Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 30, 2000 — Pentagon officials, under pressure to investigate alleged links between elite U.S. military trainers and Colombian forces implicated in a 1997 civilian massacre, have confirmed that they trained soldiers commanded by the officer accused of masterminding the attack.

With a $1.6 billion counternarcotics aid package for Colombia making its way through the U.S. Congress, there is increased scrutiny over whether U.S. military assistance has been or could be turned against Colombian civilians in that country’s decades-long civil war.

In November 1997, Congress enacted the “Leahy amendment,” prohibiting assistance to any foreign military unit if there is “credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.”

Four months earlier, 49 residents of Mapiripán, a village in the coca-growing region of southeastern Colombia, were killed over a five-day period by suspected paramilitary forces allegedly operating under the direction of Colombian Army Col. Lino Sánchez and Carlos Castaño, leader of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary forces. Colombian prosecutors have formally accused Sánchez and Castaño of being the “intellectual authors” of the massacre.

Sánchez and two other Colombian army officers are in prison, awaiting trial on charges in connection with the massacre. Castaño, Colombia’s most notorious rightist paramilitary leader accused of numerous civilian atrocities and drug trafficking, remains at large.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition that he not be identified, confirmed that Sánchez was commander of the 2nd Mobile Brigade, which received training by U.S. Special Forces at a river base about 80 kilometers from Mapiripán. The Defense Department has said it is investigating further to determine whether Sánchez himself was trained by U.S. Special Forces.

The Bogotá daily El Espectador reported on Feb. 27 that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade received U.S. Special Forces training in June 1997 while he was planning the Mapiripán massacre. The newspaper said the goal of the attack was to turn over control of the guerrilla-held Mapiripán, in a region that produces about 30 percent of the worlds coca, to paramilitary forces, which have ties to the Colombian army.

A report by Colombia’s Counternarcotics Police Intelligence Office, cited by the newspaper, said Sánchez first engineered a plan on June 21 to introduce paramilitary forces into the region, using U.S. spraying of coca crops as a cover, in order to “teach the guerrillas a lesson.”

The El Espectador investigation was based on a review of 4,500 pages of Colombian government documents on the Mapiripán massacre by reporter Ignacio Gómez, who is also a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It has prompted inquiries on Capitol Hill, where Congress is debating an aid package that would train and equip Colombian army counternarcotics battalions and provide money for more than 60 helicopters for army and police forces.

Human rights groups are worried that the military aid might be used against Colombian civilians. Robert E. White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay and president of the Center for International Policy, warned in a Feb. 8 commentary in The Washington Post that the aid package “puts us in league with a Colombian military that has longstanding ties to the drug-dealing, barbaric paramilitaries that commit more than 75 percent of the human rights violations” in Colombia.

“Obviously our people do not teach torture. They do not teach massacres. They teach human rights in every single class,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Brian Sheridan told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations two days after the El Espectador report. “As to the massacre, or alleged massacre and its proximity to or juxtapositioning to the training activity, that is something that we will have to look at very carefully.”

In a Dec. 22, 1999, letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a member of the Senates Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and author of the Leahy amendment, Sheridan listed nine training exercises between U.S. and Colombian soldiers between June and August 1997. Specifically, he said, U.S. soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., trained Colombian troops at the Barrancón river base from May 14 to June 23, 1997. Barrancón, an island in the Guaviare River, is a U.S. Special Forces training site that is a 10-minute drive from a Colombian army base and airfield at San José del Guaviare, from which U.S. government and contract personnel conduct counternarcotics operations. According to El Espectador, the paramilitaries were allowed to land at that airbase in mid-July en route to Mapiripán.

Sheridan said the “Green Berets” finished their training of Colombian troops at “the Barrancón Special Forces School” on June 23, 1997. Pentagon officials say they do not know whether Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade participated in that training, and Clyde Howard, an official in Sheridan’s office, said the Pentagon was under no obligation to investigate because the Leahy amendment was not law at the time of the massacre.

Sheridan confirmed that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade received “riverine interdiction and land warfare” training one month after the massacre from Aug. 18 to Sept. 18, 1997.

U.S. Special Forces from Fort Bragg were in Colombia from May 22 to July 22, 1997, according to a 1998 Defense Department report. But Sheridan’s office said only the two exercises specified in the Leahy letter involved training at Barrancón.

“There are discrepancies about what our military trainers were doing at Barrancón, and whether they were there at the time of the Mapiripán massacre nearby. These discrepancies need to be clarified,” Leahy said in a statement to Gómez.

Documents reviewed by El Espectador indicate that American military personnel were at Barrancón for a graduation ceremony for U.S.-trained Colombian forces on July 20-22, 1997. A prosecutor from Colombia’s Attorney Generals office, who investigated the Mapiripán massacre two days after it ended, was denied a helicopter to reach the village on July 22 because it was being used to transport military personnel based at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, the documents show.

U.S. officials have acknowledged seeing unusual military activity in and around the San José airfield near Barrancón before the massacre. Barbara Larkin, the State Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, said in a March 30, 1998, letter to Leahy that Colombian army troops from the 2nd Mobile Brigade and the 7th Brigade were present in the area at the time. The State Department told Leahy “that U.S. personnel involved in counternarcotics programs at San Jose [del Guaviare] remember seeing an unusual number of Army personnel at the airport on the day in question.”

The investigation by the Colombian federal prosecutors office showed that on July 12, two civilian airplanes, an Antonov and a DC-3, landed at the San José del Guaviare airfield near Barrancón, where Sánchez had an office, El Espectador reported. The planes carried 15 paramilitary operatives loyal to Castaño, armed with machetes and knives, several tons of supplies, and leaflets addressed “To the People of the Guaviare,” warning them to cease their cooperation with the guerrillas.

The Castaño paramilitaries were joined by others, and the force totaled about 100 men by the time it reached Mapiripán, about a two-hour drive to the northeast. El Espectador, citing the prosecutors report, said two paramilitary soldiers also crossed the Guaviare River in stolen boats past a Colombian marine infantry base checkpoint attached to the Barrancón facility. U.S. Navy Seabees built the marine base in 1994, and the U.S. Navy continues to train Colombian forces there. The boats then met up with the rest of the paramilitary force across the river from Mapiripán. At no time did Colombian civilian or military authorities challenge the paramilitary forces, the newspaper said, even though such groups are illegal in Colombia.

At dawn on July 15, 1997, the paramilitary forces surrounded Mapiripán, and their siege of terror and torture lasted until July 20, when the International Committee of the Red Cross dispatched a plane to the village.  Today, Mapiripán is a virtual ghost town.

Read the Report: The Risks of U.S. Aid: U.S. Special Forces trained human rights violators in Colombia (El Espectador, Colombia)
ICIJ researcher Rupa Patel contributed to this report.

Revealed: The secrets of Colombia’s murderous Castaño brothers

Revealed: The secrets of Colombia’s murderous Castaño brothers

When their father was killed by Marxist guerrillas, Fidel, Carlos and Vicente Castaño swore revenge. Nearly 30 years and 140,000 victims later, their legacy of violence lives on. Jeremy McDermott, who has followed the brothers’ trail of terror across Colombia for more than a decade, reveals the secrets of the country’s most feared criminal family

Carlos Castano, right, the leader of a  right-wing paramilitary group with some of his men in northern Colombia in 2001

Carlos Castano, right, with some of his men in northern Colombia in 2001 Photo: AP
3:09PM GMT 07 Nov 2008

I have been queuing outside Itagui prison on the outskirts of Medellín every other Saturday. Housed inside the maximum-security prison in Colombia’s Antioquia province are some of the world’s most prolific mass murderers and drug lords.

Each weekend I come here to try to see a man who blends both of those criminal ‘qualities’. Hebert Veloza was the right-hand man and chief assassin to Vicente Castaño, one of three brothers who built up Colombia’s illegal paramilitary army, the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), that in 2006 demobilised more than 30,000 fighters.

Investigations into the bloodbath that the AUC unleashed across Colombia is still under investigation, but the list of victims exceeds 140,000. Hebert Veloza has admitted to personally carrying out 1,000 of them.

Despite the best efforts of the prison service to block access, I managed to get on Veloza’s list of friends allowed to visit him.

Veloza, 41, is a little man with spindly legs, intense eyes and a hooked nose – hence the nickname, which he hates, of ‘Chickenface’.

The alias he prefers is ‘Hernan Hernandez’ or ‘HH’. You would not look twice at HH if you passed him in the street. His victims seldom noticed him coming either. But HH is one of the few people still alive prepared to talk about the Castaños.

For 11 years, I have been reporting on the AUC, following a trail of murders and massacres that has stretched across the country. HH is the key to unlocking the story never before fully told: the story not only of the AUC, but of Colombia’s most brutal criminal family, the Castaños.

There was little remarkable about the Castaños in 1980. Jesus Castaño had 12 children, eight boys and four girls, employing the usual peasant tradition of breeding enough cheap labour to work the land.

Jesus ran a tight ship and was very strict with his children, who rose before dawn to milk the cows. They had to pay for their own schooling by selling cheese and milk in the town of Amalfi in the northern province of Antioquia, where they lived.

On September 18, 1981, Jesus Castaño was kidnapped by Marxist guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and a ransom of 50 million pesos was demanded.

The Farc, born in 1964 when liberal guerillas from the previous chapter of the Colombian civil war embraced Communism, at this stage used kidnap for ransom and extortion as its primary sources of income.

The net worth of the whole Castaño clan was 10 million pesos and Fidel, the eldest son, then 32, was able through charm and intimidation to scratch together six million. (The Farc later admitted that the ransom figure was a miscalculation, and one for which they were to pay dearly.)

According to Carlos Castaño, in an interview he gave to a writer, German Castro Caycedo, in 1996, Fidel told the guerrilla who came to collect the ransom, ‘Believe me, I collected all the money possible and I have no way of getting any more.’

When the rebel pointed out that he was 44 million pesos short, Fidel’s soon-to-become notorious temper got the better of him. ‘If I could get more money,’ he said, ‘it would be only to fight you.’

Jesus Castaño was tied to a tree, savagely beaten and left to die. His children vowed revenge.

‘What came from this was hatred,’ Carlos said, ‘a hatred that could not be banished. We decided to fight the guerrillas. But we did not realise the magnitude of the enemy and what we had embarked the entire family on. [Until then] I had never fired a shot.’

Fidel and Carlos, then just 16, presented themselves to the local army unit, who were engaged in a constant battle against the Farc. For a year they helped lead the military through guerrilla areas. Then in 1982 sources told them that a Farc guerrilla, Conrado Ramirez, was in the nearby town of Segovia. Fidel alerted the authorities, but Ramirez was released for lack of evidence. As Ramirez left his hotel the next day, Fidel killed him.

Soon afterwards, the Castaños set up their first vigilante group, named after Fidel’s farm: ‘Las Tangas’. The killers became known as ‘Los Tangeros’. Fidel, always in the front line of the fighting, never hesitating to kill, was given the nickname ‘Rambo’ by his troops.

His crusade against the Farc blazed its way through the province of Cordoba in north-west Colombia, where he was backed by local ranchers, businessmen and elements of the army, all fearful of the Marxist guerrillas who extorted and kidnapped with impunity. He also became involved in anything that could turn a buck: gold-mining, land prospecting, even the purchase of art, for which he had a good eye.

His business acumen was helped by his skill with a gun and his willingness to use it. It was perhaps inevitable that Fidel would become involved in what by the mid-1980s was the most lucrative business in Latin America: cocaine.

The world centre of the cocaine trade at the time was Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city. The pioneer in that trade was Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria. A chubby former small-time criminal – as a teenager Escobar would steal tombstones and sell them to Panamanian smugglers – he built up the Medellín Cartel to the extent that, by 1990, it was the most powerful crime syndicate in the world. However, in the late 1980s, the cartel was having problems getting a sufficient supply of coca base to process into cocaine. At this stage, Colombia was only a minor grower of the coca bush, far behind Peru and Bolivia.

Somehow, Fidel was drawn into Escobar’s orbit, and was soon dispatched to Bolivia to sort out supply for the Medellín Cartel, enhancing Fidel’s reputation further and turning Escobar into one of the richest men in the world.

By now a key member of the cartel, Fidel was also building up a small fortune and a fiefdom in the northern province of Cordoba, buying up the best land and killing any guerrillas foolish enough to stumble into his path.

His brother Carlos was also running around Medellín, a city he loved, partying and occasionally carrying out killings for Fidel and the Medellín Cartel. Another brother, Vicente, was sent to Los Angeles by Fidel, where he handled the distribution end of the Castaños’ drug business.

As Escobar’s fame grew, so did pressure from the United States to do something about him. By 1989 the cartel controlled four-fifths of the world’s cocaine, with an estimated annual revenue of $30 billion. Forbes magazine listed Escobar as the world’s seventh-richest man. In 1990 the US demanded that Colombia sign a bilateral extradition treaty. It became the top political issue in Colombia; Escobar challenged the state to a war over his extradition, with his motto: ‘Better a tomb in Colombia than a prison cell in the US.’ He blew up airliners, killed dozens of judges, bribed government officials and offered bounties on the heads of every policeman killed.

His campaign of terror and bribery worked, and in 1991 extradition was prohibited by a constitutional assembly. The government then negotiated with Escobar and, in an extraordinary compromise, allowed him to build his own prison on the outskirts of Medellín, a facility that became known as the Cathedral, where he was to spend the next five years on the condition that he avoided extradition. Its splendour put five-star hotels to shame.

In June 1991 Escobar moved into the Cathedral with a number of his key lieutenants. With many members of the organisation still on the outside, Escobar continued to run his empire from his golden cage. He was, however, unhappy that some in his cartel were doing business without paying him his share.

Escobar summoned three prominent members of the cartel, Fernando Galeano, Gerardo Moncada and Fidel Castaño, to the Cathedral. Fidel didn’t go, either because he saw the writing on the wall or because he was busy on his estates in Cordoba. It proved to be a good decision: Escobar accused Galeano and Moncada of hiding money from him and, as he often did with subordinates who crossed him, murdered them both personally. He then sent his assassins, the ‘sicarios’, to wipe out their organisations.

The government had turned a blind eye to Escobar’s drug activities, but were not prepared to tolerate the murders of Galeano and Moncada while he was supposedly serving a jail sentence, and plans were made to transfer him to a more traditional prison. When Escobar found out, in July 1992, he simply walked out of the Cathedral. The soldiers guarding the perimeter were on his payroll, too.

An elite task force, the Search Block, was set up by the government to hunt for Escobar, aided by America’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and US Special Forces. Also on his tail was Fidel who, on hearing of the Cathedral murders, vowed to destroy Escobar. Using money from Escobar’s rivals, the Cali Cartel, Fidel set up an organisation called the Pepes (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar). Working with the security forces and, it is rumoured, the DEA, Fidel set about proving he could be even more brutal than Escobar. For every bomb Escobar set off, Fidel set off two, targeting Escobar’s properties. One car bomb narrowly missed killing Escobar’s children, partly deafening the drugs lord’s daughter, Manuela. Fidel also went after Escobar’s supporters, lawyers and anyone who might help him. Slowly Escobar’s support base disappeared.

Carlos Castaño claimed to have had a major role in bringing down Escobar. As well as conducting some of the killings, he has admitted to running the Pepes intelligence network. ‘I set up an office in Medellín where all the people against Escobar delivered information. I would ensure it reached the Search Block,’ he said in the 1996 interview.

The Pepes campaign was brutally effective. When Pablo Escobar was finally killed, by a police sniper on a rooftop in Medellín in December 1993, he had just one bodyguard left alongside him.

With Escobar dead, the PEPES dissolved and Fidel and Carlos went back to Cordoba – and their war against the Farc rebels who had killed their father, and other left-wing insurgent groups, such as the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) and National Liberation Army (ELN).

Fidel had stopped his drug-running activities – he had more than enough money to fund his crusade against the guerrillas. But Vicente, still in the US, had no intention of cutting his ties to the drugs trade. He invested all he had in a big load of cocaine, no doubt obtained through his brother’s cartel contacts, but, disastrously for Vicente, it was lost en route to the US. Vicente was forced to return, penniless, to Colombia. According to HH, this was a defining moment for Vicente, who had always lived in the shadow of his brothers.

Vicente suffered from a pronounced stutter and had none of the charisma of Fidel and Carlos, both of whom were natural leaders and warriors.

‘Vicente was always obsessed with money,’ HH told me, ‘even when he had more than anyone could ever spend.’

But his fortunes were about to change. On January 6, 1994, Fidel was shot through the heart in a clash with Farc guerrillas. He had charged a 10-strong rebel patrol with just four of his own men. According to Carlos, who later buried him, he was dead before he hit the ground.

Carlos was the natural heir to the ‘Tangeros’. In his book, My Confession, written for him by the journalist Mauricio Aranguren Molina, he said, ‘With Fidel, expansion was slow. I preferred to attack here, move, then attack in a different place.’

Carlos invaded the Farc stronghold of Uraba, a rich banana-growing area near the border with Panama. He had seen Fidel murder his way across Cordoba with the backing of local politicians and businessmen, tired of extortion and kidnapping. The cries for help coming from Uraba were even louder.

Carlos saw himself not just as the leader of a crusade, but its ideologue. He wanted to build a political and military movement, but he needed someone to assume control of finances and logistics, someone with an eye for detail. He turned to Vicente, and in 1994 set up the Self-Defence Forces of Colombia of Cordoba and Uraba, the ‘Accu’ in its Spanish initials, a right-wing vigilante force. Vicente solved his liquidity problems by taking over most of Fidel’s land and businesses.

In Vicente’s only interview, granted to the Colombia news magazine Semana in June 2005, he insisted that he was the mastermind behind the paramilitaries – the brains – while his little brother Carlos was just the mouth, something no other source supports.

‘When Fidel disappeared,’ Vicente said, ‘Carlos continued with Fidel’s group and began to form self-defence forces. But after a year, he did not know how to continue. He called me in a state of total desperation and asked me to take the reins.’

HH confirmed to me that the Accu was built up by three men: Carlos, Vicente and Carlos Garcia – alias ‘Rodrigo’ or ’00′ – a former army officer and Fidel’s right-hand man. He said that each was the leader in their chosen field: Carlos political, Vicente finances and Rodrigo military. Over the years I spoke many times to Rodrigo, who said that Vicente played a key role in the paramilitaries, but insisted that Carlos was always the leader.

(Three days after our last interview, in May 2004, Rodrigo was murdered by a rival, with help from Vicente.) The Accu used the tactics that Fidel had developed, which were perfected by Carlos: attacking the Farc’s support base by killing all those believed to have rebel sympathies. The more horrific the killings, the better: no virus spreads faster or infects more quickly than fear.

‘In one of the first operations under Fidel, the guerrillas killed four of us,’ Carlos said. ‘That day, we saw that we were not going to be able to fight them in the mountains as they were better fighters than us. So we began killing all those that came to the town. We began to kill those who brought food, medicine, alcohol and prostitutes to the camps.’

The key strategy, to ‘clear’ territory of the rebels’ presence, was to terrify the population into denying the Farc even a glass of water, killing those with even suspected links. It was the classic counter­insurgent concept of draining the water to kill the fish. As the Accu moved into Uraba, the corpses began to appear in the streets of towns throughout the region. The killings had begun.

By the end of 1996, the Accu had done the impossible: driven the rebels out of Uraba. Invitations were pouring in from Farc-held areas across the country for the Castaños to mobilise their paramilitary army. The idea of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) was born – a new nationwide federation of right-wing vigilante groups dedicated to fighting the rebels. In 1997 it became a reality, with Carlos as its head.

Wave after wave of new recruits were trained by Rodrigo in the Accu’s central camp, the ‘Sacred Heart’, in northern Antioquia, and dispatched to set up new AUC units across the country. Vicente was in charge of selecting their destinations and logistical support. While Carlos saw the AUC as the way to end the guerrilla scourge in Colombia, and even dreamt of a political career, Vicente saw it as the vehicle to immense wealth. He began selling AUC franchises to drugs traffickers across Colombia. They paid millions to become members, as well as a $50 tax on every kilo of cocaine they moved. The AUC became a Who’s Who of drugs trafficking. Vicente needed a point man, someone fearless and reliable who would travel the country setting up cells and ‘claiming’ territory for the AUC. He chose Hebert Veloza: HH.

I met Carlos Castaño on January 13, 2002, after months of negotiations, sending messages through middlemen across the country: priests, businessmen and known paramilitary sympathisers. The Farc still had a 16,000sq mile safe haven and was at the height of its power, with 16,000 members, supported by international groups such as the Provisional IRA. It was running drugs to Mexico’s cartels and Brazilian drug lords and its income was estimated to be as high as $1 billion a year. Carlos felt he still had his work cut out for him.

In a rendezvous worthy of Le Carré, I was picked up from an upscale shopping centre in Medellín by a man carrying a rolled-up issue of the local paper, El Colombiano. Hours later, I was dropped off on a track in the mountains and guided to the training camp of the Sacred Heart.

Shaven-headed recruits, carrying wooden rifles, were being ordered to pick up every single leaf on the ground, a challenging exercise as we were in the middle of a dense wood. Night fell and then from the distance came the sound of hooves on the dirt track and out of the darkness rode Carlos Castaño, a rifle strapped to his saddle.

He greeted me like an old friend, coffee was served and he began to speak, hardly waiting for the questions. For two hours he talked, on topics ranging from Colombia to Israel, psychology to political doctrine. For a man with a basic education, Carlos Castaño was remarkably well-read. His most earnest wish was to go to university and study political science. While his mind raced, his fingers drummed on the table-top and his feet tapped. He could not sit still. I asked whether he would agree that, since he started his crusade in revenge for the death of his innocent father, he had arguably created a thousand guerrilla Castaños with his endless killings of civilians, often conducted in front of the victims’ families.

‘Look,’ he said, using his jungle hat to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

‘I know that war begets war, violence begets violence, but I have only ever acted in self-defence. We do not kill civilians. The guerrillas take off their uniforms when the fight is going against them. They hide among the civil population. A huge percentage of our troops are guerrilla deserters. They tell us who their former comrades were. We know who we are killing.’

The massacre of El Salado, in the province of Bolivar by the Caribbean Coast was just one of hundreds ordered by Carlos. It was Thursday February 17, 2000, and 300 heavily armed and uniformed AUC swept into town. They had five Farc deserters with them to act as guides and point out members of the population who had rebel sympathies. A small group of guerrillas in the hills tried to counterattack but were easily beaten back by the AUC’s machine guns.

The first to die was Luis Pablo Redondo, the village teacher, one of the most respected men in the community. The paramilitaries accused him of being a rebel sympathiser. The villagers were forced to look on as he was beaten savagely, his ears cut off. He was stabbed, slowly and deliberately, dozens of times between his ribs, no wound fatal. He was then suffocated with a black plastic bag. One girl, aged five at the time, now 13, has not spoken a word since that day. Another, Nayibis Contreras, a pretty 16-year-old, was dragged by her hair through the dirt streets to the central plaza where in the evenings the locals would come to sit and chat. She was strung up on the only tree in the square, in front of the Catholic church, before being gutted by a bayonet; her crime was to have been the girlfriend of a known guerrilla.

In the first few hours, 19 peasants were killed, their throats cut.

The prettier girls were raped. ‘While some were killing, others played pipes, drums and violins,’ said one AUC leader, Uber Enrique Bánquez, alias ‘Juancho Dique’, when he testified before the courts. Some of the more recent paramilitary recruits, he said, begged him for the chance to kill someone, before the victims ran out.

By the time darkness fell, 38 people had been killed in El Salado, and another 28 in the countryside nearby. Once the AUC were gone the security forces, elements of which had been complicit in the massacre, arrived on the scene, in time to see the community burying its dead.

The relationship between Carlos and Vicente was becoming increasingly strained, with Carlos rapidly losing control of his divided organisation which, thanks to Vicente, had been taken over by drugs traffickers. In May 2001 Carlos resigned his leadership. By 2002 the AUC had spread across the country into at least 20 of Colombia’s 27 provinces, its presence strongest where the coca was most densely sown. Vicente was sending troops to control three key aspects of the drugs trade: the crops, the movement corridors within the country and the departure points for exportation. Again, his trusted lieutenant to oversee this strategy was HH, although HH claims he did not then understand what Vicente was doing.

‘I was always Vicente’s man, I always acted on his orders,’ HH told me. ‘But I made some grave mistakes, ordered by him. I helped him kill his brother.’

At the end of 2003, Alvaro Uribe became president of Colombia. Uribe hated the Farc, who had killed his father, an alleged drugs trafficker, during a botched kidnapping attempt; and he has long been associated with the AUC, although no direct connection has even been proved. The AUC thought that he was the man with whom they could negotiate and that it was time to cut a deal, Carlos in particular.

The drugs traffickers in the organisation thought that they could negotiate immunity from extradition to the US and retire to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. A unilateral ceasefire was ordered and negotiations with the government began.

Now aged 38, Carlos wanted out. He was in touch with US agencies, allegedly exploring the possibilities of turning himself in. He wanted to disappear with his wife, Kenia, and look after his daughter, Rosa Maria, who had been born with an incurable disease and needed special treatment.

The AUC commanders, the vast majority of them wanted in the US to face drugs-trafficking charges, were afraid of what Carlos could tell US agencies and wanted him silenced. Vicente was told he would have to kill his brother. If he did not, the AUC would kill him anyway – and Vicente would be buried in the same shallow grave.

On April 16, 2004, the head of Vicente’s security, Jesús Ignacio Roldán, alias ‘Monoleche’, gathered 30 trusted men together, many supplied by HH, who knew of the plan. They drove to Antioquia, where Carlos lived. He was in a local restaurant, where he often connected to the internet. Carlos’s bodyguards thought nothing when Monoleche pulled up. As he approached, he opened up with automatic fire. Carlos fought back from within the restaurant until he ran out of bullets.

Finally, he was overpowered and brought face to face with Monoleche.

‘Who ordered this?’ Carlos asked.

‘El Profe,’ Monoleche replied, using the alias for Vicente. Before Carlos could make a comment, Monoleche fired 12 9mm rounds into his body. Monoleche, also currently held in Itagui prison, would later confess to the killing.

By November 2006, the peace negotiations with the AUC had reached a critical juncture. Thirty thousand paramilitaries had demobilised, but commanders were often seen shopping in the most exclusive malls, eating in the best restaurants. The families of their victims and NGOs complained bitterly, and President Uribe ordered the AUC high command to turn themselves in. Vicente had always refused to even consider spending a single day in prison. He withdrew from the peace process, and HH, as always, followed him.

Vicente began to plan how to punish the government for what he saw as a betrayal. His plan was to kidnap the families of senior politicians, even foreign diplomats.

According to intelligence sources, Vicente sent HH to canvass support and gather a war chest for the operations: each AUC commander was asked to donate $250,000. But only two paramilitary commanders signed up to Vicente’s scheme. HH himself was not keen, and told Vicente as much. Vicente replied angrily that anyone who was not with him was against him.

On March 11, 2007, four men arrived at one of Vicente’s estates near the town of Nechi, in Antioquia. After overpowering Vicente’s guards, they murdered the last of the Castaño criminal dynasty. Vicente’s body was chopped up with machetes and put inside old tyres, which were then burnt. The ashes were thrown into the River Nechi. The orders were to leave no trace, the way Vicente tried to conduct his life. Many believe that the killing was orchestrated by HH, who knew Vicente’s movements and would have had the contacts to effect an inside job, but he continues to deny it.

Today, the AUC no longer exists. Without the Castaños there was no AUC. Most of the AUC high command are in prison. In May this year, 15 were extradited to the US. HH has not yet been sentenced, and has an extradition warrant pending. New paramilitary groups have sprung up, dedicated wholly to the drugs trade and, in many cases, allied to the left-wing guerrillas they were once sworn to destroy.

The country’s civil conflict is entering its 45th year and has so far driven four million Colombians from their homes and left hundreds of thousands more dead. The Farc, meanwhile, has been much humbled by President Uribe’s US-backed government. Its top leaders have been killed, desertion is rife and the rebels have been forced back into their mountain and jungle strongholds. Many analysts believe that the Castaños and their brutal war against the Farc paved the war for the government to beat back the rebels.

But the story is not necessarily over. There are some who believe that Vicente is not dead; that, in a stroke of genius, he faked his murder and is now living in Panama. In April this year, Vicente’s first wife had her car stolen in Medellín. A source in Colombia’s underworld told me that she made a call and, within five hours, the vehicle was returned. ‘That kind of power does not come from the dead,’ said the source.

The police file on José Vicente Castaño remains open and his capture remains a top priority. The authorities do admit, however, that the trail has gone cold. As cold as the grave.

Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

 

Pentagon Trained Troops Led by Officer Accused In Colombian Massacre

By Frank Smyth and Maud S. Beelman
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,
The Center for Public Integrity

(Washington, 30 March) Pentagon officials, under pressure to investigate
alleged links between elite U.S. military trainers and Colombian forces
implicated in a 1997 civilian massacre, have confirmed that they trained
soldiers commanded by the officer accused of masterminding the attack.

With a $1.6 billion counternarcotics aid package for Colombia making its way
through the U.S. Congress, there is increased scrutiny over whether U.S.
military assistance has been or could be turned against Colombian civilians
in that country’s decades-long civil war.

In November 1997, Congress enacted the “Leahy amendment,” prohibiting
assistance to any foreign military unit if there is “credible evidence that
such unit has committed gross violations of human rights.”

Four months earlier, 49 residents of Mapiripán, a village in the coca-growing
region of southeastern Colombia, were killed over a five-day period by
suspected paramilitary forces allegedly operating under the direction of
Colombian Army Col. Lino Sánchez and Carlos Castaño, leader of Colombia’s
right-wing paramilitary forces. Colombian prosecutors have formally accused
Sánchez and Castaño of being the “intellectual authors” of the massacre.

Sánchez and two other Colombian army officers are in prison, awaiting trial
on charges in connection with the massacre. Castaño, Colombia’s most
notorious rightist paramilitary leader accused of numerous civilian
atrocities and drug trafficking, remains at large.

A Pentagon official, speaking on condition that he not be identified,
confirmed that Sánchez was commander of the 2nd Mobile Brigade, which
received training by U.S. Special Forces at a river base about 80 kilometers
from Mapiripán. The Defense Department has said it is investigating further
to determine whether Sánchez himself was trained by U.S. Special Forces.

The Bogotá daily El Espectador reported on Feb. 27 that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile
Brigade received U.S. Special Forces training in June 1997 while he was
planning the Mapiripán massacre. The newspaper said the goal of the attack
was to turn over control of the guerrilla-held Mapiripán, in a region that
produces about 30 percent of the world’s coca, to paramilitary forces, which
have ties to the Colombian army.

‘Teach Guerillas a Lesson’

A report by Colombia’s Counternarcotics Police Intelligence Office, cited by
the newspaper, said Sánchez first engineered a plan on June 21 to introduce
paramilitary forces into the region, using U.S. spraying of coca crops as a
cover, in order to “teach the guerrillas a lesson.”

The El Espectador investigation was based on a review of 4,500 pages of
Colombian government documents on the Mapiripán massacre by reporter Ignacio
Gómez, who is also a member of the International Consortium of Investigative
Journalists. It has prompted inquiries on Capitol Hill, where Congress is
debating an aid package that would train and equip Colombian army
counternarcotics battalions and provide money for more than 60 helicopters
for army and police forces.

Human rights groups are worried that the military aid might be used against
Colombian civilians. Robert E. White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador
and Paraguay and president of the Center for International Policy, warned in
a Feb. 8 commentary in The Washington Post that the aid package “puts us in
league with a Colombian military that has longstanding ties to the
drug-dealing, barbaric paramilitaries that commit more than 75 percent of the
human rights violations” in Colombia.

“Obviously our people do not teach torture. They do not teach massacres. They
teach human rights in every single class,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Special Operations Brian Sheridan told the House Appropriations Subcommittee
on Foreign Operations two days after the El Espectador report. “As to the
massacre, or alleged massacre and its proximity to or juxtapositioning to the
training activity, that is something that we will have to look at very
carefully.”

Nine Training Exercise

In a Dec. 22, 1999, letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a member of the
Senate’s Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and author of the
Leahy amendment, Sheridan listed nine training exercises between U.S. and
Colombian soldiers between June and August 1997. Specifically, he said, U.S.
soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.,
trained Colombian troops at the Barrancón river base from May 14 to June 23,
1997. Barrancón, an island in the Guaviare River, is a U.S. Special Forces
training site that is a 10-minute drive from a Colombian army base and
airfield at San José del Guaviare, from which U.S. government and contract
personnel conduct counternarcotics operations. According to El Espectador,
the paramilitaries were allowed to land at that airbase in mid-July en route
to Mapiripán.

Sheridan said the “Green Berets” finished their training of Colombian troops
at “the Barrancón Special Forces School” on June 23, 1997. Pentagon officials
say they do not know whether Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade participated in
that training, and Clyde Howard, an official in Sheridan’s office, said the
Pentagon was under no obligation to investigate because the Leahy amendment
was not law at the time of the massacre.

Sheridan confirmed that Sánchez’s 2nd Mobile Brigade received “riverine
interdiction and land warfare” training one month after the massacre – from
Aug. 18 to Sept. 18, 1997.

U.S. Special Forces from Fort Bragg were in Colombia from May 22 to July 22,
1997, according to a 1998 Defense Department report. But Sheridan’s office
said only the two exercises specified in the Leahy letter involved training
at Barrancón.

“There are discrepancies about what our military trainers were doing at
Barrancón, and whether they were there at the time of the Mapiripán massacre
nearby. These discrepancies need to be clarified,” Leahy said in a statement
to Gómez.

Documents reviewed by El Espectador indicate that American military personnel
were at Barrancón for a graduation ceremony for U.S.-trained Colombian forces
on July 20-22, 1997. A prosecutor from Colombia’s Attorney General’s office,
who investigated the Mapiripán massacre two days after it ended, was denied a
helicopter to reach the village on July 22 because it was being used to
transport military personnel based at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, the
documents show.

Acknowledge Unusual Activity

U.S. officials have acknowledged seeing unusual military activity in and
around the San José airfield near Barrancón before the massacre. Barbara
Larkin, the State Department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs,
said in a March 30, 1998, letter to Leahy that Colombian army troops from the
2nd Mobile Brigade and the 7th Brigade were present in the area at the time.
The State Department told Leahy “that U.S. personnel involved in
counternarcotics programs at San Jose [del Guaviare] remember seeing an
unusual number of Army personnel at the airport on the day in question.”

The investigation by the Colombian federal prosecutor’s office showed that on
July 12, two civilian airplanes, an Antonov and a DC-3, landed at the San
José del Guaviare airfield near Barrancón, where Sánchez had an office, El
Espectador reported. The planes carried 15 paramilitary operatives loyal to
Castaño, armed with machetes and knives, several tons of supplies, and
leaflets addressed “To the People of the Guaviare,” warning them to cease
their cooperation with the guerrillas.

The Castaño paramilitaries were joined by others, and the force totaled about
100 men by the time it reached Mapiripán, about a two-hour drive to the
northeast. El Espectador, citing the prosecutor’s report, said two
paramilitary soldiers also crossed the Guaviare River in stolen boats past a
Colombian marine infantry base checkpoint attached to the Barrancón facility.
U.S. Navy Seabees built the marine base in 1994, and the U.S. Navy continues
to train Colombian forces there. The boats then met up with the rest of the
paramilitary force across the river from Mapiripán. At no time did Colombian
civilian or military authorities challenge the paramilitary forces, the
newspaper said, even though such groups are illegal in Colombia.

At dawn on July 15, 1997, the paramilitary forces surrounded Mapiripán, and
their siege of terror and torture lasted until July 20, when the
International Committee of the Red Cross dispatched a plane to the village.

Today, Mapiripán is a virtual ghost town.

Demobilizing Colombia’s Paramilitary Killers Without Sacrificing Victims’ Rights

[The current state of Colombia is perilous beyond belief, thanks to the ravages of her former American lover upon the country’s legal system.  It is not just that the process for demobilizing the illegal militant groups cannot be accomplished without some sort of amnesty program, which necessarily overlooks the rights of their former victims, the deal to hold 1,000 leaders responsible for the crimes of tens of thousands of other soldiers with bloody hands gives blanket protection to most of the lower ranks, and everyone knows that it is the grunts who carry-out the dirty work.  The deal to protect most of the paramilitaries was a deal to protect the govt. itself, since the paramilitaries did not operate out of the sphere of government control.  They were there killing those who fought against the govt.

By rights, all the paramilitary groups should be declared criminal organizations and the members treated accordingly, but that will not happen in Colombia.  America cannot allow such honesty from a long-term client state.  The new threat is that disgruntled paramilitaries will join criminal gangs if their past is not erased, just like the thousands of Colombian lives that they have erased.  The unraveling of this conundrum promises us some great future entertainment, as the intrigues increase and the corporate American worm squirms at the thought of being exposed.]

New law prevents disclosure of demobilized are evidence in legal proceedings

Jaime Perez Munévar

CONGRESS A presidential approval passed the project that the Government would resolve the legal status of some 30 000 demobilized paramilitaries and guerrillas. The Democratic Polo described it as an act of “forgive and forget.”

Thursday 16 December 2010

In record time, just 15 days, Congress gave the Government the formula to resolve the legal limbo and former guerrillas exparas ceilings to which, by decision of the Constitutional Court, could not shelter the figure of the principle of opportunity.

The new law, which aims to meet the commitments made to individual or collective demobilization, establishes a new covenant between the government and former combatants.

The latter, if they have not committed crimes against humanity, must sign a new agreement with the Government to enforce the rights that victims have to know the truth. “

From being tried for conspiracy to commit aggravated demobilized should contribute to the reconstruction of historical memory by clarifying the context in which each part, the formation of organized groups outside the law to which he belonged and general on all the facts or actions that have knowledge regarding their participation in the group.

That to comply with the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court warned in a recent ruling that the principle of opportunity for demobilized violated the rights of victims.

However, the demobilized must submit this information to a non-judicial. Under the new law, the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation will be responsible for receiving it.

But what a sector of Congress questioned with concern was a kind of fine print of this law, which states that the demobilized information not be used as evidence for legal proceedings against third parties.

So the caucus of the Democratic Pole, both Senate and House of Representatives, opposed the project, and said that if exparas information and ex-guerrillas would not serve as evidence the same as saying that the State give up to investigate possible crimes of those individuals or public servants who were promoted or colluding with illegal groups.

“This is an act of forgiving and forgetting,” said Rep. Talero Germain Navas. “The government says it wants peace and justice, but this law says is that if the state finds out who committed crimes will have to remain silent.”

The representative of Alba Luz Pinilla Polo went further. “This is a law of impunity.”

The presenter of the bill in the House of Representatives, where they had the last debate of the initiative, Carlos Edward Osorio (The U), said the reason for this kind of clause is that it is non-judicial mechanisms “does not seek another thing to realize the national reconciliation processes, which do not preclude the reception of truth in judicial proceedings. “

The ‘bulldozer Santos’

On the day of Wednesday, this project surti the two debates that detracted from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In both companies the bed of the ‘National Unity’ was flatter than ever.

Even the Interior Minister Germain Vargas Lleras, asked the representatives to the House to approve the project without taking into account the proposals that had been included, three in total, and all of them authored by the Polo Democrático.

That led to the discomfort of the bed of the party, who got to discuss these observations but were beaten ruthlessly. The passage of this bill had the support of 100 MPs against eight of the Pole.

The so-called law that will resolve the legal limbo and former guerrillas exparas ceilings will sanction of the president Juan Manuel Santos. And when I do hereby suspended the arrest warrants were for aggravated conspiracy against nearly a thousand demobilized.

The only item included at the last minute is what gives the government powers to determine what would be demobilized from the benefits of this law, if they violate the commitments made at the time of demobilization, and are not re-offending and meet with the programs of reintegration into civil society.

Proof That Michael Moore Is Either a Tool Or a Fool

Michael Moore ha sido un duro crítico de la cultura estadounidense y de sus gobiernos.
Michael Moore has been a harsh critic of American culture and their governments.


CABLEGATE In a column, filmmaker and journalist explains why donate $ 20 000 for the release of Julian Assange. “Now that Big Brother is being watched by us,” he says.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

The journalist Michael Moore, who has worked to uncover abuses and vices of the United States, wrote a column in the Huffington Post in which he explains why donate $ 20,000 to post bail for the release of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks creator.

Moore is the major producer of documentaries that have hit the nail on the head in several of the problems of government or American culture, such as Bowling for ColumbineSickoFahrenheit 9 / 11 , among others.

Moore said it had offered its site to accommodate the contents of the Wikileaks cables to keep “alive and thriving, as it continues its work to denounce the crimes that have been forged in secret and carried out in our name and with money from our taxes. “

“They took us to war in Iraq with a lie. Hundreds of thousands have died. Imagine if the men who planned this war crime in 2002 would have had to face a Wikileaks. Probably would not have been able to carry it out. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because he had a cloak of secrecy guaranteed. This guarantee has been torn from them, and I hope you never are able to operate in secret again, “says Moore.

However, the journalist complains of persecution that has been aggressive Assange and website.

And remember that Senator Joe Lieberman said Wikileaks “violated espionage laws,” that George Packer, the New Yorker , called Assange “sensible and megalomaniacal,” the former candidate Sarah Palin vice said it was “a bloody anti-American agent in their hands “whom we must continue” with the same urgency to pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, “the Republican Mary Matalin says” he is a psychopath, a sociopath … He is a terrorist. “

“Indeed it is!” Adds Moore. “It exists to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and others. Perhaps the next war will not be easy because the roles are reversed and now that Big Brother is being watched … for us. “

Moore asks readers to imagine if existuido Wikileaks had 10 years ago

“Check out this photo. That Mr. Bush is about to receive a “secret” document on August 6, 2001. This is the headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S..” And in these pages is written that the FBI had found “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.”Bush decided to ignore and he went fishing the next four weeks, “he says.

“But if this document had been leaked, how would have reacted? What could be done by Congress or the military? Would not it have a higher probability that someone, somewhere, had done something, if everyone knew that Bin Laden’s attack with hijacked airplanes was imminent? “He says.

Eventually the journalist and filmmaker says Wikileaks deserves “our thanks for throwing a huge light on this.”

“Openness, transparency – these are some of the few weapons that citizens have to protect the powerful and corrupt,” he argues.

“Wikileaks may cause unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests in the world?Maybe. But that’s the price you pay when you and your government take us to war based on a lie. His punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn all the lights in the room so we can see what you’re doing. You simply can not trust. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this on yourself that. Nobody can hide from the truth now. No one can outline the next Big Lie, not knowing who may be exposed. “

“Wikileaks, God bless them, they will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you to join me in supporting them is making a real act of patriotism, “he concludes.

China offers 25 % profit, 5% Royalty on Reko Dik

China offers 25 % profit, 5% Royalty on Reko Dik


QUETTA: Economically it will be in interest and benefit of China if it transports Afghani gold and copper to Beijing and international markets through Gwadar Port. Sources in Balochistan Government told APP on Wednesday that Chinese government was interested in making Gwadar Port fully functional as it would help it shift Afghani gold and copper to Beijing and international markets in a easy and economical manner. They said China had invested about US $ 03 billion in gold and copper mining projects in Afghanistan. “If China transports this gold and copper to Beijing through Afghanistan, it will have to bear heavy expenses while its transportation will take long time,” they added. The sources added if China uses Gwadar Port for the purpose, it could shift the gold and copper to China and international markets economically and in short time. To a question, they said due to its indifferent attitude, the Singaporean operator could not make Gwadar Port operational. “Despite offers, we did not hand over the control of Gwadar Port to Abu-Dhabi Port Authority keeping in view the Chinese origin of the Singaporean firm, we have pinned hope that it will make it completely functional which is in China’s interest. Unfortunately, the Singaporean company neither fulfilled its agreement nor met the requirements,” the sources said. They claimed that China was keen in taking control of Gwadar Port and Reko Dik gold and copper mining projects of Balochistan. “Chinese firm has submitted counter proposal that if mining contract of Reko Dik project is handed over to MCC (Chinese Metallurgical Company), it would give Balochistan government 25% share in the income besides 05% royalty. MCC also offered that it would construct roads besides setting up a power plant at Reko Dik,” they added. The official sources said that Balochistan Government could ink agreement with the Chinese company on Reko Dik if it includes transfer of Chinese technology on mining to the province besides giving it status of a decision making member of the board of directors. To a question, they said China would have to construct berths at Gwadar Port upto 25 from present 5 if it takes charge of the port. Replying to another query, they said Chinese company has started production of Lead and Zinc from Duddar Lead and Zink project located in Lasbela district in the province. They noted that according to Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package and 18th Amendment in the Constitution, all mines and minerals except oil and gas are in provincial domain. They said Chinese and other companies working on mines and mineral projects in the province would have to sign new agreements with the Government of Balochistan in 2011. They stressed that Balochistan government would give the contract of mining of gold, copper, lead and Zinc at Duddar, Reko Dik, Saindak and others if it includes transfer of technology, status of member of board of directors, maximum share from income, status of accounts internationally and Balochistan government’s access to these accounts. They highlighted there was large quantity of Lead in Khuzdar district in Balochistan and the contract could be given to the company which accepts conditions put up by the provincial government. The official sources clarified that in 2011, the Balochistan government would not accept 50% share of MCC and remaining 50% of Saindak Metals in Gold and Copper project. New agreement with new conditions would have to be inked, they added. They also demanded 50% share in income of Duddar project to the Balochistan government.-APP

BNP accuses FC of running Balochistan’s state affairs

BNP accuses FC of running Balochistan’s state affairs

Staff Report

QUETTA: The Balochistan National Party (BNP) has accused the Frontier Corps of running the state affairs in Baolchistan.

BNP Information Secretary Agha Hassan Baloch levelled this allegation while addressing a news conference at a hunger strike camp set up by the BNP to protest against the registration of cases against its leader, non-recovery of missing Balochs and alleged military operation in several parts of Balochistan.

Baloch said that some 40 political opponents, including 16 BNP activists and leaders, were killed during the past four months in order to eliminate the political forces, who were struggling for their national rights.

He said that the BNP had set up hunger strike camps in Naushki, Sibi, Chagai, Kharan, Khuzdar, Dera Murad Jamali, Naseerabad, and other districts to protest against the registration of case against Ayub Gichki whose two sons were gunned down by some unidentified people in Turbat. He alleged that FC had stormed the house of Gichki and killed five people.