In December last year the Washington Post published an article entitled ‘Covert action in Colombia’ that confirmed what most followers of Colombia/US relations would have long suspected, namely that the CIA was covertly playing a key role in the Colombian army’s policy of targeted assassinations against leaders of the FARC, the guerrilla group that has been at war with the Colombian state for nearly 50 years.
The article, based on interviews with more than 30 former and current US and Colombian officials, outlined how the CIA had provided the Colombian government with precision guidance systems and smart bombs to kill at least two dozen members of the FARC in recent times.
The fact that 30 former and current US and Colombian officials spoke to the Washington Post about this covert action (although the Washington Post did not give the interviewees’ names) clearly indicated that this was something these officials wanted the world to know. No doubt the intention was to send a message to the FARC that they were not safe anywhere and that they should perhaps bend towards the Colombian government’s will in the current peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government, underway since October 2012 in Havana, Cuba. Interestingly also, the article detailed the role of the NSA in the CIA’s covert actions, perhaps to bolster the NSA’s reputation following the disclosures by former CIA employee and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The article however, failed to put the actions of the US government in Colombia (ostensibly at present as part of a “war on drugs/terror”) into any kind of proper historical context, something this book does so comprehensively. This is essential. For example, this article argued that the most significant aspect of the US and Colombia’s historic relationship concerns the role of rightwing paramilitary forces. Only when current US intervention in Colombia is viewed in its historical context do the wider dynamics and motivations become clearer.
Returning to the US sponsored assassination of FARC leaders, one high-profile case took place in March 2008 when then Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ordered the Colombian army to bomb and raid a FARC camp just inside Ecuador. Colombian fighter planes using smart bombs destroyed the FARC camp, killing 26 people in total, including Raul Reyes, part of the FARC’s high command and its international spokesperson.
The below clip from the Director’s cut of my documentary ‘The Colombia Connection’ examines this episode as part of a section exploring how Colombia’s social and armed conflict has also spread beyond its own borders to affect its neighbours, in this case Ecuador. The documentary asks 3 main questions: How exactly does the US intervene in Colombia’s conflict? What role does Colombia serve for the US government? And what is the human cost of the Colombian conflict?
The latest revelations in the Washington Post, while shedding some important light on the first question, still must placed in the wider context of the US government’s historic interventionist role in Colombia and Latin America in order to be truly understood.
openSecurity, along with Alborada Films are supporting a free screening of the Director’s cut of ‘The Colombia Connection’ on Tuesday 4 February at the University of London. More information: Alborada.