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As this report has documented, the Colombian security forces, including the Mobile Brigades, are responsible for massive and deplorable abuses against the civilian population. At the same time, most of the materiel used by and training provided the Colombian army and police come from the United States.

The bulk of military items donated or sold to Colombia since 1989 have been provided under the guise of the war on drugs. In fact, however, the line between counterinsurgency and counter-narcotics is thinly drawn. This is not only because the dominant view held in the U.S. government is that the guerrillas have "evolved into criminal organizations, heavily involved in narcotics trafficking," 1 but also because the Colombian armed forces themselves have placed a higher priority in recent years on the antiguerrilla struggle.

In addition, there are not effective mechanisms to ensure that the weapons transferred for anti-narcotics operations are not diverted for other purposes. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) in August 1993, "U.S. military officials had not fully implemented end-use monitoring procedures to ensure that Colombia's military is using aid primarily for counter-narcotics purposes." 2 End-use monitoring is also a human rights issue. The GAO's report said that the State Department had not established procedures to ensure that U.S. assistance did not go to units where individuals had abused human rights. The GAO found "two instances where personnel who had allegedly committed human rights abuses came from units that received U.S. aid." 3

The quantity of U.S. aid going to Colombia, the lack of end-use controls, and the involvement of Colombian agents in systematic human rights abuses ought to be cause for a scandal. Colombia is now the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in Latin America, and has been for the last four years, with military aid totalling $227 million between fiscal years 1990 and 1993. 4 Since fiscal year 1984, Colombia has had the largest International Military Education and Training (IMET) program in the hemisphere in terms of students trained, and the largest in dollar terms since fiscal year 1989. 5 Between fiscal years 1984 and 1992, 6,844 Colombian soldiers were trained under IMET, more than triple the number from El Salvador, where the United States was heavily involved in a counterinsurgency war; over 2,000 military and police were trained in U.S. schools between fiscal year 1990 and 1992 alone. 6 U.S. officials insist that the United States tracks these students through military-to-military contacts 7 but it is doubtful that the involvement of U.S.-trained personnel in human rights abuses comes to light in any but the most egregious cases.

Despite efforts by U.S. government officials to emphasize the antinarcotics component of U.S. assistance, the priority for the Colombian armed forces remains counterinsurgency. The United States acknowledged as much when in early 1992 it re-directed U.S. aid to the police, Air Force, and Navy, and away from the army, a move also related to the army's ineffectiveness in anti-drug operations. 8 In the early days of the drug war, Colombian military officers were quite explicit about their intent to use anti-narcotics monies for counterinsurgency, telling congressional staff members that the majority of aid provided under the counter-narcotics Andean I nitiative would be used to launch a major new offensive against the guerrillas. 9 Such proclivities were given sanction by U.S. officials. According to former U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Thomas MacNamara in mid-1991, "I don't see the utilization of the arms against the guerrillas as a deviation. The arms are given to the government in order that it may use them in the anti-narcotics struggle ... but this is not a requirement of the United States." 10

The Colombian armed forces' preoccupation with the counterinsurgency war has continued. The head of the Colombian Air Force, Major General Alfonso Abondano Alzamora told the Colombian press in February 1993 that the Air Force was mounting an ambitious aerial counterinsurgency program, announcing the purchase of sixteen U.S. made UH-IH and Blackhawk helicopters, to be used "for the support of ground troops." 11 Abondano also said that steps were underway to purchase "real combat helicopters" to serve as gunships. 12 According to the Colombian press, five of the Blackhawks were to "be available to the brigades in the field" before March 1994. 13 This contradicted statements by U.S. officials that assistance to the Air Force was primarily for counternarcotics purposes.

While the same equipment may be appropriate for anti-drug and antiguerrilla operations, the lack of end-use controls has been a longstanding problem. Most of the dual-use equipment was, in fact, designed explicitly for counterinsurgency purposes. Documents received by Human Rights Watch under the Freedom of Information Act and information available from the GAO indicate that equipment transferred ostensibly for antinarcotics purposes includes: 15 OV-10 "Bronco" aircraft; 700 MK-82 bombs; 3,500 2.75-inch warheads; 5,000 40mm grenades; 2,500 M18A1 land mines; 10,000 M-14 rifles; $84 million worth of UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and spares; C-130 transport aircraft; 8 A-37 "Dragonfly" counterinsurgency jets and another 8 T-37 trainer planes; UH-1H helicopters and spares; tactical intelligence command, control, communications, and intelligence systems; and thousands of machine guns, pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers, revolvers along with corresponding ammunition (see Appendix II). 14

A September 1991 GAO report indicated that U.S. officials did not "have sufficient oversight to provide assurances that the aid is being used as intended for counternarcotics purposes and is not being used primarily against insurgents or being used to abuse human rights." 15 These findings were substantially reiterated in the GAO's August 1993 report to Congress.

The veritable alphabet-soup of U.S. programs that serve as channels for anti-drug assistance also hinders oversight and accountability. In addition to the normal military aid channels (FMF and IMET), Colombia receives military equipment through emergency drawdowns authorized by Sections 506(a) and 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act; Excess Defense Articles consisting of excess equipment in U.S. stocks; the State Department's International Narcotics Control programs (INM), which has primarily focused on the police and the Department of Administrative Security (DAS); Export-Import Bank loan guarantees, normally used to back only commercial transactions but available for anti-narcotics purposes under the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Competing jurisdictions within the U.S. Congress (the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations committees, and the Committees on Appropriations, Judiciary, Government Operations, and Intelligence) also impede effective oversight of U.S. programs. According to congressional sources, CIA programs in Colombia are extensive, and have not been the subject of adequate oversight or control. 16 Excluding the DEA and CIA, the United States provided close to $400 million to Colombia in military and police aid between fiscal years 1990 and 1992 alone, ostensibly for counternarcotics purposes.

Colombia's primacy in U.S. military aid programs has continued under the Clinton administration. For fiscal year 1994, the administration requested $32 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and IMET funds, an increase of $4 million over the last year of the Bush administration and approximately half of proposed military aid to all of Latin America. The amounts were reduced significantly due to deep cuts in the global military aid account imposed by Congress. Colombia is now slated to receive between $7.7 million and $9 million in FMF and $900,000 in IMET. To make up the shortfall, however, the Clinton administration intends to use emergency drawdown authority to bolster the Colombia account. One proposal, for some $60 million, was floated on Capitol Hill in September following a meeting between President Clinton and President Gaviria at the United Nations. The idea was withdrawn due to congressional objections, but consultations continued on a lower figure of $30 million in early December. 17

Despite efforts to maintain funding levels for the Colombian military and police, there are few signs that over the long run the Clinton administration will maintain the "war on drugs" as devised and fought by the Bush administration. The central reason is that a chorus of policyrnakers and officials have recognized U.S. efforts as a failure: according to the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee in 1992, despite the expenditure of over $1 billion in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia,

more cocaine was available for sale on America's streets, not less. Few mechanisms were in place to effectively monitor how those funds were spent, and there were persistent reports of corruption among Andean officials involved in counternarcotics. 18

Louis J. Rodrigues, the GAO's senior analyst for Systems Development and Production Issues concurred that

the estimated volume of cocaine entering the country has not appreciably declined since DOD was given its lead agency mission ... interdiction has not made a difference in terms of the higher goals of deterring smugglers and reducing the flow of cocaine. 19

In April 1993, Newsweek reported that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell moved to scale back interdiction efforts, apparently frustrated by their lack of effectiveness. 20

The Clinton administration's director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Lee Brown, announced in mid-August 1993 that the administration would "put major emphasis on demand." 21 But the administration's first request for drug control funding differed little from the Bush administration's last. Of the over $13 billion spent for interdiction, demand reduction, and domestic law enforcement, 36 percent was slated for demand reduction, only one percentage point above the last year of the Bush administration. Similarly, funds designated for "international/interdiction" programs declined by only two percent, from 19 to 17 percent. 22

As policymakers grapple to devise a new anti-drug strategy, U.S. involvement in the drug war continues. In an April 30, 1993, meeting with journalists, head of the U.S. Southern Command Gen. George Joulwan said that U.S. intelligence and communications support was involved in the capture of at least nine aides to Pablo Escobar. 23 This confirmed earlier Pentagon statements following Escobar's prison escape that a "small number" of U.S. military personnel were assisting the Colombian police with advice and planning. 24 When Escobar was finally located and killed in early December 1993, it was reportedly because the DEA had provided the Colombian police with sophisticated monitoring devices that allowed them to screen all conversations on cellular telephones. The equipment was programmed to recognize Escobar's voice. 25

In addition, U.S. advisers have assisted the Colombian armed forces in building military bases around the country. In response to rumors that the United States had military bases in Colombia, U.S. Ambassador Morris Busby clarified that U.S. involvement was limited to "collaboration and advice," adding that "the goal [was] to increase the battlefronts against the guerrillas and narcotrafficking organizations." 26 The Embassy said that four bases had already been constructed and five more were underway.

Given the levels of U.S. assistance to and involvement with Colombia's armed forces, it is inconceivable that evidence of human rights abuses escapes their attention. Yet the Embassy made no public statements about human rights issues in 1993, other than through the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. According to political affairs officer Thomas P. Hamilton, "throughout the year the Ambassador and other representatives of the Embassy pursue our Human Rights Policy through private diplomatic channels." 27 Elsewhere in Latin America, however, experience has shown that quiet diplomacy means no diplomacy as long as the armed forces feel assured of an uninterrupted stream of military aid.

The U.S. Congress in 1993 did, by contrast, take note of "continuing human rights abuses on a large scale" by imposing conditions on U.S. aid. 28 Section 520 of the foreign assistance appropriations bill (P.L. 103-87) prohibits the administration from providing economic or military aid to Colombia unless it first notifies two (and in practice, four) congressional committees, which have informal authority to halt the aid.

In adopting the condition, the Senate "urge[d] the Colombian Government to permit access to the International Committee of the Red Cross to police and military detention facilities," access which has been denied on a wide scale. 29 In particular, a system by which Colombian police and military authorities agreed to notify the ICRC when persons were taken prisoner does not function. The Congress's action prompted alarm among Colombian governmental officials, one of whom, Procurador General Carlos Gustavo Arrieta, visited Washington in early December 1993. Shortly before departing, Arrieta had written Colombian Foreign Minister Noemi Sanín de Rubio and other cabinet officials recommending a vigorous campaign to improve Colombia's image abroad. 30 Responding to the problem as one of image rather than substance, however, does little to inspire faith that Colombia's serious human rights situation will be addressed at the source.

Through a six-year, $36 million program, moreover, the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) has provided support for judicial reform in Colombia. While the bulk of these funds have gone to train judges and provide for equipment and infrastructure, they have also supported the highly-controversial public order courts (see above), with apparently little regard for the potential for abuse within the public order system or the problems of due process and independence of the judiciary connected with it. In a March 1993 interview with Americas Watch, for example, U.S. Embassy political officer Janet Crist defended the extension of the public order jurisdiction to the striking workers from the state telecommunications agency TELECOM, a case that became so controversial within Colombia that it was eventually transferred back to the ordinary justice system. 31 Fortunately, there are indications that AID officials are increasingly concerned about reports of abuse of the public order jurisdiction, and may be willing to press for certain reforms.


1 U.S. Department of Defense, Congressional Presentation for Security Assistance Programs, Fiscal Year 1994, p. 151. The CPD listed as the first objective of U.S. programs to "support Colombia's efforts to strengthen and sustain democracy, with particular emphasis on counter-insurgency/counter-narcotics efforts." Despite that choice of wording, Pentagon officials stressed to Americas Watch that the focus of U.S. efforts in Colombia remains on counter narcotics, not counter-guerrilla activities.

2 U.S. General Accounting Office, The Drug War: Colombia is Undertaking Antidrug Programs, but Impact is Uncertain, August 1993, p. 6.

3 Ibid., p. 6.

4 U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Assistance Agency, Fiscal Year Series As of September 30, 1992, pp. 364-65. Fiscal Year 1993 data provided by Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff.

5 U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Assistance Agency, Foreign Military Construction Sales and Military Assistance Facts as of September 30, 1991, pp. 104-5 and 97.

6 U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Assistance Agency, Fiscal Year Series, pp. 365 and 381; GAO, "The Drug War," p. 47.

7 U.S. Department of Defense, telephone interview, November 24, 1993.

8 Americas Watch, Political Murder and Reform, p. I 10; Washington Office on Latin America, The Colombian National Police, Human Rights and U. S. Drug Policy (Washington, D.C.: Washington Office on Latin America, May 1993), p. 7.

9 The offensive, known as "Operation Tri-Color 90," began on April 1, 1990, involving one-quarter of Colombia's army and a large portion of the Air Force. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Stopping the Flood of Cocaine With Operation Snowcap: Is It Working?, Thirteenth Report, 101st Congress, 2d Session (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990), p. 83.

10 Washington Office on Latin America, Clear and Present Dangers: The U.S. Military and the War on Drugs in the Andes (Washington, D.C.: Washington Office on Latin America, October 1991), pp. 52-53, cited in Kate Doyle, "Drug War: A Quietly Escalating Failure," NACLA Report on the Americas, Vo. 26, No. 5, May 1993, p. 33.

11 El Espectador, "FAC Adds Helicopters to Counterinsurgency Program," FBIS, March 12, 1993, p. 18.
12 Ibid.

13 El Tiempo, "Armed Forces Modernization Plan Outlined," FBIS, November 8, 1993, p. 62.

14 Documents provided to Human Rights Watch under a 1993 Freedom of Information Act request; GAO, The Drug War, pp. 46-53.

15 Cited in Chuck Call, Washington Office on Latin America, memorandum to Congress, May 21, 1992, p. 1.

16 Interview, December 21, 1992; GAO, The Drug War, pp. 46-53.

17 The aid was to go primarily to the Air Force and police for aviation resources. An additional $10 million was slated for Bolivia. Interview, congressional aide, September 30 and December 2, 1993; and Department of Defense official, November 24, 1993.

18 U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs, Appropriation Bill, 1993, Report No. 102-419 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992), p. 22.

19 General Accounting Office, "Drug Control: Increased Interdiction and Its Contribution to the War on Drugs," (testimony of Louis J. Rodrigues before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government), T-NSIAD-93-4, February 25, 1993, p. 3.

20 "A Retreat in the Drug War," Newsweek, April 5, 1993, p. 4.

A classified report by the U.S. National Security Council also reportedly concluded that Pentagon interdiction programs had had virtually no impact on the price or availability of cocaine in the United States. Michael Isikoff, "U.S. Considers Shift in Drug War," Washington Post, September 16, 1993.

21 Andean Commission of Jurists (Lima), "Brown's Tour," Drug Trafficking Update, No. 41, September 13, 1993, p. 1. Brown toured the Andean region earlier in the summer and said he was "particularly impressed" by the progress achieved in Colombia.

A later statement by Brown that corruption in Colombia impeded progress in the war on drugs drew a prompt rebuttal from Attorney General Gustavo de Greiff, who said that "corruption is rampant in the United States. Otherwise, no one could explain how thousands upon thousands of tons of drugs enter the United States." Inravisión Television Cadena 1, "Prosecutor General Rejects U.S. Corruption Charges," FBIS, October 7, 1993. De Greiff also strenuously criticized the U.S. Embassy's granting of visas to members of the Medellín cartel and their families.

22 Figures from the White House Office of Management and Budget, in Washington Office on Latin America, "Andean Initiative, Legislative Update," August 1993, p. 9. See also, Ricardo Vargas M., "La Senal de los Silencios," Cien Días, Vol. 6, No. 22, April-June 1993, pp. 14-15.

23 "Gringos dirigen el Bloque de Búsqueda," La Prensa, May 3, 1993; Newsday, "On the run, cartel's Escobar retreats to bunker," Miami Herald, May 2, 1993.

24 Christopher Marquis, "Pentagon aids hunt for Escobar," Miami Herald, July 31, 1992.

25 James Brooke, "Drug Lord is Buried as Crowd Wails," New York Times, December 4, 1993.

26 "EE.UU. asesora construcción de nueve bases colombianas," La Prensa, July 16, 1993.

27 Thomas P. Hamilton, Counselor for Political Affairs, letter to Americas Watch, September 27, 1993.

28 U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriation Bill, 1994, Report 103-142 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, September 14, 1993), p. 32.

29 Ibid.

30 "Piden mejorar la imagen del país," El Tiempo, October 31, 1993.

31 Interview, March 3, 1993.

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