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by ANNCOL Thursday, Mar. 21, 2002 at 11:13 PM

Covering itself in the language of the "war on terrorism," the Bush administration is rapidly laying the groundwork to escalate U.S. military intervention in Colombia's four- decade-long civil war. Revolutionary forces there are fighting to end U.S. domination and the grinding poverty that engulfs most of Colombia's 40 million people.

20.03.2002 (By By Greg Butterfield/Workers World) In late February, Colombian President Andres Pastrana had unilaterally ended peace talks with the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People's Army (FARC-EP). With Washington's blessing, the Colombian Army launched a massive bombing assault on the "demilitarized zone" in central Colombia.

The zone, encompassing an area twice the size of New Jersey,

had been the only part of Colombia free of military and

death-squad violence during the last three years.

The FARC-EP responded by fighting back. The Marxist rebels

have attempted to defend villages and towns in the zone and

have struck at death-squad paramilitary units working with

the army. They also called on workers and peasants to

boycott the March 10 congressional elections.

Under "Plan Colombia," begun by the Clinton administration,

Washington has promised .3 billion in military aid to the

Colombian regime. George W. Bush wants the total package

raised to billion, and all restrictions ended on how the

aid can be used. Current U.S. law says the military aid is

to be used for the "war on drugs."

It is an open secret that U.S. military aid, including Black

Hawk helicopters and at least 100 U.S. "advisors," are

already being deployed against the revolution. But Bush and

Pastrana want all restrictions struck down.

The Bush administration is also pushing for an additional

million to protect a pipeline in Colombia owned by U.S.

oil giant Occidental Petroleum. In 2001 Occidental lost an

estimated million in profits because of attacks on the


On March 5 the Christian Science Monitor reported that the

U.S. money will fund a new Colombian Army brigade set up

specifically to protect Occidental's pipe line. The

brigade's official badge shows a soldier guarding an oil



Maj. Gen. Gary Speer, acting commander of the U.S. Southern

Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services

Committee March 5. Speer praised Pastrana for breaking off

talks with the FARC-EP and invading the DMZ. He also said,

"The Colombian military and the Colombian police lack the

resources to fully reestablish a safe and secure environment

throughout the countryside." (Voice of America, March 5)

On March 6, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell "suggested

the Bush administration was preparing to shift its policy on

Colombia by giving more help to the government in its

confrontation with Marxist guerrillas." (Financial Times,

March 7)

In lockstep, the same day the U.S. House of Representatives

approved by voice vote a resolution "inviting" the Bush

administration to seek legislation ending the current

restrictions on U.S. military aid to Colombia. The

resolution also expressed support for the Pastrana regime's


The resolution received bipartisan support. Influential

Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy was reported to be a major

backer of the proposed policy shift.

Surprisingly, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a Republican member of

the House International Relations Committee and its

subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, was one of the few

to oppose the resolution. A statement issued by Paul

condemned the suddenness of the resolution, which he said

was sprung on the Congress with little notice.

"The legislation represents a very serious and significant

shift in United States foreign policy toward Colombia," Paul

said. "It sets us on a slippery slope toward unwise military

intervention in a foreign civil war that has nothing to do

with the United States."

Paul said "commercial interests [are] driving U.S. foreign

policy" under high-sounding calls to "protect democracy" and

"stop drug trafficking."

"Like Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq and elsewhere, that

commercial interest appears to be related to oil."

Pastrana said he was pleased by the congressional vote. He

appealed to Bush and Congress to repeal all restrictions on

U.S. military aid, labeling the revolutionary movement as


Pastrana also said that peace talks could resume. But his

sincerity was called into question by the comments of

Interior Minister Armando Estrada. Speaking on the army

television station, Estrada announced a bounty of nearly

0,000 for information leading to the capture of rebel

leaders, including FARC's top commander, Manuel Marulanda,

and its chief negotiator, Raul Reyes, Xinhua News Agency reported.

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