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Documents Show Depth of US Involvement in Anti-Guerrilla Conflict

National Security Archive Update, May 3, 2002

War in Colombia

Guerrillas, Drugs and Human Rights in U.S. Colombia Policy, 1988-


Washington, DC, 3 May 2002 — Over the past 15 years, Congress
has insisted that U.S. security assistance for Colombia be
restricted to combating the drug trade rather than fighting the long-
standing civil war, in large part because of human rights concerns. Now,
the Bush administration is pressing to lift those restrictions and allow
all past, present and future aid to be used in operations against guerilla

But recently declassified U.S. documents show that despite the
legal limits and repeated public assurances by government officials, U.S.
aid has blurred the lines between counterdrug and counterinsurgency to
the point where the U.S. is already in direct confrontation with the guerillas
and on the brink of ever deeper involvement in Colombia's seemingly intractable
civil conflict.

Obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the new
documents, published today on the web by the National Security
Archive's Colombia documentation project, cover the period from 1988 to
the present, with particular focus on issues stemming from the provision
of U.S. security assistance.

Key points include the following:

· As early as the first Bush administration, the U.S. “Andean Strategy” was
developed as a “deal” struck with Andean governments to provide them with
counterdrug aid that could also be used against their principal adversary:
the guerillas.

· Contrary to repeated official statements about “narco-guerillas,”
U.S. intelligence analyses of guerilla involvement in the drug trade have
been decidedly mixed. One skeptical CIA report concluded that, “officials
in Lima and Bogotá, if given antidrug aid for counterinsurgency purposes,
would turn it to pure antiguerilla operations with little payoff against

· Two Colombian brigades that lost U.S. aid in September 2000 for
human rights violations work as part of a joint strike force with
antidrug battalions specifically created to qualify for U.S. funds. The
new units, according to one document, were “bedding down”
with a counterguerilla battalion known for its collaboration with
illegal paramilitary groups.

· The U.S.-Colombia end-use agreement — intended to guarantee
that counterdrug aid be used only in drug producing areas and only
for counternarcotics operations — came to be interpreted so
broadly as to render its provisions virtually meaningless.
Documents indicate that the U.S. eventually redefined the area in
which the aid could be used as “the entire national territory of

· As the end-use agreement was being negotiated with the
Colombian defense ministry, a congressional delegation led by Rep.

Dennis Hastert (R-IL) — currently Speaker of the House of
Representatives who was then chairman of the House
subcommittee on national security — secretly encouraged
Colombian military officials to ignore human rights conditions on
U.S. aid.

· CIA and other intelligence reports from the late 1990s on the
notorious Colombian paramilitaries suggested that the Colombian
government lacked the will to go after these groups. A 1998 CIA
report found that, “informational links and instances of active
coordination between the military and the paramilitaries are likely to
continue and perhaps even increase.”

The documents are available at the following URL:


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