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Matthew Knoester

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War in Colombia

Matthew Knoester’s essay examines the “war on drugs” in Colombia, arguably the most violent country in the hemisphere. Americans know that the U.S. government and press targeted Colombia’s outgoing president, Ernesto Samper, for accepting drug money in his campaign. Despite the $600 million granted by the United States to the Colombian military and national police over the last seven years (since 1991), drug production and export have continued to rise. Economic growth in Columbia has been accompanied by paramilitary and military repression. Military aid is used for purposes other than fighting drugs: 70% of the assassinations, massacres, and enforced disappearances of noncombatant civilians were committed by the Colombian army and police or by paramilitary groups and privately financed death squads operating in partnership with state forces. The high level of impunity enjoyed there by human rights violators was aggravated by judicial reforms in 1991. U.S.-sponsored “faceless” courts, which gave judges, prosecutors, and key witnesses anonymity to protect their identities, undermined important procedural rights contained in the constitution and served to mask corruption. Under a “state of internal commotion” executive decree, the president has the power to limit internationally recognized human rights, within the constitution. The decrees grant broad powers to the military, legalizing arbitrary and repressive measures. Not surprisingly, the report recommends opposition to all U.S. military aid to Colombia.

Colombia — drug trade, Colombia — foreign relations — United States, Colombia — human rights, Colombia — political repression, drug trade — Colombia, human rights — Colombia, United States — foreign relations — Colombia, United States — social policy — drug control policy, right-wing paramilitaries; impunity

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 25, No. 2 (1998): 85-109