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The “Sixth Division”: Military-paramilitary Ties and U.S. Policy in Colombia

III. The Pastrana Administration

While the military aggressively pursues a public relations campaign to clean up its image, on the ground it continues to strongly support paramilitary groups.

-- international observer

The Pastrana administration has done far too little to address paramilitary atrocities and continued collaboration between its armed forces and abusive paramilitary groups. As the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights described it in its report for 2000, the government's response to a worsening human rights situation has been "weak and inconsistent."227

There is a wealth of information available about who commits atrocities and why -- sometimes delivered in great detail and well in advance of any attack. Yet this results in feeble and at times wholly fictitious government attempts to identify and punish the perpetrators and little action to defuse planned violence before there are victims to mourn.

"We know that there are people with good intentions in the government, but official policy does not reflect these intentions," commented one trade unionist from Valle.228

With the notable exception of the Attorney General's office, the CTI, a core of ranking CNP officers, the office of the Public Advocate, and isolated government officials, the Pastrana administration has dedicated most of its time and energy to mounting a sophisticated public relations campaign that highlights its good intentions. But this campaign has yet to translate into effective action that addresses the sources of violence, particularly continuing ties between the military and paramilitary groups.

One high level government official put it this way: "There is a rupture between civilian authorities and military authorities. Political authorities give orders that paramilitaries be fought, and the military authorities hear [these orders] but do not obey them."229

"The military is playing a double game," commented one international observer to Human Rights Watch. "While it aggressively pursues a public relations campaign to clean up its image, on the ground it continues to strongly support paramilitary groups."230

Warrants Without Arrests

One way to measure the Pastrana administration's failure to compel action is through a review of what happens to arrest warrants issued by the Attorney General's office for alleged paramilitaries. According to the CTI, investigators attached to the Attorney General's office, they had over 300 arrest warrants against alleged paramilitary members pending in January 2001. Among them were at least twenty-two separate warrants against Carlos Castaño for massacres, killings, and the kidnaping of human rights defenders and a Colombian senator.231

The CTI, however, has faced increased difficulty in carrying out arrests. For instance, in 1998, the CTI made 120 arrests on these types of warrants. That number fell to eighty-eight in 1999 and just sixty-five in 2000.232 [ see appendix 2]

Government investigators from four separate institutions consulted by Human Rights Watch agreed that the main cause for the fall in the number of arrests was the Colombian military. The military, according to these investigators, refused to send troops to make arrests or else leaks arrest plans to paramilitaries.

"There are cases where we cannot execute warrants against paramilitaries because we lack the military weaponry to confront them," explained one high level government investigator who asked for anonymity. And when the Colombian military is involved, "The information leaks and when we arrive, nobody is there. In many cases, the military knows exactly where the paramilitaries are, but does nothing."233

For its part, the military claimed that it has arrested paramilitaries, and often shows PowerPoint displays with colorful graphics to illustrate its claims. But civilian government investigators insisted to Human Rights Watch that most of those counted as detained in military tallies were merely low-ranking fighters, not leaders and key organizers. The Attorney General's office, sometimes acting in

coordination with the CTI and CNP, has a significantly better record of arresting paramilitary leaders.234

For instance, on May 24, 2001, the Attorney General's office carried out unprecedented arrests and searches in the city of Montería, Córdoba, long considered a stronghold of Carlos Castaño. In the raid, which included a special Colombian Army unit brought from Bogotá, authorities reportedly carried out thirty-one searches and detained at least five people believed to have ties with paramilitaries. Among the houses searched was one belonging to Salvatore Mancuso, known as "El Mono," allegedly a high-ranking AUC member who is wanted in relation to several massacres.235 It is significant that the Attorney General prosecutors had soldiers brought from the capital and not Montería, a paramilitary stronghold, where the local Eleventh Brigade has long been linked to support for paramilitaries

Yet even these arrests can prove illusory. Since 1998, at least fifteen alleged paramilitary leaders who have been arrested have later walked past prison guards, soldiers, and police to freedom:236

Omar Yesud López Alarcón: reputedly the head of the northern branch of the AUC, López escaped from the prison in Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, on May 17, 2001. He was detained at the end of 2000, accused of masterminding a number of massacres in north-east Colombia.237

Martín Villa Montoya: Villa allegedly took part in the El Salado massacre.238 He fled the prison where he was kept in March 2001, only days after the Attorney General's Human Rights Unit filed formal charges against him and fourteen others believed to have killed thirty-six people.239

Jorge Ivan Laverde Zapata, alias "Sebastian" or "El Iguano": on November 22, 2000, accused AUC member Laverde was reportedly undergoing a medical procedure in a hospital when a group of thirty AUC members arrived to escort him to freedom. Although Laverde was believed to be a paramilitary commander and confidant of Carlos Castaño's, it appears that the security force members charged with guarding him took no special measures to prevent his escape or to detain the AUC gunmen.240 Indeed, there was a clear indication that Laverde was a flight risk since he had escaped once before. On January 18, 2000, he had been arrested by the CNP near Turbo, Antioquia.241 At the time of his second escape, Laverde reportedly had a total of three arrest warrants filed against him for homicide and paramilitary activities, and was believed to be a commander of the AUC in North Santander department.242

Salomon Feris Chadid: a retired military officer linked to killings in the department of Sucre, Feris left detention several weeks after his August 2000 arrest.243

Francisco Javier Piedrahita: Piedrahita was arrested and accused of financing paramilitaries along Colombia's Caribbean Coast. Escorted to a Barranquilla clinic for a medical procedure, he left unmolested on December 31, 1999.244

Humberto Caicedo Grosso: a military-style hair cut was apparently all this alleged paramilitary, known as "H.K.," needed to be able to walk out of the army's Sixteenth Brigade, in Yopal, Casanare, two days after his arrest on February 18, 2000. Caicedo apparently walked out of the brigade's main entrance. According to a report in El Espectador, the escape was not even registered by the Colombian Army until March 8. Subsequently, the Attorney General's office opened an investigation of two army colonels and a captain for possibly arranging his escape.245 Caicedo was later implicated in the largest hostage-taking ever recorded in Colombia, the May 16, 2001 seizure of 198 African palm workers in the department of Casanare. All of the workers were later reported released.246

Héctor Buitrago, alias "Tripas": Buitrago was arrested in connection with an attack on a government judicial commission outside San Carlos de Guaroa, Meta, on October 3, 1997, that left eleven dead. The commission had intended to seize a ranch belonging to an alleged drug trafficker and financer of paramilitary groups. Buitrago escaped while being taken from a Villavicencio jail to a local hospital after complaining of symptoms of a heart attack. Armed men intercepted the vehicle conveying him and killed Carmen Rosa Burgos, the nurse attending him.247

Jacinto Soto Toro, alias "Lucas" or "Aníbal": Soto, reputedly a top AUC accountant, walked out of Medellín's Bellavista Prison on November 2, 1998.248 Arrested on April 30, 1998, by the CTI, Soto was found in an office that authorities said did the paramilitaries' accounting and contained many documents relating to checking accounts, sham businesses, and the names of Colombians who had donated money or other goods.249 According to the prison director, Soto was able to leave the prison because he had a false document signed by a local prosecutor that authorized guards to release him.250

Other paramilitary leaders who remain in jail reportedly continue to organize military actions from their cells.251

Military officers who are accused or convicted of murder and supporting paramilitaries also easily elude detention. According to the Attorney General's office, since 1996 at least forty-four soldiers implicated in serious crimes left the military installations where they were supposedly being held. Seventeen escapees left facilities under the command of the Medellín-based Fourth Brigade, by far the brigade with the worst record. One officer - Lt. Carlos Alberto Acosta Tarazona - even escaped twice, the last time from the military's special facilities at Tolemaida.252

Major Diego Fino: Fino was arrested and charged with complicity in the 1999 murder of Álex Lopera, the former peace counselor for the department of Antioquia, and two others. At the time commander, he commanded the Juan del Corral Battalion, part of the Fourth Brigade. Fino left the Fourth Brigade, where he was reportedly detained, in March 2000. 253 A civilian judge found Fino guilty in absentia of the triple murder in June 2001.254

Major David Hernández: the commander of the Fourth Brigade's Granaderos Battalion, Hernández was arrested in connection with the 1999 murder of Álex Lopera, the former peace counselor for the department of Antioquia, and two others. During his deposition to the Attorney General's prosecutors, Hernández reportedly vowed that if they charged him with Lopera's murder, he would escape and join the paramilitaries, a statement that soldiers who had been under his command also reported hearing him make. Although Hernández was detained in the Medellín-based Fourth Brigade, he was able to walk away in late June 1999.255 The press has reported that he now leads an AUC unit in the department of Valle.256 A civilian judge found Hernández guilty in absentia of the triple murder in June 2001.257 According to the U.S. government's School of the Americas, Hernández trained twice at its Fort Benning, Georgia, facility, in 1985 and 1991.

Lt. Carlos Alberto Acosta Tarazona: in October 1995, Acosta and three subordinates assigned to the Fifth Brigade were convicted of murder and support for paramilitary groups in the Chucurí region of Santander. On June 22, 1994, the judge determined, Acosta had detained a government prosecutor sent to arrest a paramilitary leader. Investigators later proved that Acosta and his men had tied up the investigator, his driver, and a guide, shot them, and dumped their bodies into a river. After receiving a fifty-six year sentence, Acosta began serving at a Colombian detention facility near his home town. Within a month, he was allowed to visit his parents' home accompanied by military police. He went out ostensibly for cigarettes and did not return. Acosta was recaptured in Bogotá a few days later and sent to a different facility, the military's main detention center at Tolemaida. In July 1999, he left again. Acosta joined the AUC and announced his decision publicly in a June 2000 televised interview. At the time, he reportedly led a unit in the

department of Cesar.258 Within a month, however, the AUC apparently ordered him killed over a dispute.259

Other soldiers convicted of serious crimes such as murder have also reportedly been able to come and go from their cells at will, and to have been able to participate in further crimes while supposedly in prison. For example, Sergeants Justo Gil Zúñiga Labrador and Hernando Medina Camacho were detained in Bogotá's Thirteenth Artillery Battalion after their conviction for their role as gunmen in the 1994 murder of Senator Manuel Cepeda. However, government investigators told Human Rights Watch that the men continued to work as military intelligence agents as late as July 14, 1999. That day, investigators discovered, Zúñiga and Medina were among the soldiers who took part in an operation carried out by the army that ended with the killing of another escaped soldier, Lt. José Simon Talero.260

After Major Fino vanished in March 2000, General Tapias announced that the armed forces would establish a new and more secure detention facility on the army base at Tolemaida.261 However, since Lt. Acosta escaped from facilities at Tolemaida, the proposal promised little improvement. As far as Human Rights Watch is aware, the armed forces have taken no steps to establish this facility and to ensure that military officers accused of human rights violations or support for paramilitary groups are held in fully secure facilities.

Lack of Support

Far from strengthening key government institutions that investigate human rights cases, the Pastrana administration has significantly weakened them by cutting their budgets, failing to adequately protect prosecutors and investigators, and failing to provide adequate funds to protect threatened witnesses.

According to Attorney General Alfonso Gómez, decreases have been so extreme that they threaten the Human Rights Unit with "paralysis... Particularly the specialized Units, including the Human Rights Unit, has to make constant trips in order to do the work it is meant to do, yet we are on the verge of suspending these trips because we lack the budget to pay for them."262

This was made dramatically clear to Human Rights Watch during a visit to the Human Rights Unit prosecutors in January 2001. During the interview, one prosecutor was frantically calling various officials to get a seat on an interior ministry helicopter for a colleague to investigate massacres in the department of Valle. Such incidents, he said, were commonplace. "The government has cut the Attorney General's budget so every time we have to travel we have to go to the office of the president with the request, which is time consuming and often fruitless," the prosecutor, who asked for anonymity, told Human Rights Watch. "There are not enough cars for us to use to do our investigations and no gasoline for the few that we have."263

In another incident, displaced families from the Pacific Coast who desperately wanted government help found that when an interior ministry helicopter arrived with authorities aboard, they were expected to pay for its fuel. "The soldiers wouldn't honor the voucher they had brought, so we had to scrape together the money," one of the displaced people told Human Rights Watch. "Mission after mission comes, and sometimes they do reports, but it doesn't change anything."264

The Attorney General's Witness Protection Program continues to be seriously short of funds, leading it to limit drastically the amount of time that witnesses can receive protection. One witness Human Rights Watch interviewed gave valuable testimony to the Attorney General about collaboration between the Colombian Army's Third Brigade and paramilitaries. In return, he was promised protection, but he received it for only three months, then was told that he was responsible for protecting his own life. He told Human Rights Watch that nine others with similar eyewitness testimony were also told that the protection was limited to three months.265

Another witness to the same links between paramilitaries and the Third Brigade was murdered outside the Public Advocate's office in Cali during a lunch break while he was testifying to authorities inside.266 "You get a couple of months' protection, then tough luck," one government official told Human Rights Watch.267

Some threatened Colombians have resorted to their own measures to protect themselves. One trade unionist traveled several departments away to acquire a license for his revolver, which he keeps loaded at all times and tucked in his pants.268

Government officials and investigators agree that low funding prevents them from collecting evidence about military-paramilitary ties. Many people refuse to testify out of fear. "I asked [a government official] if he could guarantee the safety of witnesses if they signed a complaint, but he answered honestly that he couldn't," said one Cauca human rights defender. "So the witnesses just vanished, out of fear."269

Government investigators agree that their work continues to be highly dangerous, in part because they continue to face harassment and threats, including from the armed forces. Repeatedly, high-ranking army officers have characterized these investigations as politically-motivated and a "persecution that affects troop morale," in the words of Colombian Army commander Jorge Mora.270

According to the Judicial Workers' Victims' Solidarity Fund, between January and September of 2000, eleven judicial workers were killed, eleven others vanished, twenty-one received death threats, and three were the targets of attacks and survived. Most of those targeted belong to the CTI.271

The Pastrana administration's evident disinterest in following through with human rights reform is reflected in an increasingly problematic relationship with the Bogotá office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. As the High Commissioner noted in her report for 2000, "the overwhelming majority of Governmental responses to Office communications about specific cases and situations (such as early warnings) have been unsatisfactory, inoperative and purely bureaucratic. Even though President Pastrana himself has taken serious note of these situations, the poor Governmental response to dialogue with the Office has not been substantially corrected and the potential of the Office has been greatly underutilized by the Government."272

Deniable Accountability

The Pastrana administration has repeatedly discharged active duty military officers linked to human rights abuses and support for paramilitary groups without ensuring that the information against them is fully investigated and, if appropriate, made available to the Attorney General's office for prosecution. Instead, officers are simply discharged, with no criminal investigations against them.

Far from promoting human rights, these dismissals reinforce lawlessness and impunity and strengthen paramilitaries, who welcome former officers with generous salaries, cars, cellular telephones, and even land. According to Carlos Castaño, the AUC currently employs at least thirty-five former high-ranking officers, more than one hundred former lower rank officers, and at least one thousand former professional soldiers or policemen.273

The practice of discharging large numbers of security force personnel began after Colombia implemented a military penal code reform that allowed commanders to summarily dismiss officers and soldiers without explanation. The Colombian government made first use of this power on October 16, 2000, when it announced that 388 members of the armed forces had been discharged. The government did not release information on the reasons for the discharges. However, government investigators told Human Rights Watch that they believed that none of the 388 faced any prosecution as a result of the information that led to their discharges.274

Subsequently, Colombia's daily El Espectador newspaper reported that an internal government investigation had found that nineteen of the 388 had joined the AUC following their discharge. Several were reportedly using the skills learned in the military to train paramilitary fighters.275 Carlos Castaño lent credence to these reports in an interview with the Washington Post. He contended that thirty of the 388 had ties to the AUC.276 Indeed, several of the dismissed officers announced later on Colombian television that they planned to join the AUC.277

In December 2000, defense minister Luis Ramírez acknowledged that some former soldiers dismissed by the military had found new employment in the AUC. "It's very sad, but it's a reality of the country," he told journalists.278

Nevertheless, defense minister Ramírez authorized more dismissals without criminal investigations. In March 2001, the Defense Ministry announced another purge, this time including twenty officers and fifty enlisted men, most from the Colombian Army. Again, no explanation was given for the dismissals, and there was no evidence that any of these individuals faced investigations for human rights violations.279

Also in March, Twenty-Fourth Brigade commander Gen. Antonio Ladrón de Guevara told journalists that the entire "Sebastián de Belalcazar" Counterguerrilla Battalion No. 31, under his command, had been moved from Putumayo department, where it was based, to Bogotá, after at least thirty soldiers deserted to join the paramilitaries. Military officials admitted that there was a problem with soldiers-turned-paramilitaries maintaining contacts with their active-duty colleagues.280

Meanwhile, officers with well-documented ties to paramilitary groups -- and allegedly responsible for murder -- not only remain on active duty, but are promoted. Perhaps the most well-known case involves Navy Gen. Rodrigo Quiñónes, who government investigators linked to at least fifty-seven murders of trade unionists, human rights workers, and community leaders in 1991 and 1992, when he was a colonel. At the time, Colonel Quiñónes was head of Navy Intelligence and ran Navy Intelligence Network 7, based in Barrancabermeja, Santander.281

The only punishment meted out so far to Quiñónes has been a "severe reprimand" ordered by the Internal Affairs agency, the government agency that oversees the conduct of government employees, including the military and police. The Internal Affairs agency concluded that Quiñónes set up the networks of assassins responsible for the killings. Yet the Internal Affairs agency determined that murder was not classified as an administrative infraction under existing regulations, so that the maximum punishment it could impose for murder was a "severe reprimand" (reprehensión severa) -- essentially a letter of reprimand in an employment file.282

Later, Quiñónes was assigned the command of the Navy's First Brigade and was in charge of the region where the El Salado massacre took place in February 2000. In this Bolívar hamlet, an estimated 300 paramilitaries killed, raped, and tortured for three days, leaving thirty-six dead. Similar to the Chengue massacre, in El Salado, witnesses to events told journalists that military and police units a few miles away had made no effort to stop the slaughter. Instead, witnesses said, they set up a roadblock shortly after the killing began to prevent human rights and relief groups from entering the area. "Some people were shot, but a lot of them were beaten with clubs and then stabbed with knives or sliced up with machetes," one witness told the New York Times. "A few people were beheaded, or strangled with metal wires, while others had their throats cut."283

In its annual report, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights also recorded receiving testimony about the direct participation of members of the military in the El Salado massacre.284

Quiñónes was promoted to general three months after the El Salado massacre. Although high-level Colombian authorities have repeatedly told U.S. officials that Quiñónes will be retired because of human rights concerns, he remains on active duty and is regularly promoted to influential posts.285 Quiñónes is currently the Navy's Chief of Staff, the service's second highest-ranking officer.286

Statistical Games

The Pastrana administration has spent a great deal of energy, money, and time on a public relations campaign designed to show that it has made significant progress in improving human rights protections. That campaign generates a blizzard of reports, statements, graphs, tables, press releases, and pamphlets asserting that notable gains have been achieved. Yet after a review of many of these materials, Human Rights Watch concluded that they are notoriously unreliable, occasionally contradictory, often fictitious, sloppy, and frequently plain wrong.

"For the past several years, the presence and activity of paramilitary groups has increased by at least a factor of three, in the ability to mount offensives, logistics, weapons, and the number of victims," commented one high ranking government official, who requested anonymity. "They have grown in terms of territory they control and influence, in large part through the use of threats. Meanwhile, the only thing that has changed in terms of government strategy are the speeches. Before, the government denied that paramilitaries even existed. Today, they recognize their existence, but take no effective action against them."287

Perhaps the most glaring example is the contention by the Colombian government, made repeatedly in 2000, that guerrillas were responsible for 80 percent of the human rights violations registered in Colombia between January of 1995 and October of 2000. Colombian officials clearly intended the figure to shift blame away from the security forces and paramilitaries and put the onus on guerrilla groups.

Yet this figure includes all acts of war and violence counted together, and fails to distinguish between human rights or international humanitarian law violations or even provide enough evidence to demonstrate why certain acts, like ambushes, are

counted as violations. The result is that hostage-takings are mixed in with massacres and threats weighed equally with attacks on towns. Perhaps to obscure a less than rigorous methodology, the government has failed to provide any detailed explanation for how this figure was calculated, calling into serious question its accuracy.288

In contrast, the Data Bank sponsored by a consortium of independent and respected human rights groups publishes a quarterly compendium of cases used to calculate their statistics, open to public review and rigorously documented.289 According to the most recent analysis by the CCJ of this data, paramilitaries acting with the tolerance or support of the security forces were considered responsible for 79 percent of the political killings and forced disappearances registered in Colombia between April and September, 2000. Guerrillas were believed directly responsible for 16 percent of the recorded killings and abductions considered international humanitarian law violations. The security forces were believed directly responsible for 5 percent of the political killings and forced disappearances recorded in the same time period.290

Human Rights Watch has also discovered cases where the Colombian government's public relations efforts directly contradict affirmations that they have taken strong steps to address impunity for human rights violations. For example, in 2000, Gen. Fernando Tapias, commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, announced in a public conference that the security forces are tough on allegations of human rights violations by their own members. As proof, Tapias said that in 1999 and 2000, the Superior Military Tribunal prosecuted eighty-five cases of possible human rights violations that concluded with guilty sentences, twenty-five for murder, forty for battery (lesiones personales), and twelve for arbitrary arrest.291

However, this is not evidence of progress, but of the military's continuing refusal to fully embrace a ruling of the Constitutional Court, which ordered that all cases of alleged human rights cases under military jurisdiction be transferred to civilian courts. This statistic acknowledges that the military -- and its highest-ranking officer -- continues to flout the law and wrongly assert jurisdiction over cases that should be adjudicated in the civilian court system.

Other official statistical summaries that purport to show progress in fact do nothing of the sort. In 2000, defense minister Luis Ramírez contended that military tribunals had transferred 533 cases to civilian jurisdiction since August of 1997, when the Constitutional Court ruling requiring this took effect. The statistics, he argued in a letter to Colombian human rights groups, "are significant enough to show that the military jurisdiction is complying with great diligence with the limits of military jurisdiction."292

However, when Human Rights Watch reviewed the material provided to support this claim, a very different picture emerged. The Defense Ministry provided documentation on only 103 cases, not 533. Of those 103, only fifty-one related to members of the military (the rest were police officers). Of that number, twelve had been accused of common crimes like allowing prisoners to escape, theft, and drug trafficking. Only thirty-nine related in some way to crimes that could be construed as human rights violations, like murder. Most of these cases involved low-ranking personnel, including sergeants and lieutenants.293

In other words, fewer than ten cases per year are being transferred from military to civilian jurisdiction, and these rarely involve senior officers who may have ordered or orchestrated gross violations. Despite repeated requests to the Colombian government, including by U.S. Congressional offices, it has never provided details of the remaining 430 cases they claim were transferred. Human Rights Watch has not found a single instance where the military has voluntarily transferred a human rights case involving an officer with the rank of colonel or higher from a military tribunal to a civilian court.

In its Annual Report on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the Ministry of Defense claimed that since the Constitutional Court ruling, 1,307 cases have been transferred to the regular justice system and that "fewer than half concern possible violations of human rights." However, they have not provided a detailed list of these cases. In fact, during 2000, key cases - including the Pueblo Rico killings of six children and the Santo Domingo case, of seven children, reviewed later in this report -- were transferred to military tribunals, not the civilian courts that should have jurisdiction.294

Other elements of the Colombian government's public relations campaign proved themselves wholly fictitious, like the "Coordination Center for the Fight against Self-Defense Groups." Formed by presidential decree and with much fanfare on February 25, 2000, this center was supposed to spearhead a campaign against paramilitaries. Over one year later, however, the center had yet to meet a single time.295

Even so, that did not prevent interior minister Humberto de la Calle from announcing yet another anti-paramilitary group on January 15, 2001, called the "Anti-Assassin Committee."296

Finally, other assertions made in the public relations campaign are simply wrong. In December 2000, the Defense Ministry distributed a booklet that it purported was a history of paramilitary groups in Colombia. Published in English and Spanish, it was designed for an international audience unfamiliar with Colombian history, particularly U.S. policy makers who would soon be considering additional military aid. Nowhere in the document does the Defense Ministry acknowledge a basic historical fact that is unchallenged in Colombia: contemporary paramilitary groups can be traced directly back to a Colombian Army effort to recruit, train, and arm civilians to fight guerrillas.297

Instead, the document describes these groups as "arising" (surgir) from private armies created by drug traffickers. While it is true that drug traffickers funded and manipulated early paramilitary groups, these groups maintained intimate ties to the Colombian Army, which continued to train, equip, and deploy them even as drug traffickers used them for their own purposes.298

A companion document circulated by the office of the Vice President, called "Panorama of Self-Defense Groups," went a step further, stating unequivocally -- and mistakenly -- that "it is clear that self defense groups did not get their start from the State."299

In the year 2000, the Vice President's office received U.S. $97,000 from the United States Agency for International Development to support its human rights efforts.300 However, in this case, the Vice-president's work served to obscure and misrepresent the human rights situation, not to improve it.

As the CCJ noted in February 2001, "government authorities are more dedicated to carrying out huge propaganda efforts than achieving tangible results in the defense and promotion of human rights. Numerous statements and publications have been distributed by the Government over the last several months to give the impression that they are combating violence. In the best of cases, the crudity of these documents indicates a complete incompetence in confronting violent groups directly; in the worst, it displays a tolerance or complicity with them."301



227. Paragraph 254, "Report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia," E/CN.4/2001/15, February 8, 2001.

228. Human Rights Watch interview with trade unionist, Cali, Valle, January 15, 2001.

229. Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

230. This source requested anonymity. Human Rights Watch interview, Bogotá, January 8, 2001.

231. Annual Report by the Attorney General, 2000.

232. Statistics provided by the CTI, January, 2001.

233. Human Rights Watch interview with government investigator, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

234. Ibid.

235. Among the crimes the Attorney General's offices links to Mancuso is the 1997 El Aro massacre, covered in "The Ties That Bind," a Human Rights Watch report available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/colombia/. "Golpe a red de financistas de 'paras'," El Espectador, May 25, 2001.

236. Escape from prison in Colombia is not difficult for people with money, connections, or powerful friends. According to a report published in El Tiempo, in 2000, more than 200 prisoners left Bogotá's maximum security prison, La Modelo, using illegal passes. Others benefitted from attacks on prisons, like the nineteen inmates who escaped a prison in Huila when the FARC-EP launched an attack on the facilities in February 2001. Statistical report from the office of the Attorney General's Human Rights Unit, 1998-2000; Sixto Alfredo Pinto Castro, "200 presos se han fugado de La Modelo permiso," El Tiempo, March 26, 2001; and "Colombia rebels free 19 inmates in jail attack," Reuters, February 19, 2001.

237. "Colombian paramilitary escapes from jail," BBC World Service, May 18, 2001.

238. "Misteriosa fuga de 'para' de La Modelo," El Tiempo, March 18, 2001.

239. Villa was one of fifteen alleged paramilitaries captured by Colombian Navy troops after the three-day massacre concluded. "A juicio 15 paramilitares por masacre de El Salado," El Espectador, March 12, 2001.

240. "Hombre de confianza de Carlos Castaño: Por segunda vez, se fugó 'Sebastián'," Vanguardia Liberal, November 24, 2000; and "Fiscalía Había Capturado 'Sebastián' hace 8 días," El Tiempo, November 24, 2000.

241. Summary by the Dirección de Inteligencia, Policía Nacional, August 7, 1998-September 30, 2000.

242. "Hombre de confianza de Carlos Castaño: Por segunda vez, se fugó 'Sebastián'," Vanguardia Liberal, November 24, 2000; and "Fiscalía Había Capturado 'Sebastián' hace 8 días," El Tiempo, November 24, 2000.

243. Human Rights Watch interview with government investigator, Bogotá, January 9, 2001; and "┐Ineficacia del Estado o Hipocresía de la Sociedad?" El Tiempo, September 10, 2000.

244. Ibid.

245. "H.K." is taken from the Heckler & Koch, Inc. weapons manufacturer, which builds some of the weapons preferred by paramilitaries. "'HK' duró dos días en poder del Ejército, en Yopal," El Tiempo, April 22, 2000.

246. Javier Arboleda García, "Retenidos cerca de 200 campesinos Casanare," El Colombiano, May 16, 2001; and Gloria Castrillón, "'Paras' liberan a 201 trabajadores," El Espectador, May 18, 2001.

247. A month later, the Internal Affairs agency found that Gen. Jaime Uscátegui, at the time of the massacre the commander of the Seventh Brigade with jurisdiction over Meta, had failed to assist the commission in an opportune manner and ordered him cashiered."Implicado en masacre en el Meta se fugó," El Tiempo, October 31, 1999; and "Por la masacre de San Carlos de Guaroa (Meta): Destituido el general Uscátegui," El Tiempo, November 23, 1999.

248. Human Rights Watch interview with government investigator, Bogotá, January 9, 2001; and "┐Ineficacia del Estado o Hipocresía de la Sociedad?" El Tiempo, September 10, 2000.

249. Informe Especial No. 395, "Aseguramientos y capturas de presuntos miembros de las ACCU en Antioquia," Fiscalía General de la Nación, June 10, 1998

250. "Hay versiones encontradas por fuga de 'para'," El Tiempo, October 3, 1998.

251. Human Rights Watch interview with government investigator, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

252. "Militares Fugados," Variable de paramilitarismo, Sección de Información y Analisis, 1996-2000.

253. "General Tapias anuncia proyecto: Los militares irán a cárceles especiales," Vanguardia Liberal, March 16, 2000.

254. "Condenados un mayor y un capitán," El Espectador, June 28, 2001.

255. Human Rights Watch interview, October 2, 1999; and "El mayor David Hernández está sindicado de la muerte de Álex Lopera: Militar fugado buscaría refugio con 'paras'," El Tiempo, July 1, 1999.

256. Acosta was a graduate of the School of the Americas. Jared Kotler, "A Soldier's Story: Soldier's story raises concerns about U.S. training role in Colombia," Associated Press, December 18, 2000.

257. "Condenados un mayor y un capitán," El Espectador, June 28, 2001.

258. Jared Kotler, "A Soldier's Story: Soldier's story raises concerns about U.S. training role in Colombia," Associated Press, December 18, 2000.

259. "Ajustician 'jefe' de Autodefensas," El Tiempo, July 15, 2000.

260. Human Rights Watch interview with government investigator, August 22, 2001; and "El silencio de las armas," Cambio, August 14, 2000.

261. "General Tapias anuncia proyecto: Los militares irán a cárceles especiales," Vanguardia Liberal, March 16, 2000.

262. "Sin Presupuesto Unidad de Derechos Humanos," El Tiempo, November 18, 2000.

263. Human Rights Watch interview with government prosecutor, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

264. Human Rights Watch interview with Valle displaced person, Bogotá, January 11, 2001.

265. Human Rights Watch interview with government witness, Bogotá, January 18, 2001.

266. The office of the Public Advocate has kept the name of this witness secret in order to protect the family, which remains in Colombia. Human Rights Watch interview with government witness, Bogotá, January 18, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview with Cali Defensoría, Cali, Valle, January 12, 2001.

267. Human Rights Watch interview with Cali personería, Cali, Valle, January 12, 2001.

268. Human Rights Watch trade unionist, Cali, Valle, January 15, 2001.

269. Human Rights Watch interview with Cauca human rights defender, Bogotá, January 11, 2001.

270. "Debate / Pliego de Cargos contra 4 Generales por Masacre de Puerto Alvira," El Tiempo, July 29, 2000.

271. Paragraph 154, "Report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia," E/CN.4/2001/15, February 8, 2001.

272. "Informe de la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos sobment prosecutor, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

264. Human Rights Watch interview with Valle displaced person, Bogotá, January 11, 2001.

265. Human Rights Watch interview with government witness, Bogotá, January 18, 2001.

266. The office of the Public Advocate has kept the name of this witness secret in order to protect the family, which remains in Colombia. Human Rights Watch interview with government witness, Bogotá, January 18, 2001; and Human Rights Watch interview with Cali Defensoría, Cali, Valle, January 12, 2001.

267. Human Rights Watch interview with Cali personería, Cali, Valle, January 12, 2001.

268. Human Rights Watch trade unionist, Cali, Valle, January 15, 2001.

269. Human Rights Watch interview with Cauca human rights defender, Bogotá, January 11, 2001.

270. "Debate / Pliego de Cargos contra 4 Generales por Masacre de Puerto Alvira," El Tiempo, July 29, 2000.

271. Paragraph 154, "Report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia," E/CN.4/2001/15, February 8, 2001.

272. "Informe de la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos sobre la situación de los derechos humanos en Colombia," E/CN.4/2001/15, March 20, 2001.

273. Scott Wilson, "Interview with Carlos Castano, Head of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia," Washington Post, March 11, 2001.

274. According to a government official consulted by Human Rights Watch, most were discharged due to incompetence and failure to carry out assigned duties. Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Bogotá, January 10, 2001.

275. "16 oficiales de FM expulsados en octubre se unieron a las Auc," El Espectador, April 3, 2001.

276. Scott Wilson, "Interview with Carlos Castano, Head of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia," Washington Post, March 11, 2001.

277. Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Bogotá, January 10, 2001.

278. Ramírez resigned from his post on May 24, 2001. Jared Kotler, "A Soldier's Story: Soldier's story raises concerns about U.S. training role in Colombia," Associated Press, December 18, 2000.

279. "Separados 70 militares," El Tiempo, March 22, 2001.

280. Karl Penhaul, "Outlaw role seen in Colombia Effort," Boston Globe, March 28, 2001.

281. See Colombia's Killer Networks: The Military-Paramilitary Partnership and the United States (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995).

282. A military tribunal acquitted Quiñónes of involvement. Decision by the Internal Affairs agency delegate for human rights, September 30, 1998.

283. Larry Rohter, "Colombians Tell of Massacre, as Army Stood By," New York Times, July 14, 2000.

284. Paragraph 136, "Report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia," E/CN.4/2001/15, February 8, 2001.

285. During Quiñónes' tenure as commander of the Navy's First Brigade, the Colombian government was cleared to receive U.S. counternarcotics aid. In repeated interviews with Human Rights Watch, neither the U.S. Embassy nor State Department officials could confirm whether or not the Navy's First Brigade had in fact received U.S. aid. Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. State Department officials, Washington, D.C., October 10 and 17, 2000.

286. Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. Embassy official, Bogotá, January 19, 2001.

287. Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

288. "Los Grupos Ilegales de Autodefensa en Colombia," Defense Ministry, December 2000.

289. The Data Bank is sponsored by the Intercongregational Commission on Justice and Peace and CINEP. It publishes a quarterly review called Noche y Niebla that includes an explanation of each case included in its statistical summaries.

290. "Violación de derechos humanos y violencia política en Colombia," Cuadro 1, CCJ, February 23, 2001.

291. "No hay favorecimiento ni encubrimiento de delitos atroces," El Colombiano, October 2, 2000.

292. Letter from defense minister Luis Fernando Ramírez to CCJ, ASFADDES, and Corporación Viva la Ciudadanía, July 26, 2000.

293. "Procesos Enviados Justicia Ordinaria," Tribunal Superior Militar, Fuerzas Militares de Colombia, August 1997-December 1999.

294. Paragraph 59, "Report of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Colombia," E/CN.4/2001/15, February 8, 2001.

295. Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

296. "Medidas para Barranca," El Tiempo, January 11, 2001.

297. "Los Grupos Ilegales de Autodefensa en Colombia," Defense Ministry, December 2000.

298. The best history of the Colombian Army's relationship with paramilitaries in the early eighties can be found in Carlos Medina Gallego, Autodefensas, Paramilitares y Narcotráfico en Colombia (Santafé de Bogotá: Editorial Documentos Periodísticos, 1990).

299. "Panorama de los GRUPOS DE AUTODEFENSA," Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos y Derecho Internacional Humanitario, Vicepresidencia de la República de Colombia, December 2000.

300. Electronic mail communication with the office of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-Bogotá, April 24, 2001.

301. "Panorama de Derechos Humanos y Derecho Humanitario," Colombian Commission of Jurists, Santafé de Bogotá, February 26, 2001.


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