Apr 1, 2002
Bush says that the United States is engaged in a war against terrorism around the world. But in Colombia there is widespread terrorism – and not only does the Unites States not oppose it; the U.S. is financing the terrorists. During the past decade 1,500 union officials have been assassinated by paramilitary groups, which are tied to the Colombian military. This is nothing but terrorism.
The assassination of union leaders at the Drummond Coal Company (a U.S. corporation based in Birmingham, Alabama) is a case in point.
Just over a year ago, miners at Drummond’s Colombia mine had been returning on a company bus to their villages. The bus was stopped by paramilitary gunmen. According to miners on the bus, the gunmen declared they wanted to settle a dispute between union officials and Drummond. They ordered Valmore Lacarno Rodriguez, the union president, and Victor Hugo Oracasita, the vice president, off the bus. Both were found killed. Last October, the new union president, Gustavo Soler Mora, was ordered off a company bus by gunmen. Farmers found him later with two bullet holes in his head.
Drummond is not the only U.S. company that has benefitted from the assassination of union militants. In 1996, Coca Cola allowed paramilitaries to station themselves inside its plant. These paramilitaries threatened workers with death if they didn’t resign from the food and beverage union. The paramilitaries burnt the union headquarters down and killed or had disappeared 20 union members.
Human Rights Watch has documented the ties of these paramilitaries to the Columbian military. The paramilitaries communicate with the army with radios, cell phones and beepers, they share intelligence, share fighters, including soldiers in the paramilitary units and paramilitary commanders lodge on military bases. The paramilitary units use army trucks, coordinate road blocks with the military and pay army officers for their support. And the U.S. is currently spending 1.3 billion dollars in Colombia, giving this to this military, under the pretext of a fight against drugs.
U.S. law prohibits military aid from going to security forces that carry out violence against their own population. However, this embarrassing trifle was disposed of on August 22, 2000, when President Clinton signed a waiver lifting these conditions. Bush continues to send money to the Colombian military.
Obviously, terrorism carried out to defend the interests of U.S. corporations is the kind of terrorism the U.S. government can accept. All the more so because, by keeping wages low in poor countries, it keeps wages lower here too.