The Truth About Colombia’s FARC “Peace Deal”

 “Tell us Mr. President, what is going to happen to those other groups?” folkloric chanters from the war-torn village of Bojaya sang at the peace ceremony with Marxist FARC guerrillas last year. The president never responded, but “the other groups” did.

The women from the jungle village where the FARC killed 80 in a 2002 massacre took advantage of the president’s finest moment to confront him of a looming threat, the paramilitaries, an escalating threat Santos has yet to effectively deal with.

The FARC’s biggest fear: Colombia’s paramilitary groups

Goodbye peace

According to armed conflict website Pacifista, “the other groups” came Thursday in the form of the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), the descendant of the AUC, the group that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions between 1997 and 2006 and only partially demobilized under former President Alvaro Uribe.

Threatened by a massive group of 200 armed men in military uniforms, a small battalion, 80 of Bojaya’s indigenous inhabitants were immediately displaced.

The mass displacement by the group comes amid an escalating terror campaign that threatens Colombia’s entire peace process and the lives of many, exactly as experts had warned.

UN warns for neo-paramilitary violence in Colombia after peace with FARC

Apart from the Bojaya displacement case, the group has increasingly stepped up its violence, targeting the police, the private sector and the civilian population alike.

Major paramilitary movements

In several municipalities along the Panamanian border and Pacific coast, locals have seen as many as 600 armed men in war outfits, according to newspaper El Espectador.

In the village of Bijao, one group of 200 heavily armed men in military uniform arrived with toys for the children and a list with names of community leaders they said they would kill.

The community is terrified and we don’t want to relive the ghosts of war. This puts the implementation of the peace deal with the FARC in danger. It is inconceivable the state won’t admit that paramilitarism in Colombia still exists.

Anonymous threatened community leader from Bojaya

Presumed paramilitary death squads have assassinated as many as 18 community leaders since peace with the FARC was signed in November last year. After having been promised peace by the government, the same government now condemns these high-risk areas to war.

The mass mobilization and displacement of troops takes place without the the 17th Brigade of the 4th Division even noticing, raising suspicion that the military continues to collude with paramilitaries, exactly as before.

Retired general jailed for 25 years for 1997 paramilitary murder

Peace process falling to pieces

The terror campaign is hitting the rural population hard. Farmers from Catatumbo even halted the demobilization of the local 33rd front, claiming to already have seen the same armed men terrorizing Uraba. For them, the FARC is their only protection.

Farmers from the north of Antioquia, another conflict region, sent out a desperate press release begging the international community to intervene and demand the government and the military to act against the paramilitaries, instead of denying they exist.

Against what was agreed in the peace agreement, the government has failed to facilitate the FARC demobilization while the military in many places failed to assume territorial control, a move considered key to reduce the risk of power vacuums between armed groups or narcos.

The families of the victims of the Bojaya massacre and many other vulnerable communities, were left on their own, leaving the government’s promise of “no repetition” a hollow one.

We were just beginning to trust in the state that for years abandoned us and left us unprotected. We don’t know what to do now.

Bojaya resident Leyner Palacios

Porfirio Jaramillo, a.k.a. dead leader #18

Porfirio Jaramillo

Porfirio Jaramillo was a community leader trying to regain land illegally appropriated by a local business. He was taken from his home in the township of Guacamayas on Thursday evening by four armed men in military outfit. His lifeless body was found the next morning alongside a nearby road for the neighbors to see. He became the 18th assassinated community leader since peace was signed late last year.

Land claimant assassinated, presumably by forces wanting to keep war trophys

Apart from allegedly targeted and random assassinations, AGC men reportedly have taken to raping at least one minor. Policemen have been randomly assassinated for months and since a few weeks businesses are attacked and the road from Medellin to Uraba has become too dangerous to travel.

According to the bishop of Uraba there is a clear “increase in paramilitarism, whose groups are swiftly entering the zones that are left by members of the FARC.”

Who are these guys?

Around the turn of the century the paramilitaries committed one massacre every two days. But nevertheless, the AUC enjoyed ties to generals, intelligence chiefs and allegedly a chief prosecutor and tens of thousands of members of the military and other government employees. They were even allowed a secret meeting inside the presidential palace.

The AUC officially demobilized between 2003 and 2006 and consequently, according to Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, “paramilitaries don’t exist in Colombia.”

The truth is that the AUC demobilization was purposely inflated. This has been confirmed by multiple judges. Irregularities and fraud in that “peace process” went so far that the then-Peace Commissioner is now a fugitive, allegedly hiding in Canada. The prosecution wants to hear him about his role in the fraudulent demobilization.

Many who demobilized had never been in the AUC but were paid to take part in the ceremony, according to demobilized members.

Only 120 paramilitaries were ever imprisoned, according to the New York Times. The majority of the 27,000 who demobilized were granted amnesty and given a $180 / month stipend for a few years. More than 2,000 “died” after their demobilization.

According to AGC founder “Don Mario,” the AUC deliberately kept weapons hidden as insurance. These weapons were taken up by Mario and 250 men. In 2008, the paramilitaries announced themselves as AGC.

Not giving up war trophies?

The current wave of paramilitary violence began around the time that former AUC financiers including multinationals like Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte heard they could face crimes against humanity charges for financing the AUC, as part of the transitional justice system in the FARC peace deal.

More than 90 companies from Uraba face charges of having colluded with paramilitary death squads either to silence labor dissent or obtain territory through forced displacement. By killing a land claimant, he can no longer claim any land.

At the same time, the AGC’s nationwide terror campaign (one rival was found impaled with a broom in Barranquilla) makes it clear who is the boss in territory where there is no law.

Colombia’s obstacles for peace: returning the 15% of national territory that was stolen in the war

Colombia’s government, which has seen many dozens of allied politicians disappear behind bars for their ties to the paramilitaries, has decided to deny the mere existence of the paramilitary groups and accuse their former allies of being common criminals.

Many more politicians, including former President Alvaro Uribe, face prison if well-documented charges are proven he promoted “paramilitarism” the way his cousin did and his brother, who is in jail awaiting trial, allegedly did.

If the AGC takes part in the Truth Commission, much more evidence would be gathered that could explain why 24,400 state agents are either accused or convicted of war crimes as well as 12,500 civilians and companies.

“The authorities and media are trying to deny our true reality,” “Raul Jaramillo” of the AGC wrote Colombia Reports in an email a few weeks ago. “They always try to minimize the organization, as if they’re dealing with some narcos,” he added.

Meanwhile, Santos’ efforts to promote peace are failing because of the same cause that started the political violence, a corrupt and weak state that is unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens.

Trump Giving Washington the Cure of Chaos, Swamp-Dwellers In Shock

Washington reels amid the turmoil of Trump’s first month



Doug Mills / The New York Times
President Donald Trump while meeting with Brian Krzanich, chief executive of Intel, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 8 2017.

WASHINGTON — The resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser caps a remarkably tumultuous first month for President Donald Trump’s White House that has burdened the early days of his presidency with scandal, legal challenges, personnel drama and questions about his temperament during interactions with world leaders.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, lasted only 24 days before his tenure was cut short by an admission that he had misled the vice president and other White House colleagues about the contents of a phone call with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

The resignation on Monday night and the continuing turmoil inside the National Security Council have deeply rattled the Washington establishment.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., railed against the administration on Tuesday, denouncing the “dysfunction” of the country’s national security apparatus and accusing the White House of being a place where “nobody knows who’s in charge and nobody knows who’s setting policy.”

Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference Tuesday.

Asked about his comments later, Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

But Flynn’s late-night departure just added to the broader sense of chaos at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

In record time, the 45th president has set off global outrage with a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban and watched as federal courts swiftly moved to block the policy, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power.

The president angrily provoked the cancellation of a summit meeting with the Mexican president, hung up on Australia’s prime minister, authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL member, repeatedly lied about the existence of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election and engaged in Twitter wars with senators, a sports team owner, a Hollywood actor and a major department store chain. His words and actions have generated almost daily protests around the country.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my lifetime about what may or may not happen in Washington,” said Leon Panetta, a Democrat who served as chief of staff, secretary of defense and CIA director during a 50-year career that spanned nine presidents from both parties.

“I don’t know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt,” Panetta said in an interview Tuesday. “You can do hit-and-miss stuff over a period of time. But at some point, I don’t give a damn what your particular sense of change is all about, you cannot afford to have change become chaos.”

Trump’s allies note that the president has moved forward in areas that are more typical of the early days of a first-term administration. Trump nominated a Supreme Court justice 12 days into his tenure and has issued a dozen executive orders, including ones to limit the influence of lobbyists, reduce regulations, pare the Affordable Care Act, move forward on pipeline construction, end trade deals and speed up deportations.

Those accomplishments are catnip for the president’s most fervent supporters across the country, said Sarah Fagen, who served as a senior aide and political director for former President George W. Bush. The perspective on the White House is very different far outside the interstate freeway that rings Washington, she said.

“If you’re someone inside the Beltway, you think it’s been really rocky,” she said. “If you are outside the Beltway, you think, ‘That’s why we sent him there.’ There has been a lot of chaos and a lot of growing pains, but they have gotten a lot done.”

Still, half of the president’s Cabinet has yet to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, and several other key White House aides have become lightning rods for daily mockery by late-night comedians.

It all has official Washington reeling and exhausted as it tries to make sense of — and keep up with — the nearly constant tornado of activity swirling around the president and his advisers.

“If you had no-drama Obama, you’ve got all-drama, all-the-time Trump,” said John Feehery, a veteran Republican strategist, who compared the past several weeks to the chaotic start to Newt Gingrich’s tenure as speaker of the House in 1995.

“Newt never settled down. It was always one crisis after another,” Feehery recalled. “This might be the new normal. People will start getting used to the new normal but will also be exhausted by it.”

As a candidate, Trump promised to move quickly to stop illegal immigration, bring jobs back, end trade deals and reduce crime. Central to his campaign agenda was his pledge to be a disruptive force in Washington — and he has certainly done that.

Since winning the election, Trump and his closest aides have embraced the turmoil, viewing it as evidence of their aggressive efforts to fundamentally reorient the government.

The West Wing also uses the chaos as a tactical weapon, believing that the flurry of early-morning presidential tweets, controversial statements during the afternoon briefing and surprise executive actions work to keep their adversaries, the media and others off balance.

On Tuesday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, happily kept reporters waiting while he did “a quick recap of the president’s activity,” proceeding to offer a long list of meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders, female entrepreneurs, local officials and educators.

Yet the disruptions have come at a cost: the president has so far made little progress on legislation that would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. The White House has not proposed a promised infrastructure bill to repair deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels. And the president’s aides have not yet drawn up plans for an overhaul of the nation’s tax code.

“It’s pretty predictable,” Feehery said. “This guy has never been in government before and he promised to be disruptive.”

It may also have consequences for Trump’s ability to help Republicans win in the 2018 midterm elections. And Republican campaign experts acknowledge that his chances for winning re-election may hinge on his ability to contain the White House frenzy.

“You are processing so much information in a day now. This stuff would have doomed anyone else, just one or two of them,” said Thomas M. Davis, a former Republican member of Congress from Virginia. “They have got to produce something. If all you’ve got is a bunch of executive orders and a Twitter feed, you don’t want to go into an election like that.”

Kevin Madden, who served as a senior adviser to Mitt Romney during both of his presidential campaigns, said Trump’s voters in 2016 wanted him to overhaul an establishment in Washington, which they view as long on promises, long on process but short on action.

“Voters certainly asked for change. They certainly wanted to see disruption,” Madden said. “But if change begins to look like confusion and disruption morphs into disorder, you risk losing a certain level of confidence with voters.”

NYT Eating Own Words…Trump Was Right On Russia

President Trump at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland this month. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

DOHA, Qatar — Few of the Trump administration’s priorities have received as much criticism from the American foreign policy establishment as the president’s desire to improve relations with Russia. President Trump’s allegedly pro-Russian policies have been the subject of conspiracy theories and scandal.

This makes little sense. There are many good reasons for the United States to reach conciliation with Moscow on issues from Eastern Europe to the Middle East. The real question will be if Washington can control its own desire for global hegemony enough to make that possible.

Unlike China, Russia is not an emerging peer competitor to the United States. Russia is a regional power struggling to retain a fragment of its former sphere of influence. Moreover, it should be a natural ally of the United States in the fight against Islamist extremism. A reduction of tension with Russia would allow the United States to concentrate on more important geopolitical issues.

Ultimately, the United States may have no choice but to work with Russia. The West’s previous strategy has run its course, as recent policy failures make clear. Plans to expand American support for the former Soviet countries ring hollow. The United States and NATO did not fight for Georgia in 2008 or Ukraine in 2014. They will not do so in the future. In these circumstances, holding open the possibility of NATO membership for these countries, as the West has done for years, is pointless. By the same token, the populations of the European Union — an organization wrestling with existential problems of its own — have no will to help Ukraine join their club in the foreseeable future. In Syria, the United States and its allies seem to be torn between wanting to unseat President Bashar al-Assad and wanting to contain the jihadists who oppose him. Russia, on the other hand, has made its position clear.

Repairing relations with Russia can begin in Ukraine. The parameters for such a compromise were laid out in the Minsk agreement of 2015, which committed Russia to disarm separatists in eastern Ukraine and Ukraine to draw up a new federal constitution granting enhanced autonomy to the Donbas, the eastern Ukrainian region that has declared independence. The United States should work with Russia on a compromise for the Donbas, which should be demilitarized and secured by a United Nations peacekeeping force. Meanwhile, the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula should be accepted (since short of a world war there is no way Russia will give it up). Though the annexation shouldn’t be recognized legally, American sanctions on Russia should be lifted.

American and NATO officials like to claim that such a compromise would encourage Russian aggression elsewhere. This view is based on self-deception on the part of Western elites who are interested in maintaining confrontation with Russia as a distraction from more important, painful problems at home, like migration, industrial decline and anger over globalization.

A child with a map can look at where the strategic frontier between the West and Russia was in 1988 and where it is today, and work out which side has advanced in which direction. So it is necessary to recognize that over the past generation, Russia’s actions — though sometimes wrong and even criminal — have been overwhelmingly reactive to what the West has done. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is about Ukraine, a country of supreme historical, ethnic, cultural, strategic and economic importance to Russia. It implies nothing for the rest of Eastern Europe.

If, as many of the hawks in Brussels and Washington claim, Russia wanted to undermine and then invade Latvia, it would have done so after 2008, when the Latvian economy was in collapse and it would have been easy to create a crisis there. Instead, Moscow did nothing — the Russian government is well aware that any such move would bring Western Europe and the United States back together in hostility toward Russia.

If Russia does invade Latvia or one of the other Baltic States, of course, the United States and its allies would have to fight — and fight hard — to defend them. These countries are members of NATO and the European Union. To surrender them to Russian aggression would make the West look both morally bankrupt and geopolitical impotent. But it is hard to imagine any realistic situation in which this need will arise.

Eastern Europe is not the only arena where the American agenda has proved inept. In Syria, the United States and Western Europe have bungled the war. Here, too, Mr. Trump’s plans to cooperate with Russia would be a welcome change. Because of Russian, Iranian and now Turkish support, Mr. Assad’s Syrian state is not going to fall. If it is to be transformed in the future, negotiation with Russia and Iran will be necessary.

Iran is an essential ally against the jihadists in Iraq and Syria. And that means that the White House will soon discover the dangerous inconsistencies in its policies. Both Mr. Trump and his recently resigned national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, have spoken of prioritizing the fight against the Islamic State. But by simultaneously expressing desire for a new confrontation with Iran, they have demonstrated that they do not actually understand the word “priority.”

Furthermore, barring an open Iranian violation of the nuclear agreement, no imaginable American concession to Russia would persuade Moscow to agree to new international sanctions against Iran. One reason is that Russia sees good relations with Iran as permanently in its interest, whereas the policy makers in Moscow know that American concessions may be withdrawn by the next administration.

China may be the other major sticking point. While he has moderated his stand somewhat in recent weeks, Mr. Trump has suggested he is prepared for a confrontation with China. But Russia will not play along. With a 2,600-mile-long border with China and a hopelessly outnumbered army, there is no way that Russia can be persuaded to adopt an outright hostile stance toward its neighbor. The furthest that Russia might go as a result of a better relationship with the United States would be to limit sales of its most sophisticated weapons to China, and perhaps to help seek a United Nations-brokered international compromise over the islands disputed by China and its neighbors.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has not opposed the United States out of blind anti-Americanism. In the former Soviet countries, Russia has defended what the Russian establishment sees — rightly or wrongly — as vital Russian national interests.

Elsewhere in the world, Russia has clashed with the United States for reasons that have often been shared by many Americans, and have often later been proved correct: opposition to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime in Libya being the most notable examples. While Russia wants good relations with the United States, it will not lend blanket support to American global primacy. If that is what the Trump administration is hoping for, it will be sorely disappointed, and the latest attempt at reconciliation with Russia will fail.