With what-all about Gulf War 2, Code Orange, exploding rubber factories and lost space ships, Colombia has taken a back seat to Columbia and the rest. But at the Community Church in Chapel Hill last week, Gail Phares and her Witness for Peace delegation (www.witnessforpeace.org) gave a presentation pointing out why Colombia is likely headed straight for the driver's seat of our attention sometime soon.
Phares described what had been just another day in a quiet mountain village in the Andean Alta Putumayo region of Colombia, an area inhabited by subsistence farmers who have lived in the area for centuries. The campasinos had never taken sides in the 40-year Colombian civil war, never been involved in coca production, indeed, had had little contact with the outside world. There had never been any trouble until the FARC Marxist rebels kidnapped a local offical's daughter.
In response, six weeks ago, the American-backed Colombian military advanced on the village, accompanied by AUC, a particularly vicious stripe of rightist paramilitary forces, noted on the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Soon the bodies began to pile up, 20 or so in days, community leaders mostly, and to further terrorize the local population, the Paras slathered AUC graffitti all over the houses.
Welcome to the New World Order, Colombian style.
Meanwhile, in lower Putumayo, aerial spraying of innocent farmers continues. The airplanes, piloted by Colombian military and American employees of DynCorp (A CIA proprietary company), on the pretext of coca eradication, routinely fog villages: the pigs, the ponds, the chickens, the beans, the corn--and the people, with Round-Up Ultra, a particularly potent form of the stuff you spray on dandelions--not designed for aerial application and definitely not something you want sprayed on your kids.
Within days, every living plant is dead, the livestock dead or ill, and the simple peasants suffering from a host of physical ailments. And the lives these people had lead are changed forever. In the region there have been 50,000 farmers displaced to avoid starvation because of the poisoned water and destroyed crops.
Accompanying the dearth of offical media information emerging from that battered country--one, paradoxically, both the richest in terms of resources, and the poorest in terms of income inequality--are Witness for Peaces eyewitness reports that things are getting much, much worse.
Despite the bland assurances emerging from the "new" School of the Americas (WHINSEC) and the U.S. State Department, the trouble in Colombia has taken an ugly turn. State-sponsored (or tacitly permitted) extra-judicial killings and disappearances are spiking, signaling a murderous deja-vu, a bad-trip down memory lane to the days of Nicaragua and El Salvador. And the U.S. is right in there, just like the old days, supplying, training and arming military units against the most peaceful and vulnerable citizens of Colombia.