TODAY, the village of El Salado is deserted. All of the town's 1,300
former residents have either fled or were killed in a grisly massacre
four months ago.
According to human rights reports, paramilitary death squad troops
suddenly swooped into the village, turned a basketball court into a
killing field, and began executing anyone they suspected of
supporting leftist guerrillas.
For three days, drunken soldiers indulged in an orgy of torture,
execution and repeated rapes of the village women. The death toll,
including those still missing, may be as high as 71 people.
And what did the Colombian police and military do to protect this
village? Nothing. When news of the slaughter reached a neighboring
town, residents begged police and government soldiers to rescue
survivors in El Salado. But government security force refused.
Instead, they set up a roadblock that prevented any neighboring
villagers or humanitarian aid from entering the devastated town.
Sadly, this massacre is not a unique event. Last February, Human
Rights Watch found ``detailed, abundant and compelling evidence of
continuing close ties between Colombian Army and paramilitary groups
responsible for gross human rights violations.''
Is this what Americans want to support? Under the guise of
expanding our war against drugs, Congress has committed $1.3 billion
to aid the Colombian military in their so-called battle against drug
traffic. But as this grim massacre reveals, what the Colombian army
really wants to eliminate are not coca plants, but leftist guerrillas
--and their sympathizers.
The American people need to know what their tax dollars are
supporting. The Colombian civil war has raged for nearly four
decades. In providing military helicopters, along with aid to the
Colombian army, we may be paying for and supporting the kind of
massacre that eliminated the village of El Salado.
Later, none of us will be able to say we didn't know.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle