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Published on Monday, July 17, 2000 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Massacre in Colombia
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


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