For years, it has been believed that Guatemala led the Hemisphere in mass slaughter in the modern era, with 200,000 victims in the 1980’s – about 94% of them at the hands of the U.S.-backed state and its death squad allies. Very sadly, it appears that Colombia has shattered that record, and, as Wikileaks reveals, the U.S. is quite aware of this.
Thus, in a November 19, 2009 U.S. Embassy Cable, entitled, “2009-2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,” the U.S. Embassy in Bogota acknowledges, as a mere aside, the horrific truth: 257,089 registered victims of the right-wing paramilitaries. And, as Human Rights Watch just reported in its 2012 annual report on Colombia, these paramilitaries continue to work hand-in-glove with the U.S.-supported Colombian military.
Even for those of us deeply involved in Colombia, this figure is staggering. The only time I saw such a figure before was in a book (Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror) which I recently reviewed on this site, and which cites one independent journalist for the claim that around 250,000 victims have been killed by the Colombian para-state. This book further claims that this number has been artificially lowered through mass graves and Nazi-style crematoria.
It appears now that the U.S. has been quite aware of this death toll for over two years, though this knowledge has done nothing to change U.S. policy toward Colombia — which is slated to receive over $500 million in military and police aid from the U.S. in the next two years — and certainly did nothing to prevent the Obama Administration from seeking and gaining passage of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement last year.
And, much like Guatemala in the 1980’s, the violence in Colombia falls disproportionately on the indigenous population – another fact acknowledged by the U.S. Embassy in cables released by Wikileaks. Moreover, this anti-indigenous violence is escalating. Indeed, as the U.S. Embassy acknowledges in a February 26, 2010 Embassy Cable entitled, “Violence Against Indigenous Shows Upward Trend,” such violence is pushing 34 indigenous groups to the point of extinction. This violence, therefore, can only be described as genocidal.
This 2010 cable explains that, “for the second consecutive year killings of indigenous increased,” with a 50% increase (to 106 killings) from 2008 to 2009. The cable further explains that “[o]ther indicators of violence against indigenous also worsened in 2009. According to ONIC [The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia], displacement rose by 20% (3,212 to 3,649), forced disappearance by over 100% (7 to 18), and threats by 3000% (10 to 314). ONIC also reported an increase in forced recruitment of minors by all illegal armed groups, but did not provide an estimated number of cases.”