The US War in Latin America is Not a Success
November 14, 2011
John Glaser / Anti-War.com
For well over a decade now, the US's "Plan Colombia" has aimed at eliminating the FARC and cracking down on the Colombian drug trade. And what has resulted? The Colombian military has engaged in widespread human rights abuses -- killing thousands of civilians with impunity -- while the government has become even more lawless and corrupt. Meanwhile, right-wing paramilitary forces have gained political influence and have themselves engaged in widespread human rights abuses.
No, the US War in Latin America is Not a Success
John Glaser / Anti-War.com
WASHINGTON (November 11, 2011) -- Yesterday's headline in the Independent is an example of how US policy towards Colombia has been labeled by some as at least a partial success. It reads: "Is this the grisly end of Colombia's civil war?" The event that prompted such vaunted optimism was the killing of leftist FARC guerrilla leader Alfonso Cano.
For well over a decade now, the US's "Plan Colombia" has aimed at eliminating the FARC and cracking down on the Colombian drug trade. To do this, Clinton and then Bush dramatically increased military aid to the Colombian security forces, while also supporting right-wing paramilitary groups.
The result has been some measured success in murdering FARC rebels, as with Alfonso Cano, but more notably the Colombian military has engaged in widespread human rights abuses -- killing thousands of civilians with impunity -- and the government has become even more lawless and corrupt. Meanwhile, the right-wing paramilitary forces have gained political influence and have themselves engaged in widespread human rights abuses.
Stooges for the state have attempted to paint this as a victory of US policy. Paul Wolfowitz even tried to suggest Plan Colombia was a good model for the US to adopt in Afghanistan (I rebutted him here). But the truth is, Colombia is not a model for success. It's a model for the criminals and killers and corrupt politicians -- at least those that the US chooses to side with -- to commit violence and crimes with total impunity and rewards from the regional hegemon. Even Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos urged chest-beating cries of victory to be tempered.
Soon after Cano's death, President Juan Manuel Santos released a statement saying it signaled a "breaking point" for the Farc. But he cautioned: "This well-aimed blow will not be alone, and is no cause for triumphalism in the government or our military. The government continues its campaign to restore state authority across our territory."
Nevertheless, the advocates for war and militarism in Washington continue to suggest its a success, now pushing for Plan Mexico. But as this brilliantly informative joint publication of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, the Center for International Policy, and the Washington Office on Latin America explains, the experience in Colombia is a cautionary tale and should not be applied to Mexico, despite some marginal gains against FARC guerrillas:
From 2000-2004, paramilitary violence, often with collaboration by the army, spiraled tragically upwards. These were nightmare years for many living in rural areas, with massacres, selected killings, and the high peak of forced disappearances.13 Between 2000 and 2010, over 3 million people were driven from their homes by violence. Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities were disproportionately affected by displacement and human rights abuses, to devastating effect: Thirty-two indigenous groups are on the verge of extinction, and Afro-Colombian communities make up a disproportionate share of the displaced and the dispossessed.
An estimated 12,800 women may have been raped by illegal armed actors, over 1,900 of them raped by members of the army, according to one survey. Under pressure to produce high body counts, soldiers allegedly murdered more than 3,000 civilians, the vast majority between 2004 to 2008. In this "false positives" scandal, soldiers dressed their victims in guerrilla uniforms and claimed them as killed in battle. Institutions of government were corrupted and democracy undermined as members of Congress, many linked to the governing coalition, colluded with paramilitary leaders. The Uribe administration's presidential intelligence agency spied on and threatened members of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, journalists, unions and human rights groups.
... Plan Colombia's mixed results should give pause to any who would view it as a "model" for application in Mexico or Central America. Still, Colombia is the only Latin American country to have significantly reduced violent crime in the past ten years, so the Plan Colombia and Democratic Security recipes may appear tempting to policymakers. The contexts are so different, though, that it would make little sense to prepare the same ingredients in the same way in Mexico or Central America.
I won't quote the study at too much length, but if you want to know the basics about the US's militarized drug war policies in Mexico, this paper is what you need to read. Mexican President Calderon's martial response to the drug trade was supported by the United States with the Merida Initiative, and it has turned out horribly, as I wrote about recently in the news section. Here is the study again:
Nearly four years after the "Mérida Initiative" launched, meaningful improvements in public security have not been achieved. Rather than stemming the violence, the capture or killing of dozens of major organized crime leaders has made violence more generalized. Organized crime groups, their numbers proliferating from approximately six national confederations to twelve today, have taken on the state and each other in a war of all against all. The removal of cartel leaders has caused the groups to fragment, triggering new power struggles that have multiplied the violence... Since Calderón launched the anti-cartel offensive in December 2006, drug and organized crime-related violence has killed about 40,000 people in Mexico.
The army, meanwhile, is the subject of an escalating number of reports of human rights abuses. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, or CNDH) received over 4,772 reports of human rights-related complaints committed by members of the military from when Calderón assumed the presidency in December 2006 until March 2011. These violations -- which include arbitrary detention, torture and unlawful killings -- reflect an increase of roughly 1000 percent in alleged abuses during the first three years of President Calderón's administration. Moreover, impunity for security force abuses, whether by the army or by the police, is the norm.
It should be mentioned too that Obama has only increased the violent military nature of his Latin America policies.
Obama's Reagan-like Drug War in Latin America
John Glaser / Anti-War.com
(November 09, 2011) -- US aid to the essentially military regime in Honduras has increased every single year since the coup in 2009, with $68 million allocated for 2012, as I wrote about recently. And, as Dana Frank at Nation magazine has documented, Obama has "allocated $45 million in new funds for military construction, including expansion and improvement of the jointly operated Soto Cano Air Force Base at Palmerola (supplied now with US drones) and has opened three new military bases."
The "Honduran police and military have launched successive waves of repression against entire campesino communities," Frank explained, and funding "rose dramatically in June with $40 million more under the new $200 million Central American Regional Security Initiative, supposedly to combat drug trafficking in Central America."
In addition to that, the US has a documented close relationship between corporate drug lords and private paramilitaries in Honduras. Wealthy landowners with ties to the cocaine trade, like Miguel Facussé, have been orchestrating illegal land grabs and murders of peasant farmers in the countryside. Facussé supported the 2009 military coup, has met with the State Department numerous times, and met with Obama in Washington DC in the first week of October.
Honduras is becoming more and more of a cocaine hub and has a homicide rate that rivals that of Kabul, according to this Associated Press report. And now, this week the New York Times reported on the war-on-terror-style approach to the war on drugs in Honduras. Back in March, Honduran security forces and a commando team from the Drug Enforcement Administration had a deadly shootout with drug traffickers in Honduras. And apparently it was all a part of Obama's grand scheme...
The DEA now has five commando-style squads it has been quietly deploying for the past several years to Western Hemisphere nations -- including Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Belize -- that are battling drug cartels, according to documents and interviews with law enforcement officials.
The program -- called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team -- was created during the George W. Bush administration to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2008 and continuing under President Obama, it has expanded far beyond the war zone.
If things continue like this, the Obama administration could be as terrible for Latin America as the Reagan administration was. As the Times report put it, "the FAST program is similar to a DEA operation in the late 1980s and early 1990s in which drug enforcement agents received military training and entered into partnerships with local forces in places like Peru and Bolivia, targeting smuggling airstrips and jungle labs."
The lack of reporting in the US on Honduras alone is reason enough to be suspicious that Americans aren't hearing about the highly militarized war being waged in the other above-mentioned countries with a history of American terrorism on their shores (Haiti, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, etc.).
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