Paramilitarism against Colombian civil society

Paramilitary groups were responsible for the vast majority of massacres and political killings during the 1990s, a political violence that has cost Colombia an average of three thousand to four thousand civilian lives a year between the late 1980s and 2000…

…An important political outcome of this para-repression has been to reduce the space for the political activities of trade unionists, Communists, peasant leaders of popular organizations, and human rights activists who were all (and continue to be) disproportionately targeted by paramilitary organizations.  These actors have long been viewed as suspect by the armed forces.  General Rafael Samudio Molina, minister of defense in 1988, argued that “subversive groups develop military activities that parallel political actions, and use this strategy of convergence in the political, social, labor, educational, judicial and armed fields”.  The commander of the armed forces in 1988, Manuel Jaime Guerrero Paz, stated in a public forum of business and party leaders that the favorite terrain for political action for subversives was the topic of human rights.  One commanding general of the army referred to a “civil insurgent population” consisting of “the union, student, peasant, and political movements”.  An analyst from the Colombian newspaper El Espectador, Sergio Otalora Montenegro, concluded that the origins and purposes of paramilitarism were not simply responses to guerrilla aggression, but “behind the death squads there have been 15 years of dirty war [designed] to take apart every legitimate, organized, popular movement, and thus destroy any real possibility of constructing a democratic alternative in open opposition to the traditional parties”. (Aviles 2006: 105, 107-108)

This is taken from William Aviles’ book Global Capitalism, Democracy, and Civil-Military Relations in Colombia (2006).  Its full of numbers and focuses largely on the political economy of Colombia as it relates to state violence and paramilitarism, and as such has lots of nice numbers about the economy, foreign direct investment, etc.  Its a very good follow-up read to America’s Other War: Terrorizing Colombia (2005) which I quoted a few weeks ago.


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