Colombian Army Still Working with Illegal Paramilitary Death Squads

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 30 April 2009

Three cases in as many months of collaboration between the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups which the Colombian regime say have disbanded have undermined claims that the state security forces no longer work with the illegal death squads responsible for so many of the human rights violations in the Colombian conflict. The cases, involving several military units in the remote Colombian regions of Choco and Guaviare, add weight to recent testimony given by former paramilitaries who claim that the military have worked with them for years.

Case One Mid-April 2009, Pizarro region, Choco department

During heavy fighting between leftwing guerrilla groups and the paramilitaries near the village of Cola Barco, units from both the Colombian Navy and the Air Force come to the aid of the paramilitaries. The military arrived in the area on April 15th following a guerrilla attack on a paramilitary base known as 'Docampado' in which a large number of paramilitaries were killed. With the guerrillas on the verge of overrunning the base military aircraft and 'Piranha' gunboats of the Colombian Navy intervened on the side of the paramilitaries forcing the guerrillas to retreat.

Case Two Early March 2009, Pizarro region, Choco department

A guerrilla attack on a paramilitary base in an area known as Terron was repelled after the Colombian Army sent soldiers into the area to reinforce the paramilitaries and 'Piranha' gunboats of the Colombian Navy helped evacuate paramilitaries that the guerrillas had surrounded.

Case Three February 2009, Around the Guayabero River and the village of Puerto Cachicamo, Guaviare department

Soldiers of the 64th Battalion of the 7th Mobile Brigade have been collaborating with a paramilitary death squad to terrorise residents of the area, whom they accuse of supporting a local FARC guerrilla unit. The two military officers apparently involved in coordinating with the paramilitaries are a Colonel Wilson Chavez and a Major Elkin Argote whose men have been abusing local residents of the region, using civilians as human shields in combat with the FARC and telling people that the paramilitaries are coming to get them. On February 17th the paramilitaries arrived via the nearby village of Girasoles and numerous people have since fled the region.

The above cases add to recent allegations made by senior paramilitaries who have decided to testify about their past activities including:

  • The April 4th testimony by paramilitary commander Freddy Rendon in which he stated that he had always felt just like any other officer in the Colombian security forces and explained how, during years of operations in the regions of Antioquia and Choco, neither he nor his men had ever had any problem at military or police checkpoints where they were treated in the same way as legitimate soldiers.
  • The November 18th 2008 Supreme Court testimony of former national paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso who stated that the Army regularly supported paramilitary operations and that former military commander, General Carlos Ospina, had helped to arrange the delivery of ammunition to the paramilitaries and the transport and evacuating of paramilitary casualties.
  • The October 17th 2008 testimony of former paramilitary commander Ramon Isaza who explained how the Army gave his group a list of 70 civilians to be assassinated. Isaza relayed how his men had executed 27 people in the town of La Esperanza in Antioquia region at the behest of the Army's 4th Brigade.
  • The October 14th 2008 testimony of former regional paramilitary commander Miguel Angel Mejia who stated that the Air Force had provided his men with backup in combat with FARC guerrillas units in eastern Colombia. According to Mejia the paramilitaries were able to call for air support and K-fir ground attack aircraft would come to their aid by bombing guerrilla positions before helicopter gunships were sent to attack the retreating guerrilla units.
  • The August 2008 testimony of mid-ranking paramilitary leader Luis Adrian Palacio who detailed how former Colombian Army commander General Mario Montoya had sent his unit a truck full of weapons.
  • For previous articles on this site about collaboration between the Colombian security forces and paramilitaries see:

    April 2009, Teacher Killed in Colombia after Reports of Joint Army/Paramilitary Operations

    April 2009, Religious Group Accuses Army of Working with Paramilitary Death Squad in Southern Colombia

    April 2009, Paramilitaries Murder Trade Unionist Next to Police Checkpoint

    March 2009, Fresh Allegations of Army-Paramilitary Collusion in Colombia

    March 2009, Colombian Army Colluding with Paramilitary Death Squad (which includes links to previous articles)

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