I wrote recently about five Colombian soldiers accused of murdering two farmers, in the latest case of “false positive” killings, in which the US-supported Colombian army kill civilians and report them as combatants. One officer, two sub-officers, and two soldiers of the Army’s 31st Rifle Battalion allegedly killed two farmers in the northwest rural area of Valdivia, Antioquia and then presented them as FARC guerrillas killed in combat. The military report had claimed that the two victims were insurgents who were carrying two handguns and a grenade, but evidence from witnesses, ballistics experts, and investigators invalidated that report.
But now, one of the accused, named Antonio Rozo Valbuena, is daringly pointing the finger at his superior officer – General Javier Fernández Leal – saying he collaborated in the killings. It should be noted that this unit was trained by the US, and Leal in particular was studying US Army War College in Pennsylvania a mere three months before the false positives killings in question. And in 2009, he blocked investigations into police and army killings of civilians.
“When a soldier gets hit with charges and says, ‘I did it, I killed him, my colonel knew nothing,’ it’s a lie,”said Rozo Valbuena. “To do a false positive requires a logistical train, a very broad intellectual capacity to be able to set it up and plot the procedure well,” he said.
“They’re sentencing the most idiotic ones. Don’t look here, look higher,” Rozo said.
The 11th Brigade in Córdoba, of which the GAULA unit was part, was commanded by then-Colonel Fernández Leal from June 2005 to December 2006. Three months before ascending to command the 11th Brigade, Fernández Leal was studying at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, where he wrote about the costs of the war in Colombia.
The United States assisted the 11th Brigade during this period and beyond – in 2005, 2006 and 2007, according to a State Department list of assisted units (pdf, 1.6MB)
Fernández Leal subsequently sat on a military panel that in 2009 stymied investigations into false positives, according to statements by the former Army Inspector General to U.S. Embassy officials, revealed in a cable published by Wikileaks.
Check out my recent blog post on the neocon myth that US Colombia policy is some sort of success, so much so that it ought to be exported to Afghanistan.
Addendum: The Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has dissolved the country’s intelligence agency, DAS, after years of controversy for having deep ties to right-wing paramilitaries, obstructing their justice, implementing a nationwide illegal spying regime, cracking down on free speech, etc. At least 20 current and former DAS officials have been jailed, including the Director Jorge Noguera. Unfortunately, this does not seem to signal some wonderful reform: 92% DAS staff are just being transferred to other government departments. Ah yes…I almost forgot to mention again: all with exorbitant and steadfast US support/collaboration.