By Guillermo González Uribe*, En Foque, July 4, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The kidnapping and sexual assault of an Embera Katio indigenous girl in Risaralda by a group of soldiers from the San Mateo Battalion, and the kidnapping and sexual assault of an indigenous girl from the Nukak Makú community, at the hands of a group of members of the Joaquín Paris Infantry Battalion in Guaviare, as well as other incidents of violence and intimidation of communities out in the countryside, cannot be interpreted as isolated events. It has been a practice for many years, but in recent times it seems to have become habitual.
In December 2018, a few months after his inauguration, Iván Duque and his party rearranged his military high command. According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report in February 2019, “The Colombian government has named to key posts at least nine Army generals against whom there is credible evidence that they are implicated in extrajudicial executions and other abuses.” And in the next line, José Manuel Vivanco, Director of HRW, stated prophetically, “By naming those generals, the government sends the troops the troubling message that committing abuses won’t be an obstacle to the advance of their military careers.”
Weeks before, when Duque had just recently won the election, two of Álvaro Uribe’s loyal squires dedicated themselves to denigrating the command staff that had achieved a great triumph: taking the country through a peace process which, as a clear result, demonstrated something to be proud of: that in the installations of the Military Hospital, there was not one single patient being treated for war wounds. José Obdulio Gaviria called the command staff “pork barrel generals” and María Fernanda Cabal stated that they would be kicked out for being “useless and servile”. Likewise, retired General Leonardo Barrera, who had left the ranks because of unethical activity, and was named because of his governmental connections, announced “Get ready, because the war is coming back.”
Then came the directive from then-Commander of the Armed Forces, Nicasio Martínez, who in practice revived the modus operandi of the wrongly labeled “false positives”, under which, during the Uribe administration, soldiers murdered thousands of civilians and made them look as if they had been guerrillas. The result of the directive was that in 2019 the murders by the Army started up again, and that caused profound divisions in the interior of the Armed Forces. Honest officers were opposed to a new war against the civilian population, as was reported in The New York Times.
Instead of correcting these practices, they continued carrying out illegal activities. An investigation uncovered the espionage by military units on more than 130 people, including journalists, including correspondents in the United States, and political leaders. To do that, they were using resources supplied by a United States intelligence agency as pointed out in the El Pais newspaper in Spain. As to the consequences of that investigation, according to the La Diaria newspaper in Uruguay: the most recent was the decision adopted by the Supreme Court of Justice . . . to open a preliminary investigation against the former President and current Colombian Senator Álvaro Uribe “as a possible destination for the information from the illegal wiretapping by military intelligence in 2019,” reported the Court.
Simultaneously commenced the “witch hunt” within the same Army against high-ranking officers who had dared to complain about a number of crimes being committed in the interior of the Armed Forces, such as those revealed by the magazine SEMANA.
We still remember the night of terror they tried to create on November 21, 2019 when, once again José Obdulio and Cabal, in their Twitter accounts, propagated rumors designed to arouse panic, also counting on the participation of brigades of civilians running and yelling in some parts of Cali and Bogotá, and using military vehicles. It was a project to create fear, and it was intended to sabotage the National Strike that commenced on that date.
Added to all of the foregoing was the exponential increase in murders of popular leaders and former guerrillas, many times in areas controlled by the Army, but without the military preventing those crimes, and without the government acting to stop this new genocide. And there is an additional question: Who or what entities had the exact information as to where those popular leaders and where those former guerrillas were located, so as to be able to go and eliminate them systematically?
Other questions: Are these events part of a strategy where the government’s party is trying to install a State policy in which the Armed Forces control the civilian population through terror? Does this conception mean returning Uribism to power, along with his urge to impose a species of civil dictatorship?
Added to what is already described here is a series of planned activities. They include periodic massive disinformation campaigns to weaken the legal system, aimed at rescuing the leaders of Uribism and their allies implicated in corruption and crimes, accomplished by manipulating the systems that control the government, through patronage alliances with useful idiots, neutralizing the watchdog work of the communications media, and succeeding in closing off the protests and the mobilization of civil society.
Ultimately, it’s about reviving the Doctrine of National Security, in which every opponent, and the civilian population in general, is considered to be an “internal enemy” that has to be fought, without any consideration of legal limits. Thus, the government party seems to heading down the road to installing Government Terrorism and also taking advantage of the pandemic to issue economic decrees of an authoritarian cut, as is argued by Salomón Kalmanovitz.
Meanwhile, democratic business men and women and civil society appear to be asleep, and different sectors of the opposition, center and left parties, are tied up in ego disputes that strain the environment even, and allow those that hold the reins of authoritarianism to consolidate their strategy of terror and disinformation. If they don’t react pretty soon, it could be too late.
*Writer, journalist and editor, author, among others, of the books “A Pesar de la Noche” (Íocono, 2017) and “Los niños de la guerra, quince años después” (Aguilar, 2016). He was Director of the magazines “Números” and “Gaceta”, and editor of “Magazín Dominical” of EL ESPECTADOR. He directs “El Ála de Arriba”.