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Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002
"Colombia moves into the sights in the crusade against terrorism"

2]  US targets Colombian rebels as war against terrorism escalates


THE US is set to broaden its war on terrorism and has found the ideal target: non-
Islamic Marxist guerilla armies who appear on its terrorist list and are involved in drugs

The US has pledged Colombia a further $98m to train a new brigade of troops to help
guard the country's battered oil infrastructure, the favourite target of Marxist rebel

"Colombia will be a target for the war against terrorism," said Adam Isacson, the
Colombia expert for the Washington-based Centre for International Policy.

"For now the US is concentrating on organisations with global reach, like al-Qaeda,
but once they have been mopped up then other organisations that threaten US
interests will be looked at. What we see now in Colombia is just the first step."

The US has already trained a Colombia brigade for the war against drugs, providing
over 60 helicopters in a billion-dollar package granted by President Clinton. President
Bush has taken this further, having pledged $731m in his Andean Regional Initiative, of
which $439m is military and economic assistance for Colombia, making it the third
largest recipient of US military aid after Israel and Egypt.

This announcement of further aid is, for the first time, directly targeted against Marxist
rebels, not thinly veiled as anti-drug. It was announced by US Under-Secretary of State
Marc Grossman on his visit to Colombia last week.

"We support this effort to protect the oil pipeline because it is critical to Colombia's
economic success," he said.

What Grossman did not say is that the Cano Limon pipeline pumps oil for the Los
Angeles-based firm Occidental Petroleum, which is losing millions of dollars every day
the pipeline is out of action. And last year it was out of action for more than 250 days,
as Marxist guerillas opposed to foreign "exploitation" of Colombia's natural resources,
blew it up.

There is realisation in Washington that the announcement irrevocably changes the US
role in Colombia. "For the first time, the administration is proposing to cross the line
from counter narcotics to counter insurgency," said Senator Patrick J Leahy, a
Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the foreign operations sub-committee, and a
critic of US policy in Colombia. "This is no longer about stopping drugs, it's about
fighting the guerillas."

Human rights groups are bitterly opposed to the plan. Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) have asked that
US aid to Colombia be frozen until the Colombian government takes action on links
between the military and the outlawed right-wing paramilitary army of the United Self-
Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). The NGOs allege units of the army are working
with the paramilitaries against their common enemy, the guerillas. The paramilitaries
have become the foremost violators of human rights in the country.

But with the events of September 11 still dominating US foreign policy, it seems
human rights concerns will be overlooked as Colombia moves into the sights in the
crusade against terrorism, or at least the guerilla groups do. None of the US aid to
date has been directed against the right-wing paramilitaries.

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