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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
POWELL DECLARES 'SHIFT IN POLICY'
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,
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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