Early Sunday morning, a group of 60 armed men entered a poor
neighborhood in the town of Cienaga, on Colombia's Caribbean coast. The
gunmen, who police say carried a list of people they were seeking, kidnapped
10 residents from their homes, dragged them to an isolated part of town,
interrogated them, then executed them.
Before dispatching their victims,
the killers accused them of collaborating with left-wing guerrillas who operate
in the area, witnesses told Colombian newspapers.
The massacre in
Cienaga was just one of four that occurred this past weekend.
attack, men dressed in military fatigues and wearing the insignias of the
right-wing Colombian Self-Defense Group entered a discotheque in the Cauca
region near Cali and executed three patrons. The gunmen then invaded a
nearby housing project, where they killed another four people.
All told, 28
people lost their lives in the latest weekend of this hemisphere's oldest civil
war. Most of the 35,000 deaths so far, according to human rights groups,
have come at the hands of the Colombian Army or civilian death squads
linked to it.
Cienaga is not very far from the city of Cartagena, where
President Clinton will meet tomorrow with Colombian President Andres
Amid big fanfare and even bigger security
Clinton will inaugurate a $1.3 billion, two-year aid package for Colombia's war
against drugs. That is more than all the military aid our country will give to the
rest of Latin America.
Most of the money and the 60 U.S. helicopters that
are part of the package will go to the Colombian Army, which has the worst
human rights record in the hemisphere.
When he signed the bill authorizing
the aid last week, Clinton could not avoid the question of why so much
largess for a bunch of thugs. He didn't even pretend to try. He simply waived
the requirement by Congress that Colombia show progress on its human rights
The army will use the aid against the cocoa-growing and
drug-processing areas of the south. It will be helped in this by more than 100
U.S. Special Forces soldiers who are in the country to train special
The south also happens to be the area where the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, the most
potent insurgent group in the country, has its strongest base.
we are told, will not be targeting the northern part of the country, where the
right-wing death squads, which also have extensive links to the drug trade,
Right here in Queens, where most of the city's Colombians live,
the effects of the escalation of Colombia's civil war can already be
"Middle-class professionals are leaving the country in
droves," said Arturo Sanchez, a Colombian-born professor at Pratt
Institute, who has been studying the migration of his countrymen.
the new migrants are fleeing the political troubles and the economic crisis that
has accompanied those troubles, Sanchez said. Nearly 2 million Colombians
have been internally displaced by the war, and more than 10% of Colombia's
33 million people now live abroad, mostly in the United States, Venezuela,
Ecuador, Spain and even in Japan.
But sending military aid and
advisers is not the solution.
"This could be the beginning of another
Vietnam," Sanchez said.
Last Friday night, nearly 200 Colombian
immigrants packed the public library in Corona. They came to listen to Ignacio
Gomez, one of Colombia's most respected investigative journalists, and the
local leaders of the Movement for Peace in Colombia.
One speaker after
another condemned the Clinton aid package.
Down south, every country
bordering Colombia is sending troops to the border. Each is worried sick about
the Special Forces and all that military aid and what it could
This is like the rerun of a terrible movie. You'd think somebody in
Washington would know what the Colombians in Queens already know. The
end of this will not be good.
Copyright 2000 NY Daily News