicted an estimated 100 casualties throughout an operation in opposition to the guerrillas” in 1997, in keeping with the report.

One other doc, written in 2003, hints at one of many grimmest chapters of the battle, referred to as the false positives scandal. In that case, the Colombian army is accused of killing hundreds of civilians in the course of the presidency of Álvaro Uribe and attempting to move them off as fight deaths, in an effort to indicate that it was successful the battle.

In current court docket testimony in Colombia, former troopers have stated they felt pressured by higher-ups to kill fellow Colombians.

A July 2003 memo to Donald Rumsfeld, then the secretary of protection, from the highest Pentagon deputy for particular operations, celebrates a big rise in fight kills since Mr. Uribe took workplace took — 543 in simply six months, in contrast with 780 over the last two years of the earlier authorities.

The doc is titled “Current Successes Towards the Colombian FARC.”

Iñigo Alexander contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia.

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