US rewarding Colombia despite knowledge of military abuses, declassified records show

Earlier this year, the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation nominated Colombia as a leading candidate for economic assistance under the Millennium Challenge Act. The Act provides financial rewards to US allies “that enter into compacts with the United States to support policies and programs that advance the progress of such countries [toward] demonstrated commitment to just and democratic governance”. However, internal US government documents published yesterday by researchers at The National Security Archive, show that Colombia’s favored treatment by the US comes despite knowledge of serious and systematic abuses by the Colombian military and security establishment. According to the declassified documents, the CIA and senior US diplomats in Bogotá have known since at least 1994 that the country’s security forces (largely trained and backed by the US) systematically engage in “death squad tactics”, and collaborate with drug running cartels. The documents further prove the US government’s awareness of a dangerous “body count syndrome” in Colombia’s security forces. Specifically, cold-blooded killings of civilians deemed “sympathetic” to the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) left guerilla group are in fact rewarded by career advancement in the ranks of the security services. The declassified documents include a report from former US Ambassador to Colombia, Myles Frechette, condemning what he called “body count mentalities” among Colombian Army officers eyeing career advancement. They also include a 1994 CIA intelligence report, which concludes that Colombia’s security forces routinely “employ death squad tactics in their counterinsurgency campaign” and have “a history of assassinating leftwing civilians in guerrilla areas, cooperating with narcotics-related paramilitary groups in attacks against suspected guerrilla sympathizers, and killing captured combatants”. The National Security Archive research points out that the continued US backing of Colombia’s security services despite knowledge of their criminal tactics amounted to a green light for government paramilitaries to continue their “extrajudicial executions and collaboration with paramilitary drug traffickers”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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