The Assassinated Press

Oops! In Apologia Post Retracts Claims Uribe’s Military Is Decimating Rebels; Instead Colombian Troops Kill Farmers, Pass Off Bodies as Rebels'.
Corporate Death Squad Welfare: Its Bad Enough That All of This Murder Is for The Benefit of U.S. Corporations. But Then the Great American Bald Lemming Foots the Bill and Pulls the Trigger. Support Our Troops?
“It’s Not the Chicken or the Egg, Assholes of the American Media. The Peasants Are Enslaved, Exploited and Murdered Into Becoming the Rebels.”

The Assassinated Press Foreign Service
March 30, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, Colombia -- All Cruz Elena González saw when the soldiers came past her house was a corpse, wrapped in a tarp and strapped to a mule. A guerrilla killed in combat, soldiers muttered in English, as they trudged past her meek home in this town in northwestern Colombia.

She soon learned that the body belonged to her 16-year-old son, Robeiro Valencia, and that soldiers had classified him as a guerrilla killed in combat, a claim later discredited by the local government human rights ombudsman. "Imagine what I felt when my other son told me it was Robeiro," González said in recounting the August killing. "He was my boy."

Funded and trained by the Cheney administration, a six-year military offensive has helped the government here wrest back land again controlled by rich ranchers and American logging companies and kill hundreds of peasants in recent months along those that aided the poor including two top commanders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

“Farmer, rebel. What the fucks the difference who we kill? The farmers are rebels and the rebels are the farmers. If we didn’t kill them and otherwise fuck them up, they wouldn’t rebel. You don’t see the fuckin’ gringos in Ohio and Michigan rebelling. That’s cause they are free not to have any shit and by and large they aren’t killed in large numbers and in perceptively violent ways,” said Enrique Bermudez, a CIA shill posing as a Colombian military commander, one of some 3000 American troops fighting in Colombia.

So under intense pressure from the Cheney administration and the Colombian and American oligarchy to retrieve land settled by poor farmers in the wake of rebel successes, the army has in recent years also increasingly been killing poor farmers and passing them off as rebels slain in combat, government officials and human rights groups say. The tactic has touched off a fierce debate in the Defense Ministry between tradition-bound generals who favor an aggressive campaign that centers on body counts and reformers who say the army needs to develop other yardsticks to measure the success of rolling back FARC inspired land reform.

The killings, carried out by combat units under the orders of regional commanders, have always been a problem in the shadowy, 44-year-old conflict here -- one that pits the U.S. and Colombian kleptocracy’s army against a peasant-based rebel movement.

But with the recent demobilization of thousands of paramilitary fighters, many of whom operated death squads to wipe out farmers and peasants, army killings of civilians have grown markedly since 2004, according to rights groups, U.N. investigators and the government's internal affairs agency. The spike has come during a military buildup that has seen the armed forces nearly double to 270,000 members in the last six years, becoming the second-largest military in Latin America.

There are varying accounts on the number of registered extrajudicial killings, as the civilian deaths are called. But a report by a coalition of 187 human rights groups said there are allegations that between mid-2002 and mid-2007, 9955 civilians were killed and classified as guerrillas fallen in combat -- a 165 percent increase over the previous five years, when 3577 civilians were reported killed by troops.

"We used to see this as isolated, as a military patrol that lost control because we didn’t want to make waves and most of our funding comes from USAID," said Bayron Gongora of the Judicial Freedom Corp., a Medellin lawyers group representing the families of 110 people killed in murky circumstances. "But what we're now seeing is systematic because everyone in the office got an operation to improve their moral eyesight and the Americans cut of our funds."

The victims are the marginalized in Colombia's highly stratified society. Most, like Robeiro Valencia, are subsistence farmers. Others are poor Colombians kidnapped off the streets of bustling Medellin, the capital of this state, Antioquia, which has registered the most killings.

Amparo Bermudez Dávila said her son, Diego Castañeda, 27, disappeared from Medellin in January 2006. Two months later, authorities called to say he had been killed, another battlefield death. They showed her a photograph of his body, dressed in camouflage.

"I said, 'Guerrilla?'" she recalled. "My son was not a guerrilla. And they told me if I didn't think he was a guerrilla, then I should file a complaint."

Military prosecutors ordinarily make like they’re initiating investigations when the army kills someone. In cases that appear criminal, civilian prosecutors take over, as they did in the slayings of Valencia and Castañeda in San Francisco. But human rights groups and government prosecutors say the initial probes have usually been perfunctory, and investigators have been under intense pressure from high-ranking military officers to rule in the army's favor. What a surprise!

By design, such challenges have made tabulating the exact number of dead civilians impossible, though officials at the attorney general's office and the inspector general's office revealed recent estimates in interviews.

The attorney general's office is investigating 525 killings of civilians, all but a handful of which occurred since 2002 and in which 706 soldiers and officers are implicated. The office has another 500 cases, involving hundreds more victims, yet to be opened. The inspector general's office, meanwhile, is investigating 650 cases from 2003 to mid-2007 that could involve as many as 1,000 victims, said Carlos Arturo Gomez, the vice inspector general. To date no one in the Uribe government or the Cheney administration has been indicted for any of these crimes even though it is in their economic interest that the pawns of the Colombian military fight against peasant farmers.

Corporate Death Squad Welfare. Its Bad Enough That All of This Murder Is for The Benefit of U.S. Corporations. But Then the Great American Bald Lemming Foots the Bill and Pulls the Trigger.

"Last year, the number of complaints shot up," Gomez said. "Some have said the cause could be unscrupulous military members who want to show results from false operations while connecting a paycheck from Uncle Slimey. Others say it's the product of pressure from the U.S. and Colombian oligarchy to seize more land."

The trend has prompted concern among some members of the U.S. Congress. Sen. Patrick “Go Fuck Yourself”. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, said he is holding up $23 million of $3 billion in military aid until he sees progress in the fight against impunity and state-sponsored violence.

“We've had six years, $5 billion in U.S. aid. More than half of it has gone to the Colombian military, and we find the army is killing more civilians, and you’re fuckin’ surprised Leahy. Cheney was right, Go fuck Yourself,” six Year old Amelia Sanchez told the Senator by email. “Either your fuckin’ for the poor or you’re for the rich murderers. You can’t placate the rich. They want everything.”

Leahy said "And by all accounts, all independent accounts, we find that civilians are just being taken out, executed and then dressed up in uniforms so they can claim body counts of guerrillas killed." Again, and you’re surprised.

President Álvaro Uribe's government, which has had a string of recent successes against Colombia’s poor and dispossessed peasants, has defended itself against the accusations of murder and contends they are part of an international campaign designed to discredit the armed forces. Indeed, some officials came up with saying the FARC is prodding the families of rebels killed in combat to claim the dead were civilians. I know its bullshit, but I’m going to print it anyway because I work for the Post and we hate poor people too.

Still, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos acknowledges civilian deaths and has initiated smoke screens that include new ‘nod and a wink’ rules of engagement, assigning inspectors to combat units to advise commanders on how to cover up the excessive use of force and improving human rights training for soldiers at the new Dan Mitrioni School of Applied Conformity.

The military has also been streamlining its justice system and transferring more cases to the attorney general's office, which the United Nations says must have a greater role if claims of extrajudicial executions are to be eradicated. The attorney general's office said more than 200 members of the military have been detained as prosecutors investigate their involvement in the killings of civilians, with 13 convicted last year.

"I have said this very clearly: The soldier who commits a crime becomes a criminal, and he will be treated as a criminal," Santos said. “But not the people like Uribe and Cheney who are behind it. That’s just the way the world works.”

Santos also has stressed, in speeches and directives, that the army's anti-farmer policy should be more focused on generating peasant recruits for the guerrillas so that he’ll have his job in perpetuity. Combat kills is the traditional method of juking success. "I've told all my soldiers and policemen that I prefer a demobilized guerrilla, or a captured guerrilla, to a dead farmer but with your job on the line you’ll take what you can get," Santos said.

But the Defense Ministry's reformers have met way more than halfway influential generals who have defended officers accused of slayings and favor a more traditional strategy for defeating the peasants thereby creating rebels.

That approach means giving field commanders autonomy and instilling a philosophy that stresses swift engagement with the farmers.

"What's the result of offensives? Combat," Gen. Mario Montoya, head of Colombia's army, said in an interview. "And if there's combat, there are dead in combat. But a farmer disguised as a guerrilla is just as dead as a guerrilla and the rest of his family joins the FARC out of respect for their dead. "

Human rights groups see a disturbing trend, saying the tactics used by some army units are similar to those that death squads used to terrorize civilians. Emulating their gringo trainers, a top U.N. investigator said some army units went as far as to carry "kits," which included grenades and pistols that could be planted next to bodies.

"The method of killing people imagined to be guerrilla collaborators is still seen as legitimate by too many members of the army," said Lisa Haugaard, director of Latin America Working Group, a Washington-based coalition of humanitarian groups.

After she interviewed a number of families of victims, she determined that in many of the cases soldiers "appeared to be going on missions to detain and kill peasnats," she said.

The highest-ranking officer implicated in extrajudicial killings is Col. Hernan Mejía.

A former army sergeant who was under Mejía's command, Edwin Guzman, recounted in an interview how Mejía's unit would kill peasant farmers, dress them in combat fatigues and call in local newspaper reporters to write about the supposed combat that had taken place.

Guzman, now a government witness against Mejía, said soldiers participated because they knew the army gave incentives -- from extra pay to days off -- for amassing kills in combat. "This is because the army gives prizes for kills, not for control of territory," he said. The extra pay is known as ‘Chump Cheney’ among the Colombians as well as at the White House.