COLOMBIA: UPDATE ON LINKS BETWEEN MILITARY, PARAMILITARY FORCES

Created: 12/2/1997

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

DATE:7

7

Update on Links Between Military, Paramilitary Forces

Summary

securitymeiuaing units that receive or may be eligible to receive USnothing io stop two massacres of civilians perpetrated by paramilitaries and may have facilitated the arrival and escape of those involved in the attacks. (

Despile lhe recent retirement of at least one Army officer linked to paramilitaries and human rights abuses, prospectsoncerted effort by the military high command to crack down onthe officers that cooperate withdim.

The continued presence in the military of an Army general, who is widely regarded within the military as having links to paramilitaries, is likely to be perceived by other officers as tolerance for paramilitary links.

Military links with these illegal groups will continue to complicate US efforts to provide aid to mililary units engaged in counternarcotics effortt.'

AltAlfcIC07

reports muting mem&crs oi tne Colombian Army to illegal paramilitary groups, including:

Fugitive Warlord Carlos Casiano: Moreercenary?

Paramilitary leader Carlos Casiano Gil appears io be trying to cloak his notorious outlaw persona with some political legitimacy. Despite the SI million government bounty on his head, Castano has recently conducted press interviews to explain the actionspossibly toegitimate political imagePeasant Self-Defense Group of Cordoba and Urabaolombia's largest and most

widely feared paramilitaryhas

been described by journalistsshort, surprisingly normal-looking"has cleverly manipulated his media image tohord with the average citizen's disgruntle ment over the decades-long war, claiming that his troops are not ruthless killers but men with principles and fellow victims of the insurgency. According to

press reports, Castano has also tried to maneuverole inmaintaining that the paramilitaries havetrong forcewar and should be involved in its resolution.

warlord's strategic paramilitary goal is to control all of northern Colombia.

Some journalists speculate that Casiano's fight against the guerrillas may be motivated, at least in part, by revenge. Nine siblings have been killed in the insurgency, and, according to press reports, heow-deceased brother started the ACCU shortly after guerrillas kidnapped and killed their father.travels with several well-armed

jfcaring for his wife and young child, he is exploring the possibility of getting his

family out of Colombia.

The lure of illicit financial gain alsoole in Castano's paramilitary objectives, despite the warlord's public denials. He has been involved in various aspects of the narcotics trade since the

Castano's organizanon currently provides

logistic and security support to traffickers in Vallc del Cauca. Aotioquia, and Atlantico Departments and that no trafficker can operate within Castano's sphere of influence without his approval.

reports linking mem hers ot the Colombian Array operating in various pans of the country to paramilitary groups, particularly those affiliated with Carlos

however, thr report appear Io portend el torn hy paramilitaries to establish relationships with local commanders in new areas where tbe groups seek to expand their operations, such as in the southern departments of Meu and Caqueta. Indeed the expansion of paramilitary groups into areas long considered to be strongholds of Colombia's two largest guerrillaRevolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Armythe most significant change we have seen in recent months and one which has further degraded Colombia's already poor security and human rights situation. |

Setting the Tone

Like his predecessor Harold Bedoya. Military Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Manuel Bonett, shows little inclination to combat paramilitary groups.n

md UBo Aarec

AAilyUconmboiwieu

reqocitfdanol DtUram ofTkUI Cngmnto iJqaaig tt tttlcomeipli Aaro

[mo Mfoapi. APLAJ

jiaramilitary forces loyal to Carlos Castano moved into

Aiauca uepamnent as of September to assist the military thereJ

Possible Complicity of Security Force Members

:'aim that,ninimum. Army and antinarcotics police units

cua nouung io stop tne two massacres of civilians that presumably were regarded by paramilitaries as sympathetic to the guerrillas and may have facilitated the arrival and escape of the paramilitaries.

The

Mapiripan. In July, members of Carlos Castano's paramilitary group killed betweenndivilians in Mapiripan, MetaJ

paramilitaries arrived by chartered plan is at tne san josc act uuaviare airport and apparendy were not subjected to identification or cargo checks by airport police who control die commercial sector of the airport; the countemarcotics police control the other sector of the airportT

that Castano would not have

liown lorces and weaponsivilian airport known toarge police presence if he had not had received prior assurances that they would be allowed to pass through. I

During the paramilitaries' five-day stay in Mapiripan, the commanderearby ilitaryHeman Orozeo, then acting commander of the Joaquin Parisseveral reportsroblem in the town, including killings, butariety of excuses, such as not enough troops or transport, to explain why he did not respond. Colombian officials are currently investigating Orozeo, Brig. Gen. Jaime Humertoof the parent unit, the 7thother officials, including the mayor and other civilians who live in Mapiripan. presumably for complicity in the massacre.1

Under ma recent command ebon get, UieaUfui wiU man 4th Brigade,etdquvted in Mcdellin. AaUoqoia.

ol ihc

louowing me ttucJt^

Mlrajlorts. Officials of ihe mtxnunonai Committee of the Red Crosskilled six civilians in Miraflores, Guaviaxe. in

October and thai security forces in ihe town didrevent ihe massacreursue the killers:

An ICRC official claims thai an unknown number of gunman arrived by air in Miraflores and thai the proximity of the airport to the town and military facilities suggests there was "at least cohabitation" between the paramilitaries and the security forces.!

Inuman rights group has alleged that unnamed soldiersetaway by air for two of the killers, I

a countemarcotics police company that receives US aid is stationed at Mirailores and lhat Army units in this area are subordinate to ihe 7th Brigade. I

Outlook

Prospects for concerted action by the military high command to crack down ontbe officers that cooperate withdim. Although steps against some egregious human rights abusers such as Lieutenant Colonel Rubio will continue, the presence of others tike Major General Ramirez in key positions suggests that achieving results against thethan rooting out paramilitarythe top priority for the Colombian military. [

Scrutiny by US and other international observers will continue toey role in encouraging the military high command to focus on human rights and take steps against violators, but somethose involvinglind eye to paramilitarylongstanding and will not be easily reversed.

This situation will complicate US efforts to provide aid to mililary units engaged in critical courocrnarcoocs efforts in southern Colombia. The number ofern these areas is likely to remain relatively small and their acQvitics sporadic unless and until they are able tooothold there. This limitation, however, suggests that they will continue to seek out links to security forces operating in the areas io facilitate their transit and activities.

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA