The US role in the conflict in Colombia is causing increasing concern. The Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia paramilitary forces slaughtered more than 200 unarmed civilians in January 2001 alone and are guilty of more than 80 per cent of the human-rights violations in the country. Despite this, their leader Carlos Castano is being given favourable coverage in the US media. Meanwhile the city of Barrancabermeja, home to the country’s largest oil refinery and strongest leftist oil union, is being targeted by paramilitary forces, many of them US-trained.
The US Government refused to attend the historic gathering of countries and international organizations in San Vicente del Caguan on 8 March 2001 in support of the peace process between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The US has also pushed for forced crop fumigation in Putumayo and Bolivar states, where the guerrilla movements of the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have their main strongholds, and where there are also substantial oil and mineral reserves.
The Colombia Peace Association says that the reason for all this is simple: ‘The US Government’s ‘Plan Colombia’ is opposed to the peace process and to a political solution to the 50-year internal conflict. It is evidently fearful that one day there will be real democracy in Colombia.’