DOCUMENTS IMPLICATE COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT IN CHIQUITA TERROR SCANDAL
Company’s Paramilitary Payoffs made through Military’s ‘Convivir’
U.S. Embassy told of “potential” for groups “to devolve into full-fledged paramilitaries”
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 217
Edited by Michael Evans
Washington D.C., March 29, 2007 – New documents published today by the National Security Archive shed light on recent revelations about the links between bananas and terror in Colombia and the Colombian government’s own ties to the country’s illegal paramilitary forces.
The scandal is further detailed in an article by National Security Archive Colombia analyst Michael Evans published today on the Web site of The Nation magazine.
Earlier this month, Chiquita, the international fruit corporation, admitted to funding a Colombian terrorist group and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. The Justice Department indictment, filed March 13 in D.C. Federal Court, states that Chiquita gave more than $1.7 million to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC), an illegal right-wing anti-guerrilla group tied to many of the country’s most notorious civilian massacres.
The payments were made over seven years from 1997-2004. At least $825,000 in payments came after the AUC was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in 2001.
Many of these payments were made through “intermediaries” in a Colombian government-sponsored program known as Convivir, a network of rural security cooperatives established by the military to police rural areas and provide intelligence on leftist insurgents. Declassified documents suggest that Convivir members often collaborated with paramilitary operations.
The Convivir connection is especially important now, as current President Álvaro Uribe was a key sponsor of the program while governor of Anitoquia department. Antioquia’s banana-growing Urabá region is also the locus of Chiquita’s Colombia operations. As president, Uribe has implemented similar programs involving the use of civilian informants and soldiers.
The article published today, along with additional documents included here, describes a pattern of increasingly-strong links between military and paramilitary forces in Urabá over the period of Chiquita’s payments to the AUC. Chiquita’s relationship with the group coincided with a massive projection of paramilitary power thoughout Colombia. U.S. officials strongly suspected that these operations were at least tolerated by–and at times coordinated with–Colombian security forces.
The Chiquita-Convivir scandal comes as the Los Angeles Times has published a report that the CIA has new information connecting Colombia’s Army chief, Gen. Mario Montoya, one of President Uribe’s top advisers, to a paramilitary group. The new allegation adds fuel to the “para-politics” scandal, which has already taken down several top government officials and implicated many others in connection to the AUC.
Today’s posting is the first in a series of new Archive postings on the U.S. government’s perception of Colombia’s paramiltary movement and its links to Colombian security forces. Under a program developed by the Uribe government to disarm and demobilize the AUC, paramilitary leaders are eligible for reduced prison sentences in exchange for voluntary confessions and the payment of reparations to their victims. However, the commission established to adjudicate this process is not authorized to investigate state crimes or the history of the government’s links to paramilitary forces.
Documents made available on the Archive Web site today include:
- the Justice Department’s indictment in the Chiquita case, detailing the company’s relationship with AUC chief Carlos Castaño, the fugitive (and now deceased) paramilitary leader;
- a U.S. Embassy cable in which Colombia’s police intelligence chief “sheepishly” admitted that his forces “do not act” in parts of the country under AUC control;
- another Embassy cable in which Ambassador Myles Frechette warned that the government’s Convivir program was liable to “degenerate into uncontrolled paramilitary groups”;
- a U.S. military intelligence report on a Colombian Army colonel who told of the “potential” for the Convivir “to devolve into full-fledged paramilitaries”;
- and CIA reports on the Colombian Army’s paramilitary ties, one of which found that armed forces commanders had “little inclination to combat paramilitary groups.”
The full article is available on the Web site of The Nation.