STATE OF WAR
0n November 8, 1992, Colombian President CÚsar Gaviria Trujillo adopted a series of emergency decrees restricting civil liberties, granting additional powers to the military, and punishing contact or dialogue with insurgent groups. The decrees marked a reversion to authoritarian patterns of rule supposedly left behind with the passage of the 1991 Constitution. And despite the adoption of emergency measures, the government has failed to achieve its central goal: winning a decisive upper hand in the thirty-year war against Colombia's 7,000 guerrillas.
Colombia is Latin America's leading recipient of U.S. military aid, ostensibly provided for counter- narcotics measures, but the armed forces' priorities remain counterinsurgency tactics. The centerpiece of army strategy has been the creation of three Mobile Brigades, elite units of professional soldiers that receive special training and operate in areas of greatest insurgent activity. The units have been implicated in a shocking number of abuses, including extra-judicial executions, disappearances, rapes, torture, the wanton burning of houses, crops, and food, indiscriminate bombings and aerial strafing, beatings, and death threats. For their part, guerrilla forces have engaged in a disturbing pattern of violations of international humanitarian law, including the killing and torture of captured security force officers, selective assassinations of critics, attacks on civilian targets, and the destruction of the environment by repeated bombings of oil pipelines, putting the civilian population in grave danger. The determination of the guerrillas to demonstrate their strength and the government's equal determination to incapacitate the insurgency, is sure to prolong the stalemate characterizing Latin America's longestrunning war and increase the suffering of those civilians caught in the cross fire.
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Copyright © December 1993 by Human Rights Watch.
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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 93-80982
A Panorama of Violence
The Declaration of the State of Internal Commotion
From State of Emergency to Total War
Senior Military Involvement with Paramilitary Group
The Report of the Procuraduría
Irregular Use of the "Public Order" Courts
The Erosion of Constitutional Guarantees
The Law to Regulate States of Exception
Attacks on Human Rights Monitors
The Drug War
The Mobile Brigades
A Pattern of Violations
Mobile Brigade 2 and The Middle Magdalena
A Case Study: Meta
Climate of Violence
Guerrilla Abuses in Conflict Zones
United States Policy
Appendix I - Bombardments Causing Civilian Casualties, 1990-1993
Appendix II - Partial Listing of Emergency Military Assistance to Colombia