TCS Daily


Two Equivalent Evils?

By Alvaro Vargas Llosa - March 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Almost five years after President Alvaro Uribe declared war on them, Colombia's narco-guerrillas have scored a victory against that country's democracy. It has been revealed that a significant part of the political establishment had unsavory ties with the right-wing paramilitary umbrella group known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo had to resign last week after her brother, a congressman, was arrested in connection with the scandal.

Why does all of this constitute a victory for the left-wing narco-terrorists? The revelations are reinforcing the Manichean view, held by influential organizations inside and outside of Colombia, that the country's bloody conflict pits two equivalent evils against each other: a guerrilla force led astray by a few corrupt leaders who deal in drugs, and a fascist state organically tied to the drug business and desperate to preserve oligarchic rule. Although the recent revelations confirm that many public figures were in cahoots with the AUC, observers are missing an essential point: Almost all of the disclosures stem from the process set in motion by Uribe's government in pressuring the AUC to put down its weapons, confess its crimes and lift the veil of secrecy that concealed its ties to the establishment.

The real story is that, for decades, the Colombian government failed to provide security in the face of two Marxist organizations that killed, maimed and kidnapped countless civilians. One of those groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), became an economic empire through narco-trafficking. In the 1990s, the AUC came into being in order to enhance and coordinate the efforts of cattle ranchers who were trying to organize their own protection against the FARC and other groups. As usually happens when the breakdown of law and order makes a mockery of the state's claim to the monopoly of force, the paramilitary organization decided to obtain funding through drug trafficking and extortion. Thus, the FARC, mostly based in the South, and the AUC, mostly based along the Caribbean coast, became the competing enemies of Colombia's civil society -- under the impotent watch of the political institutions.

Since 2002, Uribe's leadership mobilized civil society against those enemies. The FARC's narco-guerrillas were pushed back to their bases deep in the interior. The AUC agreed to demobilize in exchange for reduced sentences and full confessions -- the type of ethically controversial, but perhaps inevitable, process that other societies, from South Africa to El Salvador, have undergone in the name of reconciliation. Unfortunately, Uribe's mistakes, especially his tendency to surround himself with several sympathizers of the AUC and his impatience with some left-wing human rights groups, now make it difficult to rescue an essential truth in the story of Colombia's scandal known as "para-politics'' -- that it was Uribe's success in pushing back the FARC and demobilizing the AUC that allowed the information about the latter's links with prominent politicians to come out.

"The policy of Democratic Security,'' Uribe told me, "is the one that confiscated the computer belonging to 'Jorge 40' and which constitutes part of the evidence on which the judicial investigations are based.'' He was referring to Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, one of the demobilized AUC leaders.

Of course, there is no excuse for the fact that an important part of Colombia's establishment engaged in the type of activities that the $4.7 billion in aid from the U.S. in recent years was supposed to combat. Nor is the fight against terrorism a justification for alternative forms of terrorism. But one must bear in mind that Colombia's war is not a conflict between two evils, but one that pits a civil society anxious to survive and preserve its liberal democracy against competing forms of crime made worse by a dysfunctional state.

As someone who has often made the point that Marxist totalitarian uprisings in Latin America do not excuse military dictatorships or authoritarian democracies, I am aware of the implications of ``para-politics.'' But let's be fair to Colombia's civilian institutions. The cathartic process the country is experiencing now could never have been possible under General Videla (Argentina), General Pinochet (Chile) or Alberto Fujimori (Peru), to mention three autocrats who used the presence of Marxist terrorism as an excuse to remain in power. We don't yet know whether Colombia's establishment will learn the lesson. But so far the judicial system has taken bold steps without political interference. And that's not a bad thing.


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9 Comments

So the solution is to continue impunity??
There's a huge amount of bad history over the last 60 years in Colombia, starting from the Matanza. the author's idea seems to be to let this all be swept under the rug and ignored Tell this to the relatives of people who've been murdered

A few bad eggs
Let's put this scandal, in which a couple fo bad eggs have been found and led out for public display, into a fuller perspective.

>Washington, D.C., 2 August 2004 – Then-Senator and now President Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia was a “close personal friend of Pablo Escobar” who was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels,” according to a 1991 intelligence report from U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials in Colombia. The document was posted today on the website of the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research group based at George Washington University.

Uribe's inclusion on the list raises new questions about allegations that surfaced during Colombia's 2002 presidential campaign. Candidate Uribe bristled and abruptly terminated an interview in March 2002 when asked by Newsweek reporter Joseph Contreras about his alleged ties to Escobar and his associations with others involved in the drug trade. Uribe accused Contreras of trying to smear his reputation, saying that, “as a politician, I have been honorable and accountable.”

The newly-declassified report, dated 23 September 1991, is a numbered list of “the more important Colombian narco-traffickers contracted by the Colombian narcotic cartels for security, transportation, distribution, collection and enforcement of narcotics operations.” The document was released by DIA in May 2004 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Archive in August 2000.

The source of report was removed by DIA censors, but the detailed, investigative nature of the report suggests it was probably obtained from Colombian or U.S. counternarcotics personnel. The document notes that some of the information in the report was verified “via interfaces with other agencies.”

President Uribe — now a key U.S. partner in the drug war — “was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the United States” and “has worked for the Medellín cartel,” the narcotics trafficking organization led by Escobar until he was killed by Colombian government forces in 1993. The report adds that Uribe participated in Escobar's parliamentary campaign and as senator he had “attacked all forms of the extradition treaty” with the U.S.

http://www.williambowles.info/history/narco_colombia.html

The "War on Drugs" Strikes Again
The social conservatives and the "War on Drugs" have destabilized many of the Central and South American nations by driving up the profit margins for drugs without actually reducing the flow of drugs. There is a significant amount of U.S. tax money being sent to these nation's governments along with CIA, DEA, and ATF personnel that are causing more problems in these countries than they are curing.

The demand for drugs in the United States has not changed much throughout the "War on Drugs" and U.S. citizens have more than enough money to pay the increased prices, so the drugs will continue to flow. The only people getting rich of of this are the criminals and the politicians (same difference?).

It is time to end the "War on Drugs" in the U.S. and use our resources to treat problem drug users that are committing actual crime. Law should only tell people what they cannot do because it hurts others, not how to live their lives. Prohibition has never worked and never will, make illicit drugs by prescription only with all appropriate warnings on health impacts, and let the buyer make the choice.

You will never see the Walgreens and Osco pharmicist in the back alley having a shootout over turf. If you actually want to help people the "War on Drugs" is not the answer.

Thanx,

Kevin

an almost inconceivable depth of wrongheadedness and doublethink
This is amazing: the author says that facts emerging that the govenrment of Columbia is deeply linked to narcoterrorism is a defeat for democracy.

Let's quote it:

>Almost five years after President Alvaro Uribe declared war on them, Colombia's narco-guerrillas have scored a victory against that country's democracy.

So, the problem isn't that the government is and long has been supported and supporting drug thugs linked to rightwing paramilitary forces who have killed tens of thousand of Colombians with impunity. That's not a problem: that's part of 'democracy,' Colombian style.

No, the problem is that the information has come out, which makes the government propaganda against "narcoguerillas" blow up in its face.

OK: two countries:the government of one legally sells the U.S. lots of oil, which we need
And the government of another, right next door, helps smuggle in lots of cocaine and other drugs.

Which one are we supporting with lots and lots of military aid? Which one do we regard as our ally?

Additional question; is the Uribe government redistributing cocaine profits to pooer Colombians, as the Chávez government is to poorer Venezuelans?

Good one
Fully agree. Ending the drug war would save North and South America lives and money.

Very right on
Though the "perscription only" remedy is probably not going to work.

Four things...
One, Columbia gets military aid due to agreements signed under the concept of the war on drugs and has worked with us to reduce drug production. Hence the term "ally". Not that I support any such aid considering that I do not agree with the war on drugs, you just seemed confused by the definition of the term.

Two, Venezuela does not military aid due to the fact that it makes billions in oil revenue from us already and is firmly allied with Cuba. Not to mention that Chavez has no desire to be our ally due to the Marxist rhetoric that helped make him a dictator.

Three, corruption in the Uribe government means that the money made through cocaine is illegal and such assets and accounts can be frozen and/or confiscated.

The fouth thing, not a fact, is a question: do you really believe Chavez is helping the poor of his country? He is on the fast track to destroying the economy and creating more poverty.

But like most liberals who feel instead of think, you believe that the poverty under Marxist tyranny is preferable to poverty under democracy.

Just pointing out the obvious
As far as poverty - no shortage of it anywhere in Latin America.
As far a tyranny - do a calculation of the number of people illegally killed under Castro v. those illegally killed in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, or any of a dozen other Latin American countries.
This isn't to put in a plug for either Castro or Chavez. It's just to point out the obvious: the labels being used are bogus.

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