Colombian military defies President Santos, civilian rule, spies on government peace negotiators
That the Colombian military is spying on its own peace negotiators in clear defiance of its president and civilian rule should really come as little surprise to anyone familiar with the nation’s history.
News of the fifth-column attack on the peace process reverberated across Colombia Tuesday when the news magazine La Semana revealed the results of a year-long investigation of a military spy operation in Bogotá that appeared to be feeding former president Álvaro Uribe´s persistent attacks against the negotiations.
Uribe angrily denied any connection with the developing scandal, but it seems obvious that he benefited from seditious elements in the Colombian military when he denounced President Juan Manuel Santos for attempting to establish talks to end a half century of conflict with FARC rebels when secret exploratory talks had barely began.
The former president – accused of having strong paramilitary ties – had also released the coordinates of top secret locations where FARC leaders were to be removed from Colombia so they could participate in peace talks in Havana, Cuba. Posting this on his Twitter account was an aggressive attempt to scuttle the negotiations before they could begin.
In response to Tuesday’s revelations, Santos said “dark forces” were attempting to derail peace efforts. He suspended two generals and ordered an investigation into the spy scandal.
As stunning as the revelations were, they are just another example of how elements in the Colombian military and security forces do not accept civilian rule when it comes to what they consider national security and their own narrow self-interest.
Elements in the Colombian military historically do whatever is necessary to protect themselves from being prosecuted for crimes against humanity, including the massacre of thousands of leftist politicians, trade union leaders, human rights workers, journalists and anyone opposed their corporate allies who wanted to gain control of vast tracts of land rich in mineral resources or agricultural potential.
Hundreds of military personnel have already been convicted of participating in executions and other crimes.
The examples of Colombian military and security forces defying civilian rule in attempts to make peace could fill a set of encyclopedias.
* Colombian generals defied then Colombian president Belisario Betancur when he attempted to negotiate a peace accord with various guerrilla forces in the early 1980s. Betancur ordered the Colombian military to observe a ceasefire, but the generals ignored the supposed head of state and kept fighting.
* When then president Andres Pastrana ordered the Colombian military to create a safe zone for FARC guerrillas in the late 1990s, the military was outraged. They delayed obeying the president’s orders for as long as possible and ordered overflights of FARC territories in defiance of their orders. Pastrana later said that General Jorge Enrique Mora was “the Colombian that is the biggest enemy of peace”.
Santos, a former defence minister in the Uribe presidency, attempted to avoid outright sedition and sabotage by his military in these negotiations by including Mora in his negotiating team. But there are critics who doubt Mora’s commitment to negotiating an accord which would allow his enemies exchange their weapons and return to Colombian political life.
* Colombian military and security forces have been implicated in countless assassinations and threats against former guerrillas leaders and leftist politicians and supporters. A few of these examples include the assassinations of presidential candidates Luis Carlos Galan in 1989, Bernardo Jaramillo in 1990, and Carlos Pizarro in 1990.
The rash of death threats against elected left-wing politicians and candidates in current elections this week have many fearing another wave of assassinations.
In a country where hundreds of thousands have been murdered and millions displaced, often with the cooperation of military and security forces working in conjunction with the paramilitaries and corrupt politicians, it should really come as no great surprise that powerful forces in the military continue to sabotage attempts to bring peace to Colombia.
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About Connecting ColombiasRecently retired newspaper reporter with one foot in British Columbia, Canada, the other in Colombia, South America. Fascinated with Colombian culture, Canadian connections, and heroic efforts to return millions of displaced Colombians to lands stolen by paramilitaries, guerrillas and organized crime.
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