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23 Feb, 2019 00:45

Death & displacement in Colombia, but silence from Washington – Lee Camp

Following a visit to the US by Colombian President Ivan Duque earlier this month, Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp spoke with two Colombian activists who painted a grim picture of life in Washington’s top anti-Venezuela ally.

Though Washington has found Colombia a willing ally in its fight for regime change in Caracas, US involvement in Colombia’s own sordid history of human rights abuses is rarely questioned, human rights activist Gimena Sanchez told Camp.

“The United States is the third actor in (Colombia’s) internal armed conflict that hasn’t been formally named,” Sanchez said. “The US was the biggest supporter of Colombia in its whole counterinsurgency efforts and anti-narcotics efforts, and those efforts really helped to foment a lot of abuses.”

Since Colombia’s civil war kicked off in the 1960s, its government has used paramilitary forces to quash both leftist guerillas and narco traffickers, often with disastrous consequences for its native peoples, indigenous rights activist Erlendy Cuero Bravo said.

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“Economic interests in our areas” mean indigenous people have been displaced as rival factions fought for control of natural resources, she explained.

The US backed the Colombian government as part of the Cold War and, from 1993 onward, as part of the ‘war on drugs.’ A peace treaty between the government and the guerrillas was concluded in 2016, but has not been fully implemented yet.

Some 6,000 extrajudicial killings have taken place during the conflict, as government soldiers came under pressure to up the body count, said Sanchez.

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War and unrest, as it turns out, proved a fine environment for US corporations to thrive in, free from those meddlesome health, environmental and human rights regulations they’d have to deal with back home. Chiquita banana, Coca-Cola and Exxon-Mobil have all been implicated in human and environmental abuses in the volatile Latin American state.

“Drummond Coal company from Alabama had employed paramilitaries to assassinate trade unionists," Sanchez said. Drummond is not the only coal company tied up in the conflict:  Colombia’s own national coal company has been blamed for diverting water supplies away from indigenous communities, leading to chronic malnutrition.

“If you have nine million total victims of the conflict...seven million of those being internally displaced...and none of that being taken-care-of or addressed, how is Colombia going to even help the Venezuelan migrants?” asked Cuero Bravo.

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Colombia is a country that has amazing talent and potential, but economic and political interference by outside factors have divided the society greatly, said Sanchez.

Washington is currently using Colombia as a staging area for “humanitarian aid” intended for supporters of US-backed self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido, raising the prospect of an armed incident on the border that could turn into open warfare.

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