RealNews

Bush and the Paramilitaries: Coddling Terrorists in Colombia

One would think that a meeting between high-ranking officials at a U.S. embassy and representatives of a terrorist group would grab headlines nationwide. But few in the U.S. noticed last month when two major Colombian newspapers reported that on May 4, Alex Lee, the chief political officer at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, and Stewart Tuttle, who heads the embassy’s human rights division, met with representatives of the so-called “United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia” (AUC,) a right wing paramilitary group with strong ties to the Colombian military that has terrorized dissidents and poor people in Colombia for the past decade. The U.S. State Department has officially designated the AUC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization–meaning that the meeting definitely violated the State Department’s policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and may also have violated the PATRIOT Act. An embassy official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the meeting’s sole purpose was to reiterate the State Department’s desire to see the arrest and extradition of AUC leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Castano, who are wanted for drug trafficking in the U.S. But this story doesn’t hold water. Would the State Department meet with representatives of Al Qaeda to remind them that it wants to see Ossama bin Laden arrested and extradited? Even that would make more sense than this meeting–bin Laden is in hiding, but Castano routinely grants interviews to the press, published a bestselling book last year, and even made a recent appearance on a talk show in which he issued veiled death threats against opponents of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. If the U.S. were really interested in arresting Castano they might suggest that the Colombian National Police consider showing up at his next media event. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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