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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 06:07 AM
Original message
Colombia fires 10 soldiers linked to extra-judicial killings
Source: Associated Press

Colombia fires 10 soldiers linked to extra-judicial killings
By FRANK BAJAK | Associated Press Writer
6:11 PM EST, January 23, 2009

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) Another 10 Colombian soldiers have been fired for negligence in connection with the killings of civilians to inflate guerrilla casualty figures, the defense minister said Friday.

A mobile brigade tainted by the extra-judicial killings scandal also has been dismantled, Juan Manuel Santos said in a radio interview.

Since October, at least 37 soldiers including three generals and four colonels have now been fired after prosecutors denounced the killings of scores of noncombatants whose deaths were registered as rebel casualties.

A top human rights prosecutor, Carlos Camargo, told The Associated Press on Friday that 25 cases of extra-judicial killings in the Popa Batallion alone with at least a dozen soldiers allegedly involved are being investigated.

He said he had no immediate details on how many victims the 25 cases comprise.

Read more:
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 06:57 AM
Response to Original message
1. Color me cynical, but this all looks like window-dressing for the Colombia 'free' trade deal.
I was trying to cheer myself up, about Obama's intentions in South America, by thinking: Well, maybe some papered-over 'free' trade, with unenforceable labor protections, will prevent an outright military coup in Colombia. A military junta, and elimination of the last vestiges of democracy, would be worse, right? It could be the prelim for the U.S./Colombia war against Venezuela. And Colombia is, after all, a fascist dinosaur, surrounded by democratic, leftist countries, that can't help but influence Colombia eventually, if Colombia hangs onto its tenuous democracy. Maybe Colombia needs a period of middle class development--which raw capitalism can initiate, but not maintain, but which, in turn, can generate demand for better government. Maybe Colombia needs more organized, focused, legal, corporate looting, before they can face the new leftist century. Right now, the main enterprise is probably cocaine and weapons trafficking, a particularly violent culture. They need some cleaner kind of crime, they need to "go legit," so that the rudiments of good government can start getting a hold.

I dunno. Then I think, the Colombia 'free' trade deal is a reward to Colombia's fascists, for slaughtering thousands and thousands of union leaders and others. And guess who's our Attorney General? The guy who defended Chiquita Brands for its four thousand murders. And guess who's Sec of State, and had a paid agent of the Colombian government as her chief campaign adviser?

And I end up just wanting to :puke:.
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Turbineguy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 08:23 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Yeah
the thought that I might get fired if I killed somebody, would sure keep me on the straight and narrow. :sarcasm:
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Dr.Phool Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 08:45 AM
Response to Reply #2
3. Poor little assasins will have to work at Burger King now.
You want bullets with that?
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:11 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. I had the same reaction: it's a whitewash, as usual. By firing a few people caught up in this evil
tradition, they hope to leave the impression with people who know better than they officially don't sanction a reign of terror, the destruction of all those lives in order to instruct the general population they'd never ever want to get in the road of the government for any reason whatsoever.

As you mentioned, this utter disregard for human life in order to lay down a thick blanket of fear in order to maintain the primacy of a fascist government has been repudiated everywhere throughout South America, with a few pockets of stubborn oligarchy resisistance scattered around. The entire region has made the decision not to "live" like that any longer, and is moving toward a human way of life for ALL the people of Latin America, rather than only those who choose to keep close ties to corporatists in the U.S. at the heartbreaking expense of their countries' people.

It's hard to understand how both Clinton and Obama have ended up getting involved wih people who are working directly contrary to Democratic legislators who dug in their heels long ago in their decision not to reward Uribe's government for its savage behavior toward the general population. Uribe has been throwing everything he's got against them for a couple of years, and that's how he acquired Mark Penn. He's one of four specialists Uribe hired to wage war against these principled Democrats in our own Congress to find some way to beat some submission into them so Uribe can continue his gravy train spectacle at the expense of his own people, and clearly at the expense of the American taxpayers.

"False positives," or killing citizens and pretending they've killed them some more "enemies" is a tradition going back for YEARS. The US government has known about it for a LONG time. The only people who were in the dark were the very people whose hard-earned taxes have been extorted to reward these murderous clowns. It was almost a miracle that any of our news organizations, like the Washington Post, finally broke down and did any articles on it, considering how well known all this has been for a long time.

You rightfully questioned at the time why the Post had suddenly decided to "out" the "false positive" killers in the Colombian military. I hope we're going to get the answer for that in time.

From April, 2008:
Penn, Wolfson, Colombia: A pretty confused picture

If the Mark Penn story wasn't mostly inside baseball, it would be a pretty big mess at this point.

Yesterday, the Clinton campaign announced that Penn was giving up his job as chief strategist for the campaign, because Hillary opposes a trade deal with Colombia while Penn was working for Colombia on the same deal, meeting with the ambassador last week to strategize on how to get the deal passed in his capacity as chairman of Burson-Marsteller.

Already fired by Colombia over the conflict, the Clinton release said he had decided to step down from his campaign post, but sources said he had been pushed. And it made sense -- because the strategy devised by Hillary and Penn hasn't exactly worked well, and having a political aide who was trying to get a deal passed with an anti-union regime didn't seem like a great way to secure blue-collar votes in Pennsylvania.

In 24 hours, however, two things complicate the narrative:

First, a report that in fact -- announcement notwithstanding -- Penn continues to serve as a "key" campaign staffer, participating today in daily message calls and debate preparation calls. From Atlantic political correspondent Marc Ambinder: "Mr. Penn 'is still going to be very much involved,' a senior campaign official said."

And, later, a report in Politico that one of Penn's replacements -- Hillary spokesman Howard Wolfson -- retains an equity interest in the Glover Park Group, a DC PR firm that "signed a $40,000 per month contract with the government of Colombia in April of 2007 to promote the very agreement that Clinton now rails against on the presidential campaign trail." His interest is valued at $500,000 to $1 million.

There's nothing wrong with that. DC operatives have to make their money. It's hardly news that they're a mercenary class, not always true believers. It's kind of understood that if you're going to be a player, you're going to have some smelly involvements. And, arguably, passively benefiting from work for Colombia is different from actively advocating for it. But, combined with Penn's continued important role at the campaign, it raises questions about the real reasons behind his public demotion.

Apparently, Clinton doesn't feel any deep discomfort with aides making money off of advocacy for a Colombian trade deal while, in Hillary's words today, "violence against trade unionists continues and the perpetrators are not brought to justice." She isn't taking a stand against conflicts between her positions and her advisors' clients. There's no principle here.

By Alex Koppelman
Sunday, April 6, 2008 20:06 EDT
Penn out as Clinton's chief strategist

Mark Penn has resigned his position as chief strategist in Hillary Clinton's campaign, campaign manager Maggie Williams announced Sunday. According to Williams, Penn and his firm, Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc., will still be providing the campaign with polling and advice.

Penn has been a subject of controversy at various points throughout the race -- with plenty of criticism coming from inside the Clinton campaign, as well as from outside -- but he apparently could not survive his latest brush with it. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a meeting Penn had with the Colombian ambassador to the U.S. to discuss a bilateral trade deal Clinton opposes. Penn was reportedly there in his role as chief executive Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a communications and lobbying firm.

According to ABC News' Political Radar blog, Penn resigned "under pressure from an angry Sen. Clinton, who believed that Penn had recused himself from any clients who might pose a conflict for her campaign." Two labor groups -- Change to Win and Unite Here, both of which have endorsed Obama -- had called for Penn's firing.

On Saturday, Colombia fired Penn's firm. In a statement announcing the move, the Colombian government said:
Mr. Mark Penn, President and CEO of Burson Marsteller, reponded to claims by Union representatives who questioned his relationship with the Colombian Government by declaring that it was an "error in judgment" to meet with his client the Colombian Ambassador on March 31. The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable. /

Regarding Eric Holder:
In 1988, GOP President Ronald Reagan appointed Holder to the bench in Washington's Superior Court. Six years later, as U.S. attorney in Washington, Holder's office indicted then-Democratic House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, who ended up pleading guilty in 1996 to mail fraud. And the Senate unanimously confirmed Holder in 1997 for the Justice Department's No. 2 post.

Holder has been in private practice since 2001 and some of his cases remain before the Justice Department. He is handling civil case negotiations for the Chiquita International Brands, which claims it was forced to agree to a plea deal and $25 million fine to avoid indictment over security payments the company made to a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group that the U.S. government designated as a terrorist group.

A group suing the company said Wednesday it has raised concerns with the Senate Judiciary Committee about Holder's defense of Chiquita in lawsuits seeking payment for the families of people who were killed by the terrorists. The group _ Earth Rights International _ wants senators to question Holder's human-rights credentials because he has argued that there is no evidence linking killings in Colombia to Chiquita.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kevin Gray, Portfolio, October 2007 - For years, Chiquita Brands secretly paid off death squads in Colombia. Now the U.S. Congress is asking questions. . .

In northern Colombia's lush banana-growing region. . . Chiquita Brands International, the $655 million fruit giant, slipped into a blood-soaked scandal. Between 1997 and 2004, Chiquita gave $1.7 million to the A.U.C., whose death squads destroyed unions, terrorized workers, and killed thousands of civilians. Chiquita's top officials admit approving the payments but say they thought that if they didn't pay up, the A.U.C. would kill its employees and attack its facilities. Because the U.S. State Department has labeled the A.U.C. a terrorist organization, federal prosecutors charged Chiquita in March with engaging in transactions with terrorists. In an agreement with the Justice Department, Chiquita pleaded guilty and will pay a $25 million fine. . .

The firm's lawyers have struggled to explain publicly that Chiquita had to make a choice between "life and law" and that it chose the "humanitarian" route of protecting its workers. "This company was in a bad position dealing with bad guys," says Eric Holder, a Washington attorney representing Chiquita. "There's absolutely no suggestion of any personal gain here. It's not a case like Tyco, where someone is squirreling money away. No one is out buying great shower curtains."

As a corporation, though, Chiquita stood to benefit greatly from the lethal cleansing that Castano delivered. At the time, the Marxist guerrillas routinely kidnapped U.S. executives, blew up railroads, and sabotaged oil pipelines. Chiquita says it became increasingly difficult to protect its workers and their families. Castano's death squads, however, were squarely pro-business. They were not just ridding Uraba of guerrillas; they were killing leftists and eradicating unions. . .

During the A.U.C.'s reign of terror, according to the federal complaint, the region would become Chiquita's most profitable farming operation in the world.

While the A.U.C. was murdering thousands of Colombians, "to our knowledge, the paramilitaries never touched a hair on the head of a U.S. citizen or company," says Adam Isacson, director of the Colombia program at the Center for International Policy, in Washington. In fact, Isacson says, the A.U.C.'s stranglehold brought "a strange form of peace to the region through terror. It created a much more friendly business environment."

But for Eric Holder, Chiquita's lawyer, that argument falls flat. "It's like saying a shopkeeper feels safe because the Mob is extorting him for protection payments," Holder says. "You're not paying these guys to protect you from someone else; you're paying them to protect you from them."

Scott Creighton - Barack Obama, the man who spoke so eloquently in the last debate about not passing the Columbia Free Trade Agreement until more was done to bring the killers of the union workers to justice, has just announced that he is going to make the lawyer for one of the companies responsible for these killings, his Attorney General. You can't make this stuff up.
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acmavm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 09:21 AM
Response to Original message
4. Too bad they didn't get the same type of 'fired' their victims got. As in
ready, aim,...

That might possible be a better deterrent to halt the practice of killing civilians to make the rebel body count look good.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:39 PM
Response to Original message
6. A good example showing how entrenched, not rare, this practise is, in Colombia:
Posted on Thursday, 10.30.08
Colombia fires 27 army officers in probe of civilian deaths

Special to The Miami Herald

BOGOTA -- In one of its widest military purges in recent history, the Colombian government on Wednesday dismissed 27 army officers -- including three generals -- in connection with the recent disappearance of civilians who were later presented as guerrilla fighters killed in combat.

Maria McFarland, a Colombia expert for Human Rights Watch, said the Soacha cases highlight a broader problem. Rights groups have warned that the killing of civilians who are then presented as dead guerrillas or paramilitary fighters has been on the rise in recent years. ''This is a serious problem that goes well beyond the most recent, widely publicized, case,'' McFarland said.

The Inspector General's office is investigating more than 930 such extrajudicial executions since 2002. A federation of human rights groups known as the Colombia-Europe-United States Coordinator said in a report Wednesday that at least 535 have occurred between January 2007 and July 2008.

Although the military last year issued a directive saying success in this country's 40-year-old conflict with leftist rebels would no longer be measured by body bags, some repentant soldiers have told local media they were offered extra R&R time for enemy casualties.

Most times the victims in reported cases are residents of rural towns who are dragged from their homes, shot, then dressed in fatigues, with a weapon or radio put in their hands, and presented as rebel fighters.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:42 PM
Response to Original message
7. The U.S. Government has known about this truly evil activity since the 1990's, at least:
COLOMBIA: Secret Documents Show US Aware of Army Killings in 1990s
By Constanza Vieira

BOGOTA, Jan 12 (IPS) - Declassified U.S. documents show that the CIA and former U.S. ambassadors were fully aware, as far back as 1990, that the military in Colombia -- the third largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel and Egypt -- were committing extrajudicial killings as part of "death squad tactics."

They also knew that senior Colombian officers encouraged a "body count" mentality to demonstrate progress in the fight against left-wing guerrillas. In an undetermined number of cases, the bodies presented as casualties in the counterinsurgency war were actually civilians who had nothing to do with the countrys decades-old armed conflict.

Since at least 1990, U.S. diplomats were reporting a connection between the Colombian security forces and far-right drug-running paramilitary groups, according to the Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA).

In the meantime, the U.S. State Department continued to regularly certify Colombias human rights record and to heavily finance its "war on drugs."

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:44 PM
Response to Original message
8. Colombian troops killed homeless
Colombian troops killed homeless
Published: Wednesday 29 October 2008 15:58 UTC
Last updated: Thursday 30 October 2008 09:19 UTC

The Colombian government has dismissed three generals and 22 soldiers of various ranks for the killing of 11 young men. The youths were lured from a Bogota slum with the promise of work; later their bodies were found in mass graves near the Venezuelan border. Human rights groups say that soldiers sometimes kill homeless people so that they can inflate their claims of success on the battlefield and receive promotion.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:45 PM
Response to Original message
9. Incentivizing Murder: Plan Colombia and the Bitter Fruits of Empire
Incentivizing Murder: Plan Colombia and the Bitter Fruits of Empire
Written by Chris Floyd


The War on Drugs meets the War on Terror, and the result, inevitably, is stone-cold murder: Colombia Killings Cast Doubt on War Against Insurgents (NYT):

Colombias government, the Bush administrations top ally in Latin America, has been buffeted by the disappearance of ...dozens of young, impoverished men and women whose cases have come to light in recent weeks. Some were vagrants, others street vendors and manual laborers. But their fates were often the same: being catalogued as insurgents or criminal gang members and killed by the armed forces.

Prosecutors and human rights researchers are investigating hundreds of such deaths and disappearances, contending that Colombias security forces are increasingly murdering civilians and making it look as if they were killed in combat, often by planting weapons by the bodies or dressing the corpses in guerrilla fatigues.

With soldiers under intense pressure in recent years to register combat kills to earn promotions and benefits like time off and extra pay, reports of civilian killings are climbing, prosecutors and researchers say, pointing to a grisly facet of Colombias long internal war against leftist insurgencies.

The wave of recent killings has also heightened focus on the American Embassy here, which is responsible for vetting Colombian military units for human rights abuses before they can receive aid. A study of civilian killings by Amnesty International and Fellowship of Reconciliation, two human rights groups, found that 47 percent of the reported cases in 2007 involved Colombian units financed by the United States.

....Even before the most recent disappearances and killings, prosecutors and human rights groups were examining a steady increase in the reports of civilian killings since 2002, when commanders intensified a counterinsurgency financed in no small part by more than $500 million a year in American security aid.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 02:46 PM
Response to Original message
10. Colombia Killings Cast Doubt on War Against Insurgents
Colombia Killings Cast Doubt on War Against Insurgents
Wednesday 29 October 2008

by: Simon Romero, The New York Times

"If the responsibility of the army is to protect us from harm, how could they have killed my son this way?" asked Blanca Monroy, 49, Mr. Oviedo's mother, in an interview in her cinder-block hovel in Soacha. "The official explanation is absurd, if he was here just a day earlier living a normal life. The irony of it all is that my son dreamed of being a soldier" for the government.

Even before the most recent disappearances and killings, prosecutors and human rights groups were examining a steady increase in the reports of civilian killings since 2002, when commanders intensified a counterinsurgency financed in no small part by more than $500 million a year in American security aid.

But more than 100 claims of civilian deaths at the hands of security forces have emerged in recent weeks, from nine areas of Colombia. Cases have included the killings of a homeless man, a young man with epilepsy and a veteran who had left the army after his left arm was amputated.

In some cases, victims' families spoke of middlemen who recruited their loved ones and other poor men and women with vague promises of jobs elsewhere, only to deliver them hours or days later to war zones where they were shot dead by soldiers.

"We are witnessing a method of social cleansing in which rogue military units operate beyond the law," said Monica Sanchez, a lawyer at the Judicial Freedom Corporation, a human rights group in Medellin. It says it has documented more than 60 "false positives" - the term for cases of civilians who are killed and then presented as guerrillas, with weapons or fatigues - in Antioquia Department, or province.

Researchers have also obtained thorough descriptions of some killings in the small number of cases - fewer than 50 - that have resulted in convictions this decade.

One April morning in 2004, for instance, soldiers approached the home of Juan de Jesus Rendon, 33, a peasant farmer in Antioquia, and shot him in front of his son, Juan Esteban, then 10. The soldiers placed a two-way radio and a gun near Mr. Rendon's body, court records show, and told his son that his siblings would suffer the same fate unless he said his father had fired at the soldiers.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-27-09 05:25 AM
Response to Original message
11. Hearing the other voices in Colombia
Hearing the other voices in Colombia
By Dee Aker and Elena McCollim 2:00 a.m. January 25, 2009

As the new Obama administration comes into focus internationally, anticipation and apprehension grip two distinct Colombian worlds. That of President Alvaro Uribe and his right-wing appointees seems to be hesitating just a little. Theirs has been the only voice heard in Washington for some time. Should they change their tone?

Has someone noticed that 31 trade unionists were assassinated in the first half of last year, that attacks against the independent judiciary increase or that the government of Colombia continues to commit serious, systematic human rights violations? If so, will these negatives reverberate and expose some other unseemly trends such as the increase in narco-trafficking after billions of U.S. dollars have been spent to slow it? Plan Colombia, begun in the Clinton administration to deal with the stream of drugs to the United States, has been welcomed in its increasingly narrow martial approach from 2001. What now?

The other world, one of rural peasants, Afro-Colombians, the indigenous, the displaced, squatters and families of victims of death squads, is hesitantly expectant. For years it has been amassing and disseminating testimonies documenting the violations. Is there a sliver of hope for this world of the outsiders?

While Barack Obama has not experienced or focused on Latin America, and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, represents some distinct ties to the origins of Plan Colombia, victims of past policies are organized and vocal. Because of the face Obama has presented to the world and the connection he is perceived to have with his own civil society, many long-suffering advocates for the traumatized and excluded in Colombia feel there is a chance they will now be heard.

A Colombian activist with a major women's nongovernmental organization put it this way: Although Obama's election is clearly good news, we must look at the U.S. government as the U.S. government. It remains to be seen how he will deal with us as president. If he will hear us, we want to say to him stop sending foreign military troops, and, if the free-trade agreement with Colombia is to pass, let it at least include human rights and environmental conditionality.

Recently it was Colombia's turn to undergo a review of its human rights by the United Nations; Dec. 10 marked the culmination of this process, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In their submission to that review, nine leading human rights and humanitarian agencies noted that between July 2002 and December 2007, more than 75 percent of the forcibly disappeared, assassinated and internally displaced were the victims of government security forces, which included the paramilitaries created with U.S. financial and military support.

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