Historic report concludes that the war on drugs prolonged the decades-long Colombian civil war | Colombia

The Truth Commission concluded in a landmark report published Tuesday that the punitive war and drug embargo helped perpetuate Colombia’s disastrous civil war.

The report, titled “There is a future if there is truth,” was the first part of a study by the commission that was set up as part of a landmark 2016 peace deal with the leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). ).

This agreement formally ended five decades of civil war that killed more than 260,000 people and forced seven million from their homes. Other leftist rebel groups, state-allied paramilitaries and Colombian security forces contributed to the bloodshed, with atrocities committed on all sides.

The violence affected all sectors of Colombian society – from political and business elites to rural peasants – with drug money financing rebels, paramilitary groups, and corrupt politicians. Often poorer farmers – either economically or under the barrel of a gun – were forced to grow coca, the primary ingredient used to make cocaine.

A man shouts for information on missing persons during a ceremony to release the report of the Truth Commission in Bogota on Tuesday.
A man shouts for information about the missing during a ceremony to release the truth commission’s report. Photo: Evan Valencia/Associated Press

But the report found that “the union of US and Colombia interests led to the creation of Plan Columbia,” a massive multi-billion dollar military aid program that began in 2000, “which together combined counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and counternarcotics programs into the war against drug terrorism.”

The report found that a “fundamental change in drug policy” must be implemented and that a transition “to regulating drug markets” must follow, with some of the blame placed on the United States, which funded the Colombian armed forces during the war.

“We cannot postpone the day when ‘peace is a duty and an obligatory right’, as we have done after millions of victims, as expressed in our Constitution,” Francisco de Roo, chair of the Truth Commission, said at a ceremony in Bogota.

Truth commission president Francisco de Roo speaks during the presentation of the commission's final report in Bogota.
Truth Commission Chairman Francisco de Roo speaks during the presentation of the final report. Photo: Mario Toro Quintero/LongVisual/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The report called for major changes in the Colombian military and police forces, which have received more than $8 billion from the United States over the past two decades.

She said the military’s goals should be reassessed, and all human rights violations committed by security forces should be tried in civilian courts rather than under the military justice system.

Like many victims of the conflict, Angela Maria Escobar celebrated the release of the report as an opportunity for Colombia to recover after decades of bitter war. Escobar survived sexual violence at the hands of members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (or AUC), a right-wing paramilitary organization that has now expired.

“It is imperative that all Colombians and the world at large understand what happened during the conflict, which affected so many families and so much of the community,” said Escobar, who now runs an organization for female victims of the conflict.

The report also made policy recommendations that the incoming administration of President-elect Gustavo Petro, including reforming the armed forces, creating a Ministry of Reconciliation, and protecting human rights defenders from political violence could pick up on.

Petro – Colombia’s first-ever left-leaning head of state – will take office on August 7. He was a guerrilla fighter with the M-19 militia in his youth and is a strong supporter of the peace process with the FARC.

Vice President-elect Francia Marquez raises her fist during the ceremony on Tuesday.
Vice President-elect Francia Marquez raises her fist during the ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: Evan Valencia/Associated Press

The leftist activist attended the launch event in Bogotá on Tuesday morning, with Vice President-elect, Francia Marquez, who was forced to flee her home during the conflict. She will be the first black woman to fill this position.

Outgoing President Ivan Duque, skeptical of the deal and accused of being slow in its implementation to undermine it, was in Portugal for the United Nations Ocean Conference.

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