Who's Winning in Colombia's Conflict?

By Janna Hunter-Bowman 08-26-2008

What have you heard about the paramilitary leaders extradited to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges? As formally demobilized paramilitary, they were being processed under what is known as the "justice and peace law" and were in the midst of hearings. Their confessions of macabre acts, partial at best, evolved to include naming ties with the Colombian government and international corporations. Testimonies revealed strategies, intellectual authors of crimes, and kingpins of paramilitary structures. These truths fed the "para-politics" scandal, and, at that moment, the Uribe administration effectively cut off the hearings by allowing the U.S. to whisk them off to be processed for drug trafficking. It left me sputtering, "What!?" As the paramilitary leaders are now under U.S. jurisdiction, they are only being tried for drug charges and not for the countless instances of torture, homicides, and other war crimes committed.

But they may not even be the big "winners." As the notorious paramilitary leader from northwestern Colombia, Ever Veloza Garcia -- alias "HH" -- said in a radio interview last week,

the only ones that won are the rich of this country. The ones who invested in the war, who paid money for us to kill. ... The majority of the people who died in this war are innocent.

In another radio interview, he shared "how the security forces coordinated the movement of troops and helped us move weapons. We paid them to give information and cooperate."

One victim of the paramilitary exclaimed at church recently, "I feel like I'm being whitewashed from history. But look, touch me, I do exist!"

Janna Hunter-Bowman works for Mennonite Central Committee in Bogotá, Colombia, as the coordinator of the Documentation and Advocacy Program for Justapaz.

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