The Business of War and False Positives

(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN volunteer translator)

Ricardo Martínez
June 27, 2009


Codhes reports that in 2002 alone there were 412,553 forced displacements, 4,512 political assassinations, 544 massacres with a total of 2,447 deaths, 744 disappearances and 783 arbitrary arrests of civilians

A report on the widespread extrajudicial executions in Colombia is to be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, announced Rapporteur Philip Alston.  He contextualized the report within the framework of the program of “Democratic Security” being pursued by President Álvaro Uribe.

Without accusing the State of a policy of extermination, the report does detail the macabre, destructive actions taken by members and former members of the armed forces, paramilitary vigilantes and alleged mercenaries to destroy social groups. All the perpetrators should be investigated, tried and sentenced.

The call is for an investigation with international jurisdiction of at least the 1,250 cases of “false positives” documented between 2002 and 2008.  In these cases, civilians were systematically murdered and then presented as guerrillas killed in combat in order to demonstrate the “successes” in Colombia’s war against insurgency.

After a decade of varying terrorist practices and crimes against humanity that have resulted in social upheaval, the policy of counter-insurgency led by President Uribe does not simply target grassroots organizations and groups sympathetic with rebel organizations, but has declared an outright war against the entire population (particularly the poor).

Through a combination of tactics and strategies of direct institutional confrontation and indirect covert action, the Colombian State has amassed a tally of corpses and disappearances that has yet to be revealed fully—not to mention the perpetrators of the crimes.  The false positives are the outcome of a chain of complicity and a policy of extermination that has affected the entire population, whether directly involved in the armed conflict or not.

The Organization for Human Rights (Codhes) reports that in 2002 alone there were 412,553 forced displacements, 4,512 political assassinations, 544 massacres with 2,447 deaths, 744 disappeared and 783 arbitrary arrests of civilians.  By 2008, the figures had tripled.  The population is being targeted by an overarching strategy of state terrorism.

Three pillars underlie the policy: Plan Colombia, which was drawn up by the United States in 1999 and then extended into the Andean Plan; the all-out international war in the region, which is rich in natural and mineral resources that are controlled by multinational corporations; and the private military companies (PMCs), which are playing an increasingly active role.

Little is known about these companies, but these actors have embraced the “security initiatives”.

Over the past ten years, at least 14 companies of this type have been identified.  The PMCs make up the diffuse but effective guiding hand that fosters, permits and possibly carries out the actions that have resulted in false positives along with other deranged functions of state terrorism.

Among the companies reaping rich dividends is DynCorp, with headquarters at Bogotá’s El Dorado airport.  It provides training for rapid reaction special groups, sells security services and recruits mercenaries to take part theatre of war.

Another, Air Scan, guards oilfields and oil pipelines.  It uses Cesna-337 aircrafts with video and infrared surveillance cameras.  According to press sources (Los Angeles Times, 17 March 2002), the firm carries out assignments to spy and to fly over territories supposedly under guerrilla control.

Defense System Colombia (DSC), an affiliate of the British firm Defense System Ltd. (DSL), specializes in guarding British Petroleum’s oil pipelines.

Amnesty International has reported that DSC purchased military material for the Colombian army’s 14th Brigade, which “has an atrocious record of human rights violations.”

This security and “energy surveillance” project is led by Roger Brown, a former British secret service officer who, in 1997, acquired weapons for the army through the Israeli security firm, Silver Shadow.

The sale involved sophisticated anti-guerrilla warfare equipment, surveillance technology and unmanned inspection aircrafts.  Police and army units were trained in counter-insurgency, social containment and psychological warfare tactics.

Companies of terror have arrived, silent but effective in offering deaths and transforming them into apparent triumphs.

More information:
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Derechos Humanos <>
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