In Search of Peace with Justice in Colombia

by W. T. Whitney ( Originally published in Counterpunch )

Asked recently by a Mexican interviewer to justify U.S. involvement in Venezuelan affairs, President Barack Obama suggested Venezuela should be heading “toward democracy, toward freedom. You’re seeing it here in Mexico [and] in Colombia, in Chile, in Peru.” The notion of Colombia as a model, however, deserves a look. The same goes with U.S. methods in Colombia.

In 2000, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government were engaged in peace talks. A military truce was in force which the government used to refurbish its military, which according to a FARC negotiator in peace talks underway now in Cuba, was “without supplies, boots, and gasoline for airplanes.” The Clinton administration pitched in with Plan Colombia. That allowed subsequent U.S. governments to help fund Colombia’s military and police, provide military equipment, send in troops and military contractors, and install air bases.

US anti-FARC measures date back to a 1960’s U.S. anti-insurgency program applied to Colombia known as “Plan LASO.” That initiative, part of a regional anti – communist offensive, was operating in 1964 as 16000 Colombian troops bolstered by U.S. weapons and advisors attacked and dispersed leftist small farmers settled in Marquetalia in southern Colombia. Several dozen of those chased into the mountains organized themselves as the FARC.

The government of former President Alvaro Uribe, taking power in 2002, used a beefed-up Colombian military to try to finish off the FARC. In the process combatant and civilian deaths multiplied, peasants were removed from land, and jails filled up with political prisoners. Paramilitary violence and severe rural poverty remained.

U.S. support for Colombian militarization and U.S. silence on human rights abuses serve as background for government – FARC peace talks underway in Cuba now. That killings, threats, and arbitrary detentions have swelled since talks began in November, 2012 is no accident.

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