Colombia’s Diplomat Colluded with Terrorists, Drug Dealers
Sandra Suarez, the special envoy Colombian President Alvaro Uribe sent to Washington in July to usher it through Congress for him, has said it’s dead. She resigned Oct. 30 because, she wrote her president, she’d failed him.
Her letter doesn’t mention the scandal surrounding her.
But let’s explore it just a little bit because that indignity illustrates just how far both the Bush and Uribe administrations seem willing to go to get FTAs passed.
Here’s what Ms. Suarez didn’t mention in the letter: the day she resigned she was big news in Bogota. A former intelligence chief for the Colombian FBI, Rafael Garcia, testified to a government Commission of Investigation and Accusation that Ms. Suarez collaborated with leaders of the paramilitary group AUC and with the governors of Cesar and Magdalena states to establish AUC control over key Colombian territory. The two governors happen now to be in jail for their own paramilitary ties.
For those unfamiliar with the AUC, these are not weekend warriors. This is a group the U. S. State Department lists as a terrorist organization. Its crimes against humanity include massacres, tortures, rapes and kidnappings. These activities are funded by something for which Colombia is notorious — cocaine production and sales. Sadly, they are also funded, at least indirectly, by the U.S. government which has given more than $4 billion to the Colombian military since 2000. As the U.S. State Department has concluded, the Colombian military supports the AUC paramilitaries with weapons, ammunition, intelligence, logistical aid and even troops.
It’s not like this was the first time anyone ever publicly made a little fuss over Ms. Suarez’ links to the AUC. In July, just a few days after President Uribe appointed her as his special envoy, The Spectator, a major newspaper in Bogotá, published a column entitled, “Questions without answer.” It began, “Mr. President, did you know the person who coordinated the [campaign] meeting in Barrancabermeja with various paramilitary leaders was Sandra Suarez, the same person who you designated to defend the interests of this country in Washington?”
So, really, The Spectator kindly put all the presidents concerned, Uribe directly and Bush, surely through the CIA, on notice that Ms. Suarez had links to what the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.
Naturally, she was placed on a no-fly list, along with all those hapless American infants whose parents unfortunately gave them names similar to suspected terrorists, right?
The answer would be no. The Bush Administration granted a visa to this woman despite her ties to the AUC. Despite her ties to a terrorist organization that puts cocaine on American streets to finance its murderous activities. Despite her ties to jailed politicians, who, by the way, were associated with the terrorist organization.
But then, no sacrifice is too great to get an FTA passed, right? For the Bush Administration, that means even letting a woman who consorts with terrorists into Washington.
There she bandied her special brand of suasion on Congressmen for three months until she abruptly quit, informing her president his FTA was a lost cause. The Congressmen couldn’t be moved, she wrote. Apparently, she’d had better results in transactions with drug dealers.
And let’s be perfectly clear what sort of drug dealers we’re talking about.
At its height, the AUC was a well-trained, well-armed group estimated to contain as many as 31,000 soldiers. It controls some areas of Colombia like an official military police force. “Arrangements” are made between elected officials and AUC officials to sustain this oppression.
It is, essentially, a privately-run army, though one that keeps close ties to the official Colombian military. For the record, the Colombian government claims that it is a right-wing group trying to fend off the leftist FARC guerrillas. But in fact, the AUC has been involved in thousands of killings of trade unionists, rival drug lords, and human rights activists since the 1980s — essentially, it does dirty work outsourced by the Colombian military so official hands may appear clean. (However, in a report released just this month, the Colombian military’s own rate of human rights abuses, particularly extrajudicial killings, is actually on the rise as well; see, www.lawg.org)
Uribe claims to be trying to rid the country of the AUC with an amnesty plan, under which some leaders have stepped forward and testified, resulting in indictments against dozens of generals and lawmakers, and even some Uribe administration officials, for their alleged involvement with the paramilitaries.
Among those testifying is Rafael Garcia, but of course, his word will be questioned because of his own links to the paramilitaries. He was taken from a prison cell to testify before the commission about Ms. Suarez.
Still, who would know better about the paramilitaries than one of their own? And Mr. Garcia has testified in previous cases and his word has been corroborated in ways that led to the filing of charges against important figures including the former chief of the Colombian FBI Jorge Noguera.
And, of course, there’s also the independent information about Ms. Suarez gathered by The Spectator.
Uribe must have a seriously warped view of Washington to have sent the likes of Ms. Suarez as his special agent to win passage of the FTA. In this nation’s capitol, the political scandals usually involve sex or money, not extrajudicial murder. And Bush has a dangerous view for welcoming into this country a terrorist group sympathizer.