Monday, February 11, 2008

Where's Wally? Why, He's In Colombia, Getting Friendly With A Bunch of Terrorists

See that bloke in the middle? The one that is circled?? He is part of a government that is 'committed to fighting terrorism'. You know, the kind of terrorism that gets people executed (see previous post). Yes, that is the one and only Kim Howells. Can you guess who he is surrounded by?? Go on, have a go. Give up?? Well, it's the High Mountain Brigade of Colombia. Not heard of them?? Here's what War on Want has to say on them:

Case Study 1: High Mountain Battalions
The UK military is known to have given training, which may continue today, to some of the newly created High Mountain Battalions (HMBs) of the Colombian Army. These counter-insurgency battalions have committed serious human rights violations against civilians including extra-judicial executions and forced ‘disappearances’. Despite these units having received UK assistance the UK government has refused to confirm what type of training it has provided to the HMBs.

Oh, and see that guy just behind Howells' right shoulder?? That's General Mario Montoya. Montoya just so happens to have links with militias responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people:

WASHINGTON — The CIA has obtained new intelligence alleging that the head of Colombia's U.S.-backed army collaborated extensively with right-wing militias that Washington considers terrorist organizations, including a militia headed by one of the country's leading drug traffickers.

The intelligence about Montoya is contained in a report recently circulated within the CIA. It says that Montoya and a paramilitary group jointly planned and conducted a military operation in 2002 to eliminate Marxist guerrillas from poor areas around Medellin, a city in northwestern Colombia that has been a center of the drug trade.

At least 14 people were killed during the operation, and opponents of Uribe allege that dozens more disappeared in its aftermath.

The intelligence report, reviewed by The Times, includes information from another Western intelligence service and indicates that U.S. officials have received similar reports from other reliable sources.

He also commanded Operation Orion:

After Uribe was elected in 2002 on a platform of tough measures against the rebels, he quickly organized the Medellin offensive. It was commanded by Montoya, 57, who hails from the same northern region of Colombia as the president.

Operation Orion sent 3,000 Colombian army soldiers and police, supported by heavily armed helicopter gunships, though a vast shantytown area controlled by Colombia's largest left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The operation has been widely considered a success and has been a key to Uribe's popularity. But there have long been allegations that after the army swept through, the paramilitaries filled the power vacuum, asserting their control with killings, disappearances and other crimes.

The Organization of American States and the United Nations have investigated the reports. Recently, Colombian Sen. Gustavo Petro, a political opponent of Uribe, publicly charged that 46 people disappeared during the operation.

The informant cited in the CIA document reported that in jointly conducting the operation, the army, police and paramilitaries had signed documents spelling out their plans. The signatories, according to the informant, were Montoya; the commander of an area police force; and paramilitary leader Fabio Jaramillo, who was a subordinate of Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, the head of the paramilitaries in the Medellin area.

Murillo, known as Don Berna, took control of the drug trade around Medellin after the death of fabled drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. He is now in a Colombian jail, and U.S. authorities are seeking his extradition.

And Montoya was an instructor at the School of the Americas:

In addition to his close cooperation with U.S. officials on Plan Colombia, Montoya has served as an instructor at the U.S.-sponsored military training center formerly called the School of the Americas. The Colombian general was praised by U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when Pace directed the regional military command for Latin America, and Montoya has been organizing a new Colombian counternarcotics task force with U.S. funds.

Oh, and I can't discuss Colombia without mentioning Alex James' man, Alvaro Uribe:

In an interview, U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said they have closely investigated whether Uribe himself has collaborated with the right-wing paramilitaries in illegal activities and have so far found no proof that he has. But they emphasized that they also could not rule it out.

Yep, he's my man too.

Nice to see that we are still fully committed to fighting terrorism around the globe. Well, we're committed as long as they aren't Christian or white anyway.

Next week - Wally dons a fetching white gown and burns crosses whilst taunting the locals in Mississippi.