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The Long History of U.S. Counterinsurgency in Colombia

by Militante Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2001 at 7:27 PM

This well-researched article shows that the United States provided the leadership for the Colombian counterinsurgency strategy in the late 1950s and early 60s, which were also the early years of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. It may not be too long when we will all have to make the decision to support national liberation in Colombia and protest invasion just as we did in Vietnam, or, ignore the crimes of U.S. imperialism as most of us have been doing due to the ideological disease in western society called anti-communism from decades of political indoctrination.

As with Phoenix, the localizador, or unter/killer teams were not successful in controlling the insurgency, and only served to generate feelings of revenge that have perpetuated the conflict over many generations. History shows that the irregular warfare model developed in Viet Nam is not a military strategy that leads to peace.

This article makes an important contribution to an understanding of the history of this period, but the author doesn't seem to appreciate the horror of what he's writing about. He also makes the same mistake as the planners of the Vietnam strategy made: he portrays the bandoleros as non-political criminals without popular support.

As Gonzalo Sanchez and Donny Meertens write in Bandits, Peasants and Politics, The Case of La Violencia in Colombia:

[R]epression by the state's machinery - such as the sinister chulavita police from Boyaca - was not replaced but was complimented by paramilitary

organizations such as the pajaros (birds) in Valle and Caldas, the aplanchadores(flatteners) in Antioquia, and the penca ancha (heavy whip)

on the savannas of Sucre, whose victims would number in the hundreds of thousands.

[B]andolerismo understandably emerged in broad swaths of the countryside as an anarchial and desperate peasant response. And, since for desperate people the only program that makes sense is to destroy for the sake of destroying, terror became not only an integral part but also, in most cases, the overarching element of their actions.

The most significant characteristic of "social banditry" per se is that it is locally acknowledged, tolerated and even supported, and that it could not survive for long - at least in rural areas - without the acknowledgement, the tolerance, and the support of the populace.


Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics: US Counter-insurgency Efforts

in Colombia 1959-1965

by Dennis M. Rempe

>From "Small Wars and Insurgencies" Vol. 6, No. 3 (Winter 1995), pp. 304-327

Published by Frank Cass, London

This article analyses the role played by the United States between 1959 and 1965

in developing counter-guerrilla training, civic action programmes, intelligence

structures, and communications networks in Colombia, and in aiding the Colombians

to undertake offensive counter-insurgency and psychological warfare operations in

order to destroy bandit-guerrilla organisations within that nation. By

specifically examining the development and impact of US counter-insurgency policy

on low-intensity conflict in Colombia, and by utilising previously untapped US

military and intelligence records, this work addresses a gap in the historiography

of the period. 1 Indeed, it establishes the unique role played by the United

States in facilitating the development of all aspects of Colombia's internal

security infrastructure in order to contain 'one of the world's most extensive

and complex internal wars of this century'. 2


Relations between the United States and Colombia in the field of national

security began to expand as a result of World War II and Colombia's geostrategic

proximity to the Panama Canal. This relationship intensified as the US and USSR

engaged in cold war. While Colombian policy-makers supported Washington's global

strategy, they were consumed for almost two decades after the war by the internal

crisis which came to be known as La Violencia.

Political, socio-cultural, economic, and military factors all contributed to the

emergence of violence in Colombia. These included a widening gap between rich and

poor, polarised political loyalties between the two traditional parties, the

Liberals and Conservatives, which had filtered down through all levels of society,

and a political system inadequately prepared to adapt to changing expectations,

the spread of new ideas, and the uneven impact of modernisation. Since this was

largely a peasant conflict, land distribution was a critical issue which fuelled

social, political, and economic differences. Political mobilisation of the

population after World War II eroded the structure of a society already burdened

by regional differences, elite control over the institutions of power, and a

certain cultural acceptance of violence. The situation was further aggravated by

both an inefficient and partisan police force and an ineffective and politicised

military which competed with one another and were distrusted by the public. 3

In an atmosphere of ongoing rural violence and sustained political agitation,

the murder of populist Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan on 9 April 1948

produced the Bogotazo: two days of riotous violence, mob control of the streets

of Bogota, and some 1,400 people killed. 4 Although the Bogotazo was ultimately

contained in the capital, it sparked a cycle of Liberal-Conservative guerrilla

and counter-guerrilla actions influenced, in some instances, by communist

elements. It was within the context of this violence - civil war followed by

military dictatorship - that the US-Colombian national security relationship

developed. The larger issues of hemisphere defence, development of conventional

armed forces, the Korean War, trade and investment, military assistance, the

persecution of Protestants, and the search for internal political stability

dominated relations between the two countries until well into the second term

of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, as US policy shifted towards

internal defence after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Liberal Alberto Lleras

Camargo, first President of the newly-formed bipartisan National Front

government, welcomed this new policy initiative and sought to implement it

rapidly in Colombia. In September 1959 Eisenhower authorised the State

Department to determine whether the Colombian government would receive a team

of US counter-guerrilla experts to survey the situation and recommend courses

of action. 5 This initiative 'was the first major effort of the US to

influence the internal security problems of Colombia'. 6

Special Survey Team in Colombia

A US Special Survey Team arrived in October 1959 to investigate Colombia's

internal security conditions. 7 The team consisted of counterinsurgency experts

with experience in the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea and other parts of Asia, as

well as Latin America. Its report on the Colombian situation concluded that the

new National Front administration of Alberto Lleras Camargo needed to focus on

restoring honesty and efficiency in government and uniformed authority. Public

confidence in the institutions of the state had been completely lost, and moral

values had been 'outraged and even warped' as a result of the years of violence.

Only Lleras Camargo commanded enough respect, the survey team believed, to

re-establish law and order and make people believe that government was capable

of working for the national interest. 8 Recognising the primarily criminal,

rather than subversive, nature of Colombia's violence, the survey team suggested

that both banditry and guerrilla warfare could be substantially reduced within

a year by employing a special Lancero (Ranger) unit as a mobile counterguerrilla

force. In the long term, the organisation and doctrine of Colombia's US

developed conventional armed forces would have to change. Emphasis needed to be

placed on developing a domestic military intelligence service and implementing

psychological warfare, public information, and civic action programmes. In

order to shield the interests of both Colombian and US authorities against

'interventionist' charges any special aid given for internal security was to

be sterile and covert in nature. 9

For the Colombian armed forces, establishing the use of combined arms in

counter-guerrilla operations would be a vital component in the successful

prosecution of anti-violence measures. Formation of a joint staff, improved

training methods, and personnel selection, as well as logistical reform, had

to be undertaken. The Army, the survey team concluded, was essentially non-

political, but the National Police were politicised and needed rehabilitation

in order to become effective. US officials, conversely, would be primarily

tasked with providing aid and advice, especially regarding the use of ranger

troops and the establishment of effective military intelligence, psychological

warfare, and civic action units. An expanded US Mission was needed to develop

a national intelligence structure, and to re-orient the armed forces toward

unconventional warfare rather than the conventional capabilities that the

Americans had previously stressed. As well, economic and military assistance

programmes had to be co-ordinated between the various US and Colombian

agencies involved. 10

A variety of military and civilian advisers were needed with experience in

political and psychological warfare, intelligence, human relations, and

special operations in order to implement the new programmes and for long-term

training, mobile teams, and community self-help groups. Others would work

with the National Police while Colombian police observers would be sent to

Canadian, Mexican, and Philippine constabularies for training assistance

since immediate action on police issues was fundamental to the effective

development of counter-violence measures. 11

Owing to the sensitive nature of Colombian internal security missions,

the survey team further advised the use of third country nationals, covertly

under US control, but apparently contracted by the host government. Military

and civilian personnel used in this manner brought skills and experience

acquired in their own country which might be difficult to find in the United

States. Moreover, obviously non-US advisers had low 'interventionist

propaganda-exploitation' value if discovered. However, policy guidance would

be required from US officials regarding the use of third country nationals

as field advisors to forces actively engaged in guerrilla-bandit suppression

activities. 'Cover' arrangements for those not openly identified as US

employees needed to be made, and they were to be placed under general

supervision of the chief of the appropriate mission and a special officer

for internal security matters. Finally, use of other than current US-military

pattern material was also recommended: identification was to be removed and

supply to be undertaken through other than regular US military aid channels. 12

In April 1960, one month after receiving the survey team's (edited) report,

Lleras began to put into effect some of its recommendations. A broad policy

of agrarian reform was undertaken in an attempt to provide land to peasants

and to develop Colombia's agricultural sector. Long-range civicaction

programmes such as better roads, medical aid, and schools for rural areas

were proposed. By 1961 the Colombian Institute of Land Reform (INCORA) began

to operate, promoting rural cooperatives and irrigation projects to improve

land use. 13 On an official visit to Washington that same April, however,

Lleras commented to Eisenhower that the Colombian Army continued to receive

US Mission training in conventional warfare. Diplomatically, he declared

that the fault lay with Colombia's generals, who emulated the American army

rather than preparing for guerrilla-type warfare. Eisenhower agreed that

more emphasis needed to be placed on anti-guerrilla training, but also

stressed that US Mission officials were bound by both the Morse Amendment

and the policy directives of the Colombian government. 14 The special

survey team report, however, was quite specific in regard to the origins

of the actual problem.

Taking into consideration the existing, substantial guerrilla potential

and the contemporary history of Colombia, which includes heavy fighting

against Communist guerrillas, present disregard of counter-guerrilla

and unconventional warfare can only be attributed to traditionalism and

the emphasis placed on US conventional warfare orientation and doctrine. 15

Immediately after the Lleras visit, the Defense Department, on Eisenhower's

directive, began a comprehensive study of the Colombian Army's requirements

to combat guerrilla warfare. In fact, the department reviewed the need for

expanded counter-guerrilla training on a worldwide basis as part of the

greater emphasis towards the new Overseas Internal Security Programs

initiative. 16 Colombia would be one of the nations in the forefront of

this new policy development.

Internal Defense

Inception of the bipartisan National Front system in Colombia brought both

co-operation between the two warring political parties and restoration of

the Army's 'nonpolitical' image. Since the new system was based on an

interparty consensus, those bandit and guerrilla groups which continued to

operate after the October 1958 amnesty declaration became, by definition,

either dangerous to public order or subversive. Consequently, the Army

targeted these groups without the same political risk it had confronted

before the National Front period. 17 Following the advice of both the

Lleras government and the US survey team, American military assistance was

reoriented in 1961 towards the violence problem. Earlier plans to develop

a special counter-guerrilla team deployed from helicopters were rejuvenated.

A 'special impact shipment' of approximately .5 million worth of military

hardware was received by the Colombian armed forces in late 1961 and early

1962 to enable them to undertake Orden Publico (Public Order) missions.

Three H-43B (medium) helicopters, as well as a variety of vehicles,

communication equipment, and small arms were delivered in an effort to

equip and mobilise the specialised ranger type unit, which would become a

prototype for other units involved in the campaign against rural violence

and uncontrolled banditry in the countryside. 18 It was also the first

tangible effort by the US government to assist Colombian military forces

in their struggle against internal violence, and led to a vastly expanded

internal security effort under MAP support. By October 1962 the first

operational Orden Publico mission was flown jointly by a Colombian pilot

and a US Air Force instructor. 19

Another substantial change occurred in 1960 with the nomination of

Brigadier General (promoted to Major General) Alberto Ruiz Novoa to

Commanding General of the Colombian Army. Ruiz advocated that the armed

forces be used 'as agents to mend the national social fabric and to

develop the social infrastructure'. Destroying guerrillas was not enough;

the Army also had to 'attack the social and economic causes as well as

the historic political reasons for their existence'. 20 These strong

views later brought Ruiz to the position of Minister of War in August

1962, but his frequent political attacks against the second National

Front government of Conservative Guillermo Leon Valencia eventually led

to his forced resignation early in 1965. Interest in developing an

effective military intelligence programme also increased. As more

Colombian officers recognised the need for intelligence in maintaining

public order, they supported the US idea of establishing a broad

intelligence course for Latin American military personnel in Panama.

Beginning in 1960, the Colombian Army filled its quota in each class in

an effort to expand its programme, although there was some difficulty in

assigning personnel to duties on their return due to the lack of a proper

intelligence infrastructure. 21 Attempts to alleviate this problem were

made between February and August 1961, when the first intelligence

Military Training Team (MTT) was sent to Colombia. Though not completely

successful, it did establish a base from which follow-up MTTs were able

to develop a nascent military intelligence structure. 22 In the same

period operational planning began for a psychological warfare MTT to be

sent to Colombia, and course spaces were made available for officers

both at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and

the Canal Zone in psychological operations and counter-resistance

training. 23 In 1961 the Departamente Administrativo de Seguridad

(Administrative Department of Security-DAS) was instituted in place of

the deactivated Servicio de Inteligencia de Colombia (Colombian

Intelligence Service-SIC). Performing both intelligence and counter-

intelligence functions, it co-ordinated counter-subversive actions

amongst all security forces while the F-2 section of the National

Police concentrated on anti-bandit (criminal) measures. Ostensibly,

the agencies mandates were delineated by political versus criminal

acts of violence, but the inter-related nature of violence within the

Colombian context often made it difficult to differentiate between them. 24

The Yarborough Team

In February 1962 a US Army Special Warfare Center team headed by Brigadier

General William P. Yarborough was dispatched to Colombia in a follow-up

study to the 1959--60 survey team's overview of the internal security

situation. Its primary objectives were to study the violence problem,

evaluate the effectiveness of the Colombian counter-insurgency effort, and

make recommendations which would allow the effective deployment of a US

counter-insurgency TT. 25 During a 12-day mission the team toured areas

encompassing four of Colombia's eight brigades (see Map 1]. In its final

evaluation, the Yarborough team concluded that lack of central planning and

co-ordination was seriously effecting all levels of the counter-insurgency

effort. Fragmentation of resources, lack of essential communications,

transportation, and equipment, reliance on static outposts, and improper

use of military personnel in civil capacities placed the Army on the

defensive and allowed both subversive and bandit elements to acquire the

initiative. Inadequate collation and dissemination of intelligence at both

an army and national level further hampered the effort, as did the lack of

counter-intelligence training. Civic action and psychological operations

were sporadic, the relationship between the Army and National Police was

not properly delineated, and broader social, political, and economic

problems existed for which solutions appeared remote. 26

In general, the Yarborough team recommended that the US provide guidance

and assistance in all aspects of counter-insurgency. MTTs for psychological

warfare, civic action, air support, and intelligence were vital if proper

anti-violence plans, requirements, and operations were to be established.

As well, five Special Forces A-teams would be needed to work concurrently

with the battalions of the four brigades which were most seriously engaged

with guerrillas and bandits. As for the Colombians, the team concluded,

corrective measures were needed if an effective counterinsurgency plan was

to be undertaken. Collaboration between the DAS, National Police, and armed

forces in the fields of intelligence and counterintelligence, co-ordination

and standardisation of programmes structured to a national counter-insurgency

plan, as well as improved transportation, equipment, and communication was

needed. 27 At brigade level it was essential to garrison fixed outposts with

state police in order to give the Army increased mobility; intensify

anti-bandit propaganda; prioritise action areas; equip and maintain troops

for rapid reaction and night operations; and conduct joint, inter-brigade

operations. Armoured buses, filled with soldiers or police in civilian

clothing were to be covertly introduced into the transportation system and

operational zones isolated through curfews, civilian registration programmes,

and other populace control measures. Finally, exhaustive interrogation of

captured bandits and guerrillas using sodium pentathol and polygraph were to

be undertaken in order to gather intelligence information on hostile groups. 28

Reflecting the political instability surrounding the transfer of power from

Lleras to Valencia, the Yarborough team presented this final report to the

Special Group (Counter-insurgency) with a secret supplement. In view of the

economic and political environment in Colombia, the team believed that

'positive measures' were needed should the internal security situation

deteriorate further. Civilian and military personnel, clandestinely selected

and trained in resistance operations, would be required in order to develop

an underground civil and military structure. This organisation was to

undertake 'clandestine execution of plans developed by the United States

Government toward defined objectives in the political, economic, and military

fields'. 29 While pressuring for reforms, it would also undertake

'counter-agent and counter-propaganda' functions as well as 'paramilitary,

sabotage, and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents'.

Should such a structure already exist, the Yarborough team declared, it

should be immediately employed against communist elements. Indeed, the team

suspected that 'the Rurales operating in the Llanos are CAS (Covert Action

Staff) directed through DAS in Colombia.' If this was the case they believed

it was a 'step in the right direction' as long as CAS had 'positive

leadership influence' over the security force. 30


Actions and objectives proposed by the Yarborough team strengthened those

already recommended by the earlier survey. From this study a Colombian

Internal Defense Plan evolved designed to integrate military efforts with

the economic, social, and political aspects. The military portion of this

overall plan was prepared and implemented by the Colombian Army in the

summer of 1962 under the guidance of a US counter-insurgency MTT. Known

as Plan LAZO, it called for military action which would target leading

bandit elements and suppress and eliminate guerrilla forces; broad civic

action programmes within the violence zones; and an improved anti-violence

apparatus in order to maintain internal security. Although direct combat

use of US Special Forces A-teams did not happen, maximum use of training

MTTs was made instead. 31 With the inception of Plan LAZO, counter-violence

measures became more determined as security force missions were increasingly

aimed towards destroy and capture. 32

Resurgent political violence which, by 1962, had increased 30 per cent

over 1960 incidence levels surrounded the transfer of power from Lleras to

Valencia. Elections in 1960, 1962, and again in 1964, aggravated party

factionalisation and fuelled partisan violence. 33 Former dictator Rojas

Pinilla added to these problems by attempting to break the National Front

political monopoly with the formation of the Alianza Nacional Popular (ANAPO)

movement in 1960. Semi-revolutionary organisations sympathetic to Cuba also

developed during this period. A 'Workers-Students-Peasants' Movement (MOEC)

was formed in January 1960 - Colombia's first Fidelista political

organisation - although its power faded after its leader, student Antonio

Larrota, was killed in May 1961. As well, the United Front of Revolutionary

Action (FUAR) led by Gloria Gaitan (daughter of the slain Liberal leader

of 1948) and husband Luis Emiro Valencia organised intellectuals in an

attempt to re-establish Gaitanism as a political force. Many splinter

groups which coalesced during this time were often organised by students

and intellectuals associated with these organisations, some of whom had

gone to Cuba and been trained in guerrilla warfare techniques. 34

Although the Communist Party was legal in Colombia (intelligence estimates

placed membership between 8,000 and 10,000 with an additional 28,000

sympathisers) it was excluded from the National Front political arrangement.

Instead the Partido Communista Colombiano (Colombian Communist Party-PCC)

attempted to infiltrate the hard-left elements of the Liberal party and

support and control labour strikes, demonstrations, and propaganda

distribution. Of greater concern to both US and Colombian security forces

were its attempts both to organise and strengthen communist enclaves which

had developed during the early Violencia period by establishing auto-defence

militia units and to obtain direction and control of bandit and former

Liberal guerrilla paramilitary capability. 35 Within these so-called

'independent republics', US intelligence estimated that 11 groups of

communist guerrillas consisting of 1,600 to 2,000 men were active. Another

29 former (non-communist) guerrilla groups of approximately 4,500 men

continued to exist, primarily in the southern and central departments of

Colombia. Remnants of the fighting since the assassination of Gaitan,

these groups continued to maintain arms and were unresponsive to government

actions to improve social and economic conditions in their areas unless it

was co-ordinated through former guerrilla leaders. Though largely inactive,

they remained a potential threat to the government, particularly if the

National Front system failed and partisan violence escalated in the

countryside. Finally, somewhere between 90 and 150 bandit gangs totalling

over 2,000 men were reported to be active primarily in the coffee-rich

Cauca Valley region. Operating in a highly individualistic, though

quasi-guerrilla fashion, these groups often maintained intelligence nets

throughout rural communities. Organisation, US intelligence specialists

concluded, had increased, and their operations were becoming more

co-ordinated. However, inter-bandit rivalry continued to cause clashes and

attempts by the communists to control these gangs had, at that point,

achieved little success. 36

Targeting the communist enclaves and the bandit gangs became the primary

aims of the Colombian Army under Plan LAZO. By late 1962, approximately 75

per cent of military forces were engaged in some form of antiviolence

measures. 37 To facilitate internal security in Colombia and throughout

the other American republics, the Latin American Special Action Force (1st

Special Forces, 8th Special Forces Group) had been stationed in the Canal

Zone in August 1962. It provided the majority (90 per cent) of mobile

training teams used in support of internal defence. Numerous MTTs involved

in a broad range of instruction went to Colombia in the decade after the

Yarborough team report. Everything from supply, engineering, sanitation,

and other civic action projects, to intelligence, counter-insurgency,

psychological warfare, and special operations were taught. Indeed, more MTTs

were sent to Colombia during this period than anywhere else in Latin America. 38

In 1962 several major initiatives were undertaken by US military training

teams which had considerable long-range impact on the Colombian Army. The

counter-insurgency MTT, as previously discussed, was instrumental in the

development of Plan LAZO. Initial training in psychological warfare was also

conducted by this team and then followed-up by an MTT which oriented the

Colombian Army Staff and the War College class in psychological operations.

In early November a civic action team was deployed to formulate plans,

develop operational methodology, and improve Troop Information and Education

(TI and E) programmes in conjunction with US Information Services and the

Agency for International Development (AID). Under the auspices of this team a

'propaganda' (information) platoon was organised, trained, and field tested in

Cundinamarca, the department around Bogota, in 1963. 39

Civic action within the context of Plan LAZO was implemented as a means of

improving internal security. By having military forces undertake projects on

behalf of citizens, the government showed concern and interest in its people.

Economic development often alleviated factors contributing to violence,

opening areas to greater pacification efforts by security forces. Long-range

programmes involving health centres and roads seemed to be the most successful:

road construction fostered by the US Military Assistance Program (MAP) and MTT

support began in June 1963 and over the next several years gravel surfaced

routes were started in the violence-ridden departments of Huila, Cauca, Caldas,

Valle, Cundinamarca, Santander, and Tolima. Providing access for both civil and

military traffic, maintenance and construction of 'farm-to-market' and

penetration roads had a direct effect on the suppression of violence in these

areas. 40

Other proactive measures which the Colombian Army undertook with the aid of US

MTTs in violence-affected or communist-influenced areas included the construction

of water wells and potable water systems; literacy training programmes;

development of youth camps; and construction of rural schools and dispensaries

which provided dental treatment and medicine. In one instance, a dispensary

established in an area of Caldas department was instrumental in turning the

populace against one leader of a bandit gang. 41 While not directly under US

military control through Plan LAZO, community action groups and public safety

programmes were simultaneously begun under the Alliance for Progress. Assistance

was provided to enhance community development at the local level, and both the

National Police and DAS were given aid in order to improve training,

administration, operations, communications, and public relations. A close

working relationship also continued between US and Colombian labour through AID,

the AFL-CIO, and ORIT (Inter-American Regional Labor Organization). Training,

loans for low-cost workers' homes, scholarships for trade union studies, and

factory tours in the United States were facilitated through the newly formed

(spring 1962) American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). 42

Communications Networks

In November 1962 the US Army Mission prepared a plan for a civic action

communications network in the Llanos - Amazonas regions. A civic action MTT

extensively surveyed existing communication nets throughout Colombia, as well

as identifying those still in the planning phase. During this survey a Colombian

Ministry of Government project for the area was discovered which had been

delayed due to funding problems. After some negotiation, a joint agreement was

reached to combine the two plans, and a completion date set for December 1963. 43

The new system allowed military, police, and border elements to utilise the

system for security purposes while, at the same time, the central government

could also maintain closer communication links with its territorial areas (see

Map 2). By 1965 plans were formulated to expand the communications net into

isolated regions along the western (Pacific) coastline of Colombia. 44

Another communications project undertaken by the Mission, in conjunction with

plans developed by a Colombian Air Force officer, was the development of a

rural civil defence early-warning radio net. Established in violent areas with

the support of the local community, it was utilised as a means of gathering

intelligence and providing early warning against bandit or guerrilla attacks.

Each net was considered a 'Federation' with subscribers contributing 0 for

radio equipment which brought two-way communication down to individual farm

level. Originally the system was intended to link together the battalions in

I, III, VI, and VIII Brigade areas to the civilian populace and authorities,

to local and national police, and to the air force. 45 By spring 1965, 11

separate networks had been established, supported by federations which had

suffered considerable economic dislocation in the violence: coffee

co-operatives along the Cauca River in Caldas, Valle, and Tolima departments;

agricultural groups in the sugar growing region of Cauca department and

cotton growers in Magdalena department; and other armed agricultural groups

along the central Magdalena River Valley from Bolivar and the major oil

extraction and refining area of Santander department to Huila. (see Map 3).

Each net consisted of up to 100 citizen band radio sets distributed to farms,

civilian defense centers (net control stations), and military civil defense

monitor and repeater locations. Based on the success of the original nets,

another 47 were scheduled for installation in the 1966-68 period. 46

Vehicles, radios, and other equipment were also provided for II Brigade

(Guajira area) in order to establish a surveiIlance-intelligence net to

control Colombia's northern coast against subversive agents and contraband'. 47


An integral part of Plan LAZO was the development of intelligence structures

within the Colombian armed forces which would co-operate with the civilian DAS,

F-2 of the National Police, and other government agencies. Attempts to start an

intelligence establishment and training effort began, as described earlier,

with the two-man MTT of 1961. It was followed by a second, three-man military

training team which provided assistance from 18 May to 15 November 1962. A

permanent Mission intelligence adviser also arrived that same year. The team

gave several short-term (three week) 'crash' training programmes for

interrogators, mobile intelligence groups (grupos moviles de inteligencia -

GMI), and Localizadores teams (grupos inteligencia de localizadores - GILs or

Intelligence Hunter/Killer teams). GILs were composed of 25 veteran officers,

NCOs, and civilians, heavily armed, and trained to operate in the field for

long periods. They were used both to fight and penetrate hostile groups as well

as work with informants." 48

Perhaps the most notable military aspect of Plan LAZO, however, was the

adoption of counterguerrilla warfare techniques that were highly dependent

on sophisticated intelligence - gathering and analysis. ... Army tactical

units acquired a 'comando localizador,' or unconventional warfare shock

group, which clandestinely killed or captured guerrilla and bandit

leaders. In addition, Mobile Intelligence Groups (grupos moviles de

inteligencia) were attached to all major operating units. Their activities

seem to have included counter-guerrilla work similar to the comando

localizador, as well as information-gathering. 49

In April 1964 a Military Intelligence Battalion was created to undertake

combat intelligence, counter-intelligence, and special operations, and to

assist in coastal surveillance and internal security operations against

infiltration of agents, 'provocateurs', arms, and propaganda. It was also

utilised to find, destroy, or eliminate communist and extremist activities

through a network of clandestine agents. 50

>From May through October 1963, a joint US army, navy, and air force MTT was

sent to Colombia to update Plan LAZO and develop a Command level counter-

insurgency plan for the Colombian Armed Forces as a whole. Plan LAZO was

reviewed and validated, though the team concluded that it lacked

effectiveness as a joint operational plan, having been established strictly

for the Colombian Army's anti-violence effort. Still, it was used as the

basis upon which additional plans were formulated, including the Colombian

Armed Forces (Joint) Counterinsurgency Plan (1964-66). 51 Prior to the

arrival of the joint MTT, the Colombian Armed Forces developed and issued

Internal Security Directive 001. Directed at all three military services,

the National Police, and DAS, it called for co-operation through a Joint

Operations Center (JOC) and for the establishment of an intelligence agency

which would consider military and national intelligence requirements. 52

The joint MTT found the directive 'overly ambitious', particularly in the

Colombian ability to undertake combined arms actions. Still, fostering the

development of a National Intelligence Agency - plans for which the US

Mission Intelligence Advisor had helped to draft - was considered vital.

The team also spent considerable time establishing the basic guidelines

and organisational structure for the JOC. This came into being in 1964 and

was coupled with ongoing US army, navy, and air force coordination with

their Colombian counterparts in order to ensure a realistic assignment of

tasks and missions under Directive 001. 53

Reacting to the Violencia

Incidents in the early years of the Valencia administration added urgency

to the anti-violence measures undertaken by the government. Riots by

strikers in the petroleum industry in 1963, nightly bombings in Bogota and

other cities in August that same year, as well as 'nuisance' bombings to

protest joint US - Colombian naval exercises (Operation 'America') in

November, raised the spectre of urban terrorism grafted on to the ongoing

rural crisis. 54 On 3 November the Venezuelan government discovered an

arms cache of Cuban origin intended for Colombian guerrillas. This fuelled

fears of Cuban-backed subversion in the area, though in fact most of the

arms held by bandit and guerrilla groups came from army stocks through

theft or illicit purchase. Still, there were reports of arms smuggling, as

in the earlier Violencia period, across the borders of Venezuela, Panama,

and Ecuador. 55 City bombings directed at property continued into 1964,

with radical sections of ANAPO, the Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal

(Liberal Revolutionary Movement-MRL, hardline), and communists being blamed

for the actions. 56 That summer, a bomb factory outside of Bogota blew up

and documents linking the factory owners to Venezuelan guerrillas and

suspected Colombian terrorist groups were found. 57 Security forces,

though, continued to have success both against urban terrorists (killing or

capturing nearly two dozen people largely associated with the FUAR and MOEC),

and rural bandits (killing 388 in 1962 alone). 58

A concentrated effort by Colombia's security forces to co-ordinate

antiviolence measures continued through the Valencia presidency. Psychological

warfare and public information campaigns were undertaken in conjunction with

civic action and counter-insurgency operations. A psychological operations MTT

in 1964 trained over 100 officers and NCOs at army and brigade level in

tactics, planning and dissemination of propaganda, and coordinating

psychological warfare with combat operations. 59 On 24 May 1963 the First

Tactical Helicopter Squadron was established at Palenquero; it was used

extensively to move troops, provide resupply and medical evacuation, and for

reconnaissance missions. 60 Numerous other joint efforts were initiated

including the creation of an Armed Forces Intelligence Committee which had

DAS, National Police, and other governmental agencies representation; an

intelligence school which trained personnel on an inter-service basis; and a

Joint Air Coordination and Photo Interpretation Center to coordinate air photo

mapping and surveillance responsibilities. All were formed under the supervision

of US MTTs and civilian agencies. 61

Even prior to the inception of Plan LAZO, action against the communist-influenced

independent republics was deemed essential to Colombian internal security. While

most of these regions were relatively passive and caused little interference in

government affairs, 62 they had gradually developed shadow governments, ruled by

skilled Marxist guerrilla leaders, not subject to control from Bogota. 63 Early

in the National Front period, Lleras Camargo attempted a two-track policy against

the guerrilla zones. Peasants were encouraged to participate in rehabilitation

programmes while guerrilla leadership which resisted government efforts to gain

local support were eliminated. 64 This was the case in 1961, when the Republic of

Marquetalia was declared by guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda Velez (also known

as 'Tiro Fijo' or Sure Shot). The Lleras government, fearing that a Cuban-style

revolutionary situation might develop, launched a surprise attack against the

area in early 1962. Although unsuccessful in driving the irregular forces from

their stronghold, several army outposts were established in the area. 65

Ironically, Marulanda had begun his guerrilla career in the early (1949)

Violencia period with other Liberal irregular forces from the area. His group

later combined with communist fighters in the conflict prior to the formation of

the National Front. 66

Probing actions against the enclaves accelerated after Plan LAZO was developed. A

long-term strategy was adopted and implemented in five phases:

(1) counter-guerrilla training was given to security forces, civic action

programmes were initiated, security personnel were infiltrated into guerrilla

groups, and informers were recruited;

(2) psychological operations were undertaken in order to establish control over

the civilian population;

(3) operations were initiated to blockade specific areas and isolate guerrilla

groups from their sources of support

and intelligence;

(4) in-place informers and infiltrators were used to splinter the internal

cohesion of the guerrilla groups and ongoing offensive counterinsurgency

operations coupled with psychological warfare were undertaken to destroy

guerrilla units and leadership;

(5) operational zones were reconstructed economically, socially, and politically

under the auspices of US aid programmes. 67

Operation Marquetalia

For Colombian security forces, 1964-65 were pivotal years in the struggle against

the enclaves. On 18 May 1964 the Valencia government launched Operation

'Marquetalia' against Marulanda's guerrilla forces. A combined arms approach was

used including heavy artillery, bombing by the air force, and infantry and police

encirclement of suspected guerrilla villages. 68 Some 3,500 men swept through

designated combat zones while 170 elite troops were airlifted into Marulanda's

hacienda redoubt in an attempt to trap the guerrilla leader. 69 Paez Indians had

been recruited and were used with notable success against the guerrillas as

scouts and guides through difficult terrain. 70 Most of the guerrillas, including

Marulanda, were driven out of the Marquetalia area, escaping the army cordon into

the neighbouring 'republic' of Rio Chiquito. On 20 July 1964 Marulanda and other

guerrilla leaders from the Tolima-Cauca-Huila border areas met in the First

Southern Guerrilla Conference. Declaring themselves 'victims of the policy of

fire and sword proclaimed and carried out by the oligarchic usurpers of power',

the new coalition called for 'armed revolutionary struggle to win power'. 71

Composed originally of both communist and non-communist bandit and irregular

forces, this southern guerrilla bloc, with some financial and political aid from

the PCC, consolidated its command into the unified group which became known as

the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Colombian Revolutionary Armed

Forces or FARC). 72 Still, by 1965, relentless anti-guerrilla campaigns by

Colombia's security forces ended the existence of the so-called independent

republics. Coupled with ongoing anti-bandit operations, significant progress was

made in suppressing rural violence after the inception of Plan LAZO. In June

1965 Colombian Army Intelligence listed 30 guerrilla-bandit gangs with a combined

strength of some 700-800 men as still active:

I Brigade - three bands totalling 25-30 men.

III Brigade - three bands totalling 170-225 men.

(one band, headed by communist 'Mayor Ciro', 150-200 men)

IV Brigade - five bands totalling 50-60 men.

V Brigade - four bands totalling 65 men.

(40 in the Ejercito de Liberacion National (National Liberation Army- ELN)]

VI Brigade - twelve active bands totaling 375-400 men.

(six of the bands were communist containing 250-300 men)

VIII Brigade - three bands totaling 25 men. 73


In the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, US policy initiatives during the

early National Front period in Colombia resonated positively, particularly in the

military field. Yet while there was a close alignment in the US-Colombian security

relationship during this time, strategic needs and perceptions of those needs

often differed. For the United States, counterinsurgency, paramilitary operations,

and internal defence became integral parts of US national security policy in the

Cold War arena. Colombian officials, both Liberal and Conservative, undertook

these policies as organic to the survival of the nation - although they were

concerned by the implications of the revolution in Cuba and were prepared to act

in concert with the United States in order to best protect their own perceptions

of the national interest.

While the National Front system initially provided stability, restricting

dangerous political antagonisms, it also restricted normal political competition.

This contributed to voter apathy, infighting within the parties, and the formation

of more extreme political elements. Disillusionment with the Valencia government

increased as economic, political, juridical, and social problems underwent only

marginal reforms, and political opportunism continued. 74 Still, this early

period offered the armed forces the opportunity to depoliticise their image and

concentrate on those groups considered dangerous or subversive by the new inter-

party government. Through the Colombian Internal Defense Plan, the US played a

substantial role in facilitating the development of all aspects of Colombia's

internal security infrastructure.

Plan LAZO proved to be an ambitious anti-violence effort for the Colombian Armed

Forces, given the previous lack of counter-insurgency training or intelligence

support available. Although not wholly successful, many bandit and guerrilla

forces were eliminated and zones which might have been used effectively as base

areas ('focos') for staging guerrilla operations were placed under government

control. Civic action contributed to both social development and economic growth,

but it also 'increased the public's expectation of, and created bureaucratic

mechanisms for, the military's presence to be felt in time of national political

tension'. Indeed, the political advocacy and forced resignation of General Ruiz

Novoa caused the government to better co-ordinate civic action into its future

counterinsurgency programmes while re-emphasising 'the physical repression of

guerrillas as the primary task of the armed forces'. 75 By 1966 the Violencia

period had effectively been brought to an end. However, new internal security

problems related to this earlier violence did arise. Mobile FARC forces

developed in VI Brigade area and early in 1965, unrelated to the campaign

against the enclaves, an attack on the village of Simacota (V Brigade - Santander

Department) was undertaken by the ELN (formed in 1963--64). This was considered

to be 'the first prominent incident of Castro backed insurgency during the

National Front tenure'. 76 Another radical group, the PCC-ML (Marxist-Leninist)

was also founded in 1964 in reaction to the pro-Soviet line of the 'mainstream'

PCC. Pro-Maoist, its action arm the Ejercito Popular de Liberacion (Popular Army

of Liberation - EPL) was formed several years later. 77 With this new potential

threat of organised rural insurgency coupled to urban kidnappings and other acts

of terrorism, Colombia remained 'one of the stickiest areas' for internal

security problems in Latin America. 78 Nonetheless, the security structures

established by Colombians in collaboration with the United States during this

period - psychological operations capability, inter-regional communications

networks, and an intelligence and counter-insurgency apparatus - have proved to

be essential to a nation which appears to be plagued by 'permanent and endemic

warfare'. 79


1. I am particularly indebted to Ms Hannah Zeidlik, Ms Gerri Harcarik, and Dr

Don Carter of the US Amy Center of Military History. Mr John Taylor, Mr Edward

Reese, and Mr Will Mahoney of the US National Archives, Ms Kate Doyle and the

staff of the US National Security Archives, and Dr Richard Stewart of the John

F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center US Army Special Operations Command Archives

for facilitating my research.

2. Russell W. Ramsey, 'Critical Bibliography on La Violencia in Colombia'. Latin

American Research Review 9/1 (Spring 1973), p.3.

3. 'Army Roles. Missions, and Doctrine in Low-intensity Conflict (ARMLIC):

Preconflict Case Study 2 - Colombia.' File HRC 319. 1. US Army Center of

Military History Archives, Washington, DC (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Operations

Research, Inc. under contract No. DAAG 25-67-0702 for US Army Combat

Developments Command, 15 Dec. 1969), pp.xii, 1,9-10.

4. 'National Intelligence Estimate: NEE 88-65 - Prospects for Colombia, 9 July

1965'. Declassified Document Quarterly Series, Vol. 14 (1988), Microform

003075 (Washington. DC: Carrollton Press, 1989), p.3. (Hereafter referred to as


5. 'Staff Summary Supplement #247 - Colombia Seeks Aid in Suppressing Bandit

Groups, July 1959'; 'Staff Summary Supplement #315 - US May Survey Colombian

Guerrilla Problem. 23 Sept. 1959'; DDQS. Vol. 10 (1984), Microforms 002410,

000249, 1 page supplements.

6. 'Summary and Conclusions', File 228-01 Permanent: HRC Geog G Colombia

400.318 (Washington. DC: US Army Center of Military History-Colombia File,

1965). p.33. (Hereafter referred to as Colombia Document). Clearly, US

advisory and training efforts and the Military Assistance Program had also

been used to influence military efforts in Colombia for several decades,

although the primary focus had previously been directed towards conventional

warfare and hemisphere defence.

7. 'State Visit by Colombian President Lleras. 5-16 April 1960: Position Paper

- US Assistance to Colombia in Combatting Guerrillas'. DDQS Vol.8 (1982).

Microform 002466(A). p.2.

8. 'Summary and Conclusions', Colombia Document. p.53.

9. 'Colombia Survey Team Recommendations for US Action'. ibid., Annex A to

Tab E. pp. 1-2.

10. 'Planning and Objectives'. ibid., Tab E p. 1.

11. As note 9. pp.3- 10.

12. Ibid.

13. 'Central Intelligence Agency Office of Central Reference Biographic

Register: Alberto Lleras Camargo, December 1961', in CIA Research Reports, Latin

America, 1946-1976, Reel 2. Document No. 0506, p.2; 'Agency for International

Development - Spring Review: Agrarian Reform in Colombia, June 1970'. in AID

Spring Review of Land Reform, June 1970, 2nd Edition, Vol. V - Land Review in

Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela (Washington, DC: Dept of State, 1970). Summary;

Jorge P. Osterling, Democracy in Colombia: Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla

Warfare (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. 1989), p.97.

14. 'Memorandum From E.P. Airand to General A. J. Goodpaster (Staff Secretary

to the President), 7 April 1960'; Memorandum From Maj. John S.D. Eisenhower

(Assistant Staff Secretary) to Douglas Dillon (Under Secretary of State). 14

April 1960'; 'Memorandum From Maj. John S.D Eisenhower to John N. Irwin 11

(Assistant Secretary of Defense). 14 April 1960', DDQS Vol. 10 (1984),

Microform 001306, 1 page supplements.

15. 'Colombia Survey Team Recommendations for US Action'. Colombia Document,

Annex A to Tab E. p.2.

16. 'Memorandum From John N. Irwin to Maj. John Eisenhower, 16 April 1960', in

DDQS Vol. 10 (1984), Microform 000834, 1 page.

17. Richard Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas, and Politics in Colombia (Lexington,

MA: Lexington Books, 1973), pp.66-7. Violence in Colombia had transformed itself

from primarily politically-motivated guerrilla warfare to agrarian extortion

practiced by bandits. There were exceptions, most notably in the so-called

'independent republics' - Agriari, Viota, Tequendama, Sumapaz, El Pato,

Guayabero, Suroeste del Tolima. Rio Chiquito, 26 de Septiembre, and Marquetalia

- which formed in southern Cundinamarca and eastern Tolima. Most were controlled

by (Liberal) irregular peasant groups, though several were influenced by

communists. Coffee plantations were primarily affected by bandit groups,

although owners of sugar, cotton, and cacao were also subject to extortion by

these gangs who would sell the crops through the black market. Both guerrilla

and bandit groups often maintained 'subrosa political relationships with major

figures of the legitimate government and opposition involving the trade of

votes, hatchet jobs, and influence'. (Maullin, p.8) These links with local and

central power structures made anti-violence measures particularly difficult to

undertake in the pre-National Front period. (See Norman A. Bailey, 'La Violencia

in Colombia.' Jnl of Inter-American Studies 9 (Oct. 1967). pp. 561-75.)

18. 'Helicopter Operations in Colombia'. Tab L. p. 1. 'Military Sales and

Military Assistance Part I - 1943 to 1960'. Tab 1. p.6; 'Planning and

Objectives'. Tab E. p. 2, Colombia Document.

19. Ibid. except 'Planning and Objectives'

20. Alberto Ruiz Novoa. El Gran Desafio (Bogota: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1965).

pp.53 and 95-88, as cited in Maullin (note 17), p.68.

21. 'Mission History - US Army Mission to Colombia, 1959 and 1960,' Colombia

Document, Tab C. pp.93-4. 98.

22. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia. 1961-1965'. ibid.. Tab F. p. 1.

23. 'Public Relations, Public Information, Troop Information and Education (TI

and E). and Psychological Warfare', ibid., Tab M, p.2.

24. Russell W. Ramsey, 'The Modern Violence in Colombia, 1946-1965', PhD Thesis

(Gainesville, FL: Univ. of Florida, 1970). pp.405-6.

25. 'Planning and Objectives', ibid.. Tab E, pp. 1-2.

26. 'Visit to Colombia, South America, by a Team from Special Warfare Center.

26 February 1962 - Major Conclusions', pp.3-4, Low Intensity Conflict document

collection, National Security Archives, Washington, DC (Hereafter referred to

as LIC doc. coil.).

27. 'Visit to Colombia, South America by a Team from Special Warfare Center,

26 February 1962 - Recommendations'. pp.5-8. LIC doc. coll.

29. 'Visit to Colombia, South America by a Team from Special Warfare Center,

26 February 1962 - Narrative Report: Survey Team Activities Colombia,

Observations,: pp. 1-8. LIC doc. coil.

29. All quotes from' Colombia Survey Report - Secret Supplement. 26 February

1962'. 1 page, LIC doc. coll.

30. Ibid. The acronym 'CAS' given within the context of the secret supplement

seems intimately related to what Philip Agee describes as the merging of CIA's

former International Organizations Division and the Psychological and

Paramilitary Staff into Covert Action Staff. (Philip Agee. Inside The Company -

CIA Diary (Baltimore: Penguin Books. 1975). p.319.]. However, Agee places this

name change in the Plans Directorate early in 1964. (See also Loch Johnson.

America's Secret Power. The CIA in a Democratic Society (NY. OUP, 1989) and

Alfred H. Paddock, Jr.. US Army Special Warfare: Its Origins (Washington, DC:

National Defense UP, 1982) for further information on CAS and its origins.)

CAS - Panama was also consulted by the Yarborough team before they left for

Colombia. With regards to the Rurales, they consisted of about 120

horse-mounted, non-uniformed, government paid police (the report compares

them to the Texas Rangers) which patrolled sections of the Llanos. Their

inception appears to stem from the early period or the military dictatorship

of Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (June 1953-May 1957) - see Ramsey (note 24),


31. 'Planning and Objectives', Tab E. pp.1-3; 'Summary and Conclusions', pp.

1, 26, 33, Colombia Document.

32. 'Summary and Conclusions', ibid., pp.5. 18.

33. Maullin (note 17), pp.28-9.

34. Richard Gott, Rural Guerrillas in Latin America (Middlesex: Penguin Books.

1973). pp.291-2: Maullin (note 17). p.29. Colombia had broken diplomatic

relations with Cuba in Dec. 1961 and supported Kennedy's action through the

Cuban Missile Crisis in Oct. 1962.

35. Capt. Charles L. Daschle, AI(CE) Assistant G2, US Army Special Warfare

Center, 'The Background to Potential Insurgency in Colombia, 9 Sept., 1962'.

pp.3-6. John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center - United States Army Special

Operations Command Archives. Fort Bragg. North Carolina. (Hereafter referred

to as JFKSWC - USASOC Achives).

36. Ibid.. pp.7-16; 'Summary and Conclusion'. Colombia Document. p. 18.

37. 'Minutes, of Meeting of Special Group (CI). 12 April 1962'. p.3, in LIC

doc. coll.

38. Capt. Roy Benson, Jr, 'The Latin American Special Action Force of the US

Army as a Counterinsurgency Force. December 1965'. p.2; 'Classified US Army

Special Forces MTT Missions, Latin America 1962-1973, Enclosure 2 - Colombia,'

pp.2-7, both in Jack Taylor Donation Box 2 - Vietnam: Files - Latin America -

MTTs, Colombia - MTTs, NSA. See also 'Training', Annex B to Tab K (Mobile

Training Teams 1960-1968) Colombia Document for MTT information not

declassified in Jack Taylor collection.

39. 'Public Relations, Public Information. TI and E, and Psychological Warfare'.

Colombia Document, Tab M. p. 1.

40. 'The US Army and Civic Action in Latin America, Vol. 3 (I July 1963 to June

1967)', prepared by Staff Historian, Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 HQ-USARSO, Oct.

1968. File USARSO-1. 1963-67 cy. 1, pp.32-4. Center for Military History

Archives; 'Civic Action Projects,' Colombia Document, Tab H, pp. 1-2.

41. 'History of Counterinsurgency Training in Latin America (Oct. 1962 to 31 Dec.

1965), 3D Civil Affairs Detachment.' prepared by 3D Civil Affairs Detachment,

Fort Clayton, Canal Zone Headquarters, United States Army Forces Southern

Command. File 8-2.9A DA cy. 1. p. 1. US Army Center of Military History

Archives: 'Civic Action Projects'. Colombia Document Tab H. pp.2-4. 7-8.

42. 'Alliance for Progress - The Progress of Colombia -Third Year: 17 August

1961-17 August 1964.' Tab D. pp.19-21; 'US Assistance Strategy'. Part III to

Tab D. pp. 3-4. Colombia Document.

43. 'After Action Report, Civic Action Mobile Training Team No.48-MTT-01-63.

Colombia, South America, 10 May 1963,' pp.6-7. JFKSWC-USASOC Archives.

44. 'Civic Action Projects: Llanos - Amazonas National Territories Net'.

Columbia Document. Tab H. pp.5-7.

45. As note 43, pp.7-8.

46. 'Civic Action Projects: Rural Civil Defense Early Warning Radio Nets'.

Colombia Document. Tab H. pp.4-5.

47. 'Training'. ibid., Tab K, p. 6.

48. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia (1961-1965)', ibid.. Tab F. pp. 1-4.

49. Maullin (note 17). p.75.

50. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia (1961-1965)', Colombia Document.

Tab F p.5.

51. 'Report of Joint Mobile Training Team to Colombia (RCS CSGPO-125). No.

48-MTT-104-63. 19 November 1963', pp. 1,5. JFKSWC-USASOC Archives. As late as

1965, however. some did not consider the overall Colombian Country Team Internal

Defense Plan (IDP) 'a true Internal Defense Plan as envisaged in the Washington

Special Group Guidance dated September 1962. It merely treats the problem from a

military viewpoint and does not include all the elements necessary to insure a

well integrated and overall planning guidance for all agencies of the US CT.'

(See 'Summary and Conclusions'. ibid., p.34.).

52. 'Planning and Objectives', ibid., Tab E, p.3.

53. 'Report of Joint Mobile Training Team to Colombia (RCS CSGOP - 125). No

48-MTT-104-63. 18 Nov. 1963'. pp.3-6: 'Planning and Objectives'. Colombia

Document. Tab E. p.3.

54. 'Central Intelligence Agency - Survey of Latin America, OCI No. 1063/64.

1 April 1964,' p.65, CIA Research Reports, Latin America. 1946-1976.

55. 'Clandestine Arms Traffic in Latin America and the Insurgency Problem'

Research Memorandum RAR-49, 29 November 1963. Department of State, Bureau of

Intelligence and Research, DDQS Vol.14 (1988). Microform 003336. p.2;

'Memorandum for the President from Dean Rusk - Venezuelan Announcement of

Cuban Origin of Discovered Arm Cache, 27 November 1963', DDQS Vol. 15 (1989).

Microform 002137, p. 1.

56. 'Summary and Conclusions'. Colombia Document. p.16.

57. 'Guerrilla and Terrorist Activity in Latin America: A Brief Review',

Research Memorandum RAR - 38. 18 November 1964, Department of State, Director

of Intelligence and Research, DDQS Vol.2 (1976), Microform 283(C). p.2.

58. 'Central Intelligence Agency Memorandum - Cuban Training of Latin American

Subversives, OCI No. 0515/63, 27 March 1963', pp. 15-56. CIA Research Reports.

Latin America, 1946-1976. There is some discrepancy in the figures estimated

earlier by the Special Forces intelligence officer (150 bandit groups, approx.

2,000 men) and the sanitised source for the CIA. Figures from the latter for

1962 alone estimated 2.582 bandits captured, 1,020 detained on suspicion of

banditry, and 388 bandits killed. The CIA estimate does acknowledge that only

about two per cent of all those arrested and detained were actually convicted

and sentenced.

59. 'Public Relations. Public Information, TI and E, and Psychological

Warfare'. Colombia Document. Tab M. p.3.

60. 'Helicopter Operations in Colombia'. ibid., Tab 1, pp.3-5.

61. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia (1961-1965),' ibid.. Tab F. pp.

2-7. For the full extent of US training see Tab F - Inclusion 1, 'Intelligence

School Courses' and Tab F Inclusion 2. 'Military Training Teams' of the ibid.

Some instructional delays did occur. A Special Operations MTT scheduled for

July 1964 was cancelled because it was not US policy to give that type of

instruction to Latin American countries at that time. Under strong Mission

pressure, the course did go ahead the following year, though clearly the

intent of US military training teams was not to teach these kinds of courses

in order to circumvent regular juridicial proceedings against hostile elements.

As well, a Polygraph MTT scheduled for the same year was also cancelled due to

CAS objections over the possible compromise of sources.

62. 'Summary and Conclusions', ibid.. p. 11.

63. Osterling (note 13), p.280.

64. Alberto Gomez. 'The Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia', as quoted in

Gott (note 34). p.298.

65. James D. Henderson. When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violencia in

Tolima (Tuscaloosa, AL: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1985). pp. 221-2.

66. Osterling (note 13). p.295. Marulanda was a member of the Central

Committee of the Communist Party as were several others within the guerrilla

leadership (see Gott note 34, pp.279-89).

67. Gilberto Vieira, 'La Colombie a I'heure du Marquetalia'. Democratie

Nouvelle, July-Aug. 1965, as quoted in Gott (note 34). pp.299-300.

68. Henderson (note 65). p.222.

69. 'The Backlands Violence is Almost Ended', Time, 26 June 1964, p.31.

70. Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley, Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America:

A Comparative Study of Insurgents and Regimes Since 1956 (Princeton, NJ:

Princeton UP, 1992). p. 146.

71. All quotes from Manuel Marulanda Velez, 'The Republic of Marquetalia -

Manifesto issued 20 July 1964 by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia

(FARC)', in J. Gerassi (ed.) The Coming of the New International (NY: World

Publishing Co., 197 1), pp.502-3.

72. Maullin (note 17), pp. 14, 30, 40.

73. Ibid., pp. 18- 19.

74. 'Summary and Conclusions'. Colombia Document, pp.9, 28.

75. All quotes Maullin (note 17), pp.78-9.

76. 'Summary and Conclusions', Colombia Document, p.6.

77. Osterling (note 13). p.314.

78. 'Memorandum for the President from McGeorge Bundy: Colombia, 20 June

1965,' DDQS Vol. 10 (1984), Microform 002770, p. 1.

79. Gonzalo Sanchez, 'La Violencia in Colombia: New Research, New Question.'

(trans. Peter Bakewell), Hispanic American Historical Review 65 (April 1985),



Long ago, U.S. knew the troubles Colombia faced

St. Petersburg Times, Mar 6, 2001, by David Adams

More than 40 years ago a special team of U.S. security experts conducted a

secret survey of the complex conflict in Colombia.

Its findings were extraordinary, especially considering the time at which

they were written. They also bear particular relevance to the current debate

over U.S. policy.

"There's a remarkable similarity between what they called for then and what

is being done now," said Dennis Rempe, a Canadian military scholar who has

studied declassified U.S. documents.

The survey concluded that, short of "genocide or bankruptcy," no military

solution existed to Colombia's conflict. Instead, Colombia required

wide-ranging reform of its social, political and economic system.

Made up of CIA and military personnel, the special team outlined Colombia's

social ills, including a large rural population displaced by conflict,

widespread social inequality and a short-sighted political oligarchy that

served only its own interests.

The survey also suggested reorienting the Colombian security forces to

mount a coordinated domestic campaign to restore order, including efforts

to regain public trust in the armed forces.

Finally, the team advocated strong U.S. support for Colombia, in the form

of "special temporary aid."

This wasn't easy, largely due to some of the same foreign policy concerns

that exist today.

Although the Eisenhower administration was alarmed by a growing communist

threat in Latin America in the wake of the 1959 Cuban revolution, Congress

was reluctant to get militarily involved in countries with a poor

democratic track record.

Even so, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent a special shipment of

helicopters, vehicles, communications equipment and small arms to equip

Colombian anti-guerrilla units. With further U.S. guidance, in the summer

of 1962, the Colombian army began implementing the military portion of a

new defense plan.

"By 1966, Colombia's armed forces had conducted the most successful

counter-guerrilla/counter-bandit operations in the Western Hemisphere at

that time," according to Rempe.

But the military redirection was not matched by the kind of social and

political measures recommended by the special team.

"They (the U.S. team) had a vision of what was possible. But there was a

retrenchment of the political elites," said Rempe.

Fast-forward to 2001. With violence out of control once more, history is

repeating itself. Colombia has found itself back at square one. Worse, by

failing to address the social problems identified in 1960, the scale of

the crisis has grown exponentially.

Rural poverty is worse than ever. There are now almost 2-million displaced

people. Colombia also has become the world's largest supplier of cocaine,

fueling a conflict that no longer pits a few ill-funded leftist guerrillas

against the government. The guerrillas are now well- funded and well-armed.

In the absence of government action, fast- growing illegal paramilitary

forces also have emerged to wage their own private war.

So now, once again at Colombia's request, U.S. experts have been called

upon to help come up with a plan.

Have any lessons been learned from the past? It's perhaps too early to


Last year, Congress approved .3-billion in largely military funding for

Plan Colombia, an international proposal to stamp out the drug trade and

bring peace and stability to Colombia. For the first time, the .5-billion

plan includes massive spending on economic development and rural

infrastructure, as well as judicial and administrative reform.

But Colombia is currently relying on much of that money to come from

non-U.S. sources, including a large chunk from its own reserves. Critics

question whether any of that money will ever be made available.

In Washington, many now ask whether the United States should take the

initiative by shifting its policy away from military spending and more

toward social and economic aid.

Some argue for a broader, more long-term strategy, such as that hinted at

in the 1960 survey.

But two things have happened since then that make any such commitment

hard to argue. Firstly, the Vietnam experience has given a bad name to

all military-related overseas involvement. Secondly, the growth of drug

consumption in the United States has had a tendency to warp foreign


Instead of helping Colombia fix its problems by a concerted policy of

nation-building, U.S. foreign policy has been geared to one thing: halting

the flow of drugs headed for the U.S. market. Nothing else matters. Not

even if U.S.-financed eradication of Colombia's coca fields results in

increased violence in Colombia, as well as pushing the drug war over its

borders into neighboring countries.

As the special team survey found in 1960, Colombia needs rebuilding.

Military aid can help. But that alone won't fix the problem.


Besides the assistance given by the US to Colombia in the early 1960s,

outlined above, another example is the reorganization of the Colombian

intelligence services in 1991, documented in the 1996 report of Human

Rights Watch, "Colombia's Killer Networks: The Military-Paramilitary

Partnership and the United States."

The intelligence reorganization plan is also online at

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