Colombian Soldiers Accused of Killing Civilians to Boost Kill Counts

US support for Colombian atrocities and government abuse has facilitated much suffering, and things don't seem to be improving

Five Colombian soldiers were accused Tuesday of murdering two farmers, in the latest case of “false positive” killings, in which the US-supported Colombian army kill civilians and report them as combatants.

One officer, two sub-officers, and two soldiers of the Army’s 31st Rifle Battalion allegedly killed two farmers in the northwest rural area of Valdivia, Antioquia and then presented them as FARC guerrillas killed in combat. The military report had claimed that the two victims were insurgents who were carrying two handguns and a grenade, but evidence from witnesses, ballistics experts, and investigators invalidated that report.

Due to an army policy which rewarded high body counts of leftist FARC guerrillas, Colombian soldiers have engaged in systematic massacres of Colombian civilians, dressing their dead bodies in the garb of the guerrilla fighters in order to inflate military body counts. Previous publicized incidents earned the name “false positives,” and the Colombian government has for years claimed to be reforming the practice.

The UN and human rights organizations have investigated “more than 1,200 cases of extrajudicial executions,” prompting the then-U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston to write in 2009 that “the sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military.”

The Colombian government is among the top recipients of economic and military aid from the US in all of Latin America. The US has given almost $3 billion to the Colombian government since 2007, making it one of the highest recipients even compared to Middle Eastern tyrannies. For fiscal year 2012, over $400 million is allocated to Colombia. This, despite widespread illegal spying practices and abuses of law enforcement by Colombia’s intelligence agencies.

Ostensibly to counter drug cartels and leftist guerrilla groups, the US also supports right-wing paramilitary groups, successors of the United Self-Defense Forces of Columbia. The successor groups “regularly commit massacres, killings, forced displacement, rape, and extortion, and create a threatening atmosphere in the communities they control” often targeting “human rights defenders, trade unionists, victims of the paramilitaries who are seeking justice, and community members who do not follow their orders.”

Seventeen massacres, “resulting in 76 deaths, were reported between January and May,” of this year according to Human Rights Watch. “Successor groups,” said the report, “contributed to a 34 percent increase in massacres in 2010, the highest annual total since 2005.”

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.