March 6th, 2006

War or Peace?;Colombia's new president must choose between Washington and his own people

In These Times September 2, 2002

On the night of May 26, when Alvaro Uribe Velez won the Colombian presidential race in a landslide, his victory was perceived in Bogota and Washington as a resounding mandate from Colombian voters for escalating the war against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Uribe, who takes office on August 7, campaigned on a pledge to re-establish the government's authority throughout Colombia. He proposes to raise taxes to triple defense spending, double the number of professional soldiers and police, give the army new powers to carry out preventive detentions and searches, and create a million-man civilian intelligence militia to gather information on guerrillas and their supporters.
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Book review: More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America's War in Colombia

Supply and Demand In These Times June 9, 2003


By Ana Carrigan; Ana Carrigan frequently reports from Colombia for In These Times. Among other books, she is the author of The Palace of Justice: A Colombian Tragedy.

More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America's War in Colombia By Robin Kirk PublicAffairs 336 pages, $ 27.50

Robin Kirk's thoughtful and provocative book about Colombia, More Terrible Than Death, raises long overdue questions about America's shared responsibility for that country's descent into chaos. Kirk, who has spent 10 years documenting Colombia's catastrophic human rights situation for Human Rights Watch, does not argue that the United States is responsible for all Colombia's ills. But her assertion that Washington's "single-minded focus on eliminating drugs at the source" has fueled, expanded and exacerbated Colombia's spiraling brutality is based on factual observations on the ground and intimate knowledge of the ways both governments -- in Washington and Bogota -- give the runaround to human rights rules intended to protect civilians.

We know the facts about Colombia's tragedy -- or we think we do. We've been exposed to numbingly repetitive horror stories, inundated by statistics, debates and official statements that use words to say the opposite of what they mean. (How many times have we heard that the billions of dollars in U.S. military aid for the Colombian army are necessary to "preserve that country's democracy and support human rights"?) By now, we believe we know who is responsible for Colombia's mayhem: All the havoc is the fault of the FARC guerrillas; or the paramilitaries; or the elites; or the army; or the drug traffickers. It has nothing to do with us.

Yet the big picture, the beauty of the country, the diversity and richness of its culture, the intelligence of its people and their extraordinary capacity for recuperation, these elude us. It is hard to care about a place we don't understand, particularly when our only images are the interminably familiar ones of destruction and death. Faced with a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale hitherto unknown on this continent, we retreat into catch-all myths: Colombia, we say, suffers from a "culture of violence; "Colombians are incapable, or unwilling, to staunch the blood-letting"; Colombian history, it seems, has been marooned interminably in a cyclical, tropical bloodbath. Unable to find any good guys to root for, we have long ago told ourselves that the complexities and contradictions of Colombia's overlapping wars are too difficult to decipher. Convinced that Colombia is hopeless, we have ceased to care.

But Robin Kirk has mapped the connections that link Americans' $ 46 billion-a-year spending spree on cocaine and heroin to the monumental fraud of Washington's 20-year-old war on drugs, and to the cash that flows straight into guns and paychecks for the killers in Colombia. She challenges us to wake up and acknowledge our responsibility. "The point of this book," she writes, "is to lay bare the context of what lies behind and within America's war on drugs in Colombia and show how the United States, through its consumer habits and official policies, has provoked Colombia's home-grown demons. . . . What looms in Colombia is more than a familiar tale of Latin corruption and savagery. . . . We watch as if it had nothing, really, to do with us. Yet it does, intimately. Our failed policy -- dramatically failed, epically failed, and failing with a numbing, annual frequency -- is largely responsible."

Colombians, in other words, have not made the long journey into today's bloody morass on their own. Tracing the origins of U.S. intervention in Colombia, she resurrects the history of Washington's first involvement, triggered when an enraged Bogota mob torched official buildings in the aftermath of the 1948 assassination of Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. All it took to draw Washington into the middle of the local rivalry between those whom Kirk describes as the "Capulets and Montagues of the Andes," was for the Conservative president of the day to charge that "a movement of communist inspiration and practices" had inspired the rioters. Overnight, a chaotic and leaderless insurrection in Bogota had morphed, in American eyes, into the latest sinister example of Russian ambitions to export world revolution. In the days that followed, the pattern of American military support for compliant Colombian leaders took shape.
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(no subject)

How US Dealers Arm the World Jake Bergman & Julia Reynolds
December 2, 2002 issue

"The M-19 raided and assaulted the Palace of Justice in Colombia, killing 115 people, eleven Supreme Court justices, and wiped out the Supreme Court of the country of Colombia. And these were guns that were subsequently traced back to the United States."

Palace where justice was put to death

The Irish Times February 26, 1994, CITY EDITION


The Palace of Justice: A Colombian Tragedy by Ana Carrigan
Four Walls Eight Windows 303pp, Pounds 15.95 in UK


MINORITY rule masquerading as democracy is the author's description of Colombia's democratic system in which the rules of formal democracy have been followed more faithfully than in any other of the larger Latin American countries over the past half century. Through its meticulous examination of one event in recent Colombian history, this book exposes this masquerade with devastating and profoundly disquieting effect.
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(no subject)


Carrigan, Ana (1993). The Palace of Justice: A Colombian Tragedy, Four Walls Eight Windows. 0941423824. p. 271-275:

Ana Carrigan, an investigative reporter and author of "The Palace of Justice: A Colombian Tragedy" was given a cassette tape in May 1991 from the Bogota Attorney Generals office. The cassette tape was from dissident B-2 agents, dropped of anonymously in the Attorney General's Office a week after the Palace of Justice siege. The authors identify themselves as a group of noncommissioned officers in the B-2 army intelligence service. The B-2 agents state:

:"The object of this audio cassette is to make known to the general public, that on the seventh day of this current month, several hostages from the Palace of Justice were arrested. They were taken to the cells in the Cavalry School in the North of Bogotá. Up until last Saturday evening [November 9] these people, who would seem to have 'disappeared' as a result of the Palace of Justice affair, were in the cells of the Calvary School. There are no 'disappeared.' We saw them there. We know they were there. We escorted them there."
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(no subject)

The Supreme Court Massacre The New York Times November 28, 1993, Sunday, Late Edition

Section 7; Page 9; Column 1; Book Review Desk

By Alan Riding; Alan Riding, who heads the Paris bureau of The New York Times, reported from Latin America between 1971 and 1989.

A Colombian Tragedy.
By Ana Carrigan.
Illustrated. 303 pp. New York:
Four Walls Eight Windows. $22.95.
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(no subject)

Lost in the Ashes The Washington Post November 28, 1993, Sunday, Final Edition


David McClintick

THE PALACE OF JUSTICE; A Colombian Tragedy

By Ana Carrigan

Four Walls Eight Windows. 303 pp. $ 22.95

"THE PROBLEM for a writer in Latin America, Gabriel Garcia Marquez has often observed, lies not in finding a subject, but in ensuring credibility, in making the reader understand that the sense of wonder and infinite strangeness which emerges from much Latin-American writing is a true reflection of the complex realities of Latin-American experience, not merely the product of a feverish literary imagination."Read more...Collapse )

(no subject)

Buffoonish Armageddon at the 'Palace of Justice' The Washington Times December 26, 1993, Sunday, Final Edition

Part B; BOOKS; Pg. B8

Buffoonish Armageddon at the 'Palace of Justice'

Lauren Weiner

Democracy is far from firmly established in Latin America. That truth is pounded home in "The Palace of Justice: A Colombian Tragedy," about the botched 1985 guerrilla operation that resulted in the death of more than 100 people, 11 of them justices of the Supreme Court of Colombia.
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(no subject)

Dead Beat: A Colombian Journalist's Life Inside the Cocaine Wars. book reviews
The Nation September 5, 1994
Vol. 259 ; No. 7 ; Pg. 246; ISSN: 0027-8378
Jimenez, Michael F.

The cruel fate of this northern Andean republic engenders caricature, fantasy and myth in abundance, befitting the land where Gabriel Garcia Marquez gave birth to magic realism. With a murder rate near the world's highest, Colombia for many epitomizes random violence and treachery. Or its face becomes the drug trafficker's, as Hollywood reinvents the gangster as Colombian and former cold war crusaders eagerly campaign in the Andes against new demons, the barons of cocaine. By contrast, many U.S. policymakers, academics and media observers have acclaimed Colombia's civilian elites as paragons of political and economic virtue during Latin America's tumultuous last quarter-century. These brave fighters against narcoterrorism are celebrated as well for their defense of constitutional rule against charismatic populists, generals and revolutionaries and their successful programs of free trade, privatization and open doors to foreign investors.
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