• political resources
  • civilians that fight - cartels, self defense force
  • target auxilleries
  • MAS
  • US intervention
  • both sides target civilian auxilleries

Chapter 2: History

political resources

  • National Front - power sharing agreement bEtween conservatives and liberals
  • alternate power - 1958 until 1974
  • liberal and communist guerillas shut out of government
  • FARC, ELN - and civil society supporters attacked by government

++1960's U.S. cold war strategy:

  • U.S. military supports governments battling communist insurgencies
  • US encourages them to make allies of at times unsavory but effective civilian irregulars,
  • civilian irregulars were most effective when they included…

army reservists
retired officers predisposed to a fierce anticommunism

men familiar with local…

geography/ terrain
power structure

"self-defense forces,"

  • armed and trained by the army and provide troops with intelligence and logistical help,
  • like guides; THEY assist in psychological operations; and even fight alongside regular soldiers.
  • The military presented Plan Lazo to the public as a "hearts-and-minds" campaign to win support through…

public works
campaigns to improve the conditions

  • In actuality it privately incorporated Armed civilians called…

"civil defense,"
"population organization operations,"

states of siege or states of internal commotion

  • abrogate rights by transferring broad judicial and political powers to the military
  • with no or restricted civilian oversight
  • martial law was frequent and long lasting
  • public order was in hands of military,
  • the military authorized creation of armed civilian groups
  • they justified it as "defending the nation from attacks from within…"
  • govt scare tactics of those civilians they think might support guerillas

martial law targeted moderates as 'supporters'

  • non-violent protesters,
  • opposition members,
  • human rights activists
  • The military wanted to find the political support and irradicate it
  • the police were given judicial powers, press censored

gurilla response

  • MAS - drug traffikers
  • react against M-19 (leftist group) who kidnapped a family member -
  • formed armed group,
  • they were angry about guerilla kidnappings and 'tax' demands in areas they controlled
  • they decided to fight back


  • others copied and called themselves the MAS too
  • businesses and ranchers organized themselves to protect from the demands of FARC
  • they pay young men to fight, eradicate guerillas, with military tactical support -
  • the mission expanded to killing all those that opposed MAS (moderates)

Are moderates being killed b/c its easy, or b/c its tactical?
i would say both

some govt investigation

  • Procuraduria Report into MAS,
  • but clamped down by military (80's)-
  • reported wide police/military involvement
  • negotiations in 84- to form UP (PAtriotic Union)

a new party

  • a party for guerillas and colombians unrepresented by traditional parties * opposed by military, police, paramilitaries
  • the party of gurillas targeted UP politicians, killed Guerillas who negotiated
  • drug trafikkers became bigger part of MAS
  • this was necessary to finance operations
  • these groups focused on attacking UP and those who opposed drug traffiking
  • govt investigating these military-paramilitary links - paramilitaries killed judges and investigators looking into paramilitary killings
  • paramilitaries not as focused on guerillas - moderates, those who oppose their political/economic projects
  • 89- govt moved against paramilitaries - reassert govt control over arming civilians
  • military leaders continued to work with paramilitaries, defending themselves by arguing that paramilitaries had been effective against guerrillas
  • however, drug traffickers induced the paramilitaries to work on behalf of 'perverse interests'
  • as of writing, the group is still big threat


  • in the 90's the US drug war worked alongside attempts at colombian reform
  • US gives money to military ( who is still working with paramilitaries)

US helps reorganize Colombian intelligence

  • the result was Order 200-05/91
  • this order has nothing to do with drugs
  • it is about terrorism and subversion
  • it becomes the groundwork for continuing illegal military paramilitary relations (e.g Barrancabermeja),
  • relations that were promoted by military high command

secret networks for intelligence gathering

  • this group act on military orders, coordinate closely with military units, * they murder all sorts of folks
  • they leave no paper trail of their existence
  • this contravenes government decrees made after 1989.
  • e.g. Barrancabermeja Network - run by navy
  • navy intelligence partnered with MAS to create a network

- the goal of this unity was to elimination of…

members of the political opposition,
trade unionists,
human rights workers,

  • particularly if these groups investigated or criticized their terror tactics.
  • this navy intellgience group demanded collaboration of locals
  • the police collaborated with military with paramilitaries

CHAPTER 4 – The Continuing Partnership

  • suspicion that the military is still training paramilitary forces to fight a ‘covert war’ against the guerillas
  • we find that not all from government, but more paramilitaries are becoming national in nature,
  • like Death to Communists and Columbia Without Guerillas, each of which had highly touted assassinations in their early existence


  • then, there was a big conference held by these groups, who issues a document noting that “we are all tied to the government”
  • however, the President has at least denounced paramilitaries, however, his small ‘actions’, like activating a committee, have not been effective;
  • the only thing the committe really did was tell people to set up ‘rural partnerships’,
  • rural essential meant paramilitary organizations, whose job it was to feed the government intelligence; while they don’t get funding, they do receive weapons if they apply for a permit


  • President Samper also said that soldiers shouldn’t face ‘undue burden’ by going before a court
  • so, he basically curbed any inclination towards a military tribunal for these guys
  • the constitutional court struck down declaration of state of internal commotion, but then received death threats, didn’t strike it down the next time

restricted civil liberties

  • military now also declares ‘special public order zones’, where rights like mobility are suspended; this down with governmental orders
  • they aren’t really collecting data after attacks; no political will to bring these people to justice

extortion and open association

  • in Magdalana province, things are really bad: it is suspected that paramilitary communicate with police via radios,
  • many military officials admit that paramilitaries in the region ‘help them’ find guerillas;
  • farmers there pay monthly protection fees, which keep the groups rolling in weapons bought on the black market
  • Major Lazaro runs paramilitary ops in the area;
  • judicial investigation shows that the military is in direct contravention of own rules on this matter, but that they just keep funding paramilitaries; * thus, links between paramilitary and police can be found, just no political will to do so
  • when paramilitary kidnapped eight, only two were guerillas, but executed them all, to send message that public needed to pay protection money
  • when MAC, a local political group, starting getting elected municipally, they were hunted down by military, lasted six months before being replaced with military mayor in 1994
  • lead to ‘reign of terror’ by paramilitaries; MAC eventually disbanded, after many members killed or threatened
  • while military claims to have no beef with leftist political groups, declassified documents show that they are actively trying to displace mayors and control small towns; say they worry about the 800 subversives that have ‘infiltrated government’, most of which, they contest, are supported by ‘leftist’ outside NGOs
  • even after Lazaro arrested, noted that things were getting worse, exponential increase in political assassinations
  • only two warrants against paramilitary leaders out of 25 ever acted on
  • denial claims from everyone in the military—they claim not to know who these people are, where they train, anything, but really, this info is out in the open
  • anyone claiming ties between military and paramilitary is accused of spreading guerilla propaganda, which generally stops accusations cold; military successful in filing slander charges against human rights workers

CHAPTER 5 – Impunity

  • the paramilitaries reinforce military power, while the military is happy to let them use tactics they cannot openly endorse in exchange,
  • the military must provide some level of impunity
  • number of identified but univestigated military figures involved with the paramilitary is startling—military continues to use the excuse that officers will be afraid of spurious consequences being pursued against them if too much power shown against officers who are singled out
  • discovery that, while Attorney General did get quite a few in before a judge, the Procuradoria had only been able to get a couple dozen cases explored further, many government investigators actually have their phones tapped by the government’s intelligence services
  • judges murdered, same with human rights activists; so, actually quite valid reasons for many to avoid getting involved and giving names
  • clear that the courts have only really concerned selves with low-level drug kingpins and traffickers
  • tribunal usually decides where a case goes; generally, they rule in favour of the military, take broad understanding of the term ‘act of service’; will generally send them to military tribunals, since, even in cases where they armed paramilitaries, ruled part of their ‘active duty’, they argue that these tribunals are ‘more efficient’ than the civil court, however, there is no proof that they have done much to punish anybody; in many cases, they do no investigation into claims whatsoever
  • we find that sometimes individuals are assigned to their own cases as investigators; consistently, despite enormous evidence, military just dismisses any case in which the military comes up; proposal to reform military tribunals, but president insisted they be current or retired service members ONLY
  • we find that bills were put forward to even end the Procuradoria, which would give military ultimate power over all cases, even human rights related

case studies:


  • here, militants went through town, searching house to house for particular names,
  • then killing dozens; military allowed it; then the military apparently fired at a school,
  • and that they had killed civilians,
  • but the tribunal ruled that they were in a true state of need because there was an immediate threat from guerillas [against eyewitness testimony that there wasn’t];
  • eventually, despite everything, Segovia was declared public order zone, * military became the de facto commanders over the area

La Honduras, La Negra:

  • here, workers for the banana workers union killed en masse, as had been accused by the military of ties to the guerillas;
  • judge called forward some military leaders, but only received frustration, was eventually forced out of the country by death threats,
  • and her replacement and bodyguards were killed; two of the officials managed to avoid prosecution by being out the country,
  • putting up frustrating roadblocks for years


  • 107 people massacred,
  • court found that military actually really helped the paramilitary on this one;
  • general in charge Urena was fired, but faced no other relevant punishment;
  • while court report to abolish impunity, the government has actually made it more entrenched over time


  • the commander had been helping to cover up the deeds of the individuals that helped perpetrate a massacre here;
  • no arrests were made

Meta: expected that the notorious Victor Carranza and his “private army” are working hand in hand with the military here;

  • apparently, reporting murderers will lead to your own murder, or surveillance by someone sent from the government itself;
  • no arrest warrant ever put out against the head of the military here;
  • found many outposts of weapons, however
  • el Carmen y san vincente de chucuri: many implicated in funding paramilitaries, all now have promotions
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