Militante | 12.12.2001 03:51
This article makes an important contribution to an understanding of the history of this period, but the author doesn't seem to appreciate the horror of what he's writing about. He also makes the same mistake as the planners of the Vietnam strategy made: he portrays the bandoleros as non-political criminals without popular support.
As Gonzalo Sanchez and Donny Meertens write in Bandits, Peasants and Politics, The Case of La Violencia in Colombia:
[R]epression by the state's machinery - such as the sinister chulavita police from Boyaca - was not replaced but was complimented by paramilitary
organizations such as the pajaros (birds) in Valle and Caldas, the aplanchadores(flatteners) in Antioquia, and the penca ancha (heavy whip)
on the savannas of Sucre, whose victims would number in the hundreds of thousands.
[B]andolerismo understandably emerged in broad swaths of the countryside as an anarchial and desperate peasant response. And, since for desperate people the only program that makes sense is to destroy for the sake of destroying, terror became not only an integral part but also, in most cases, the overarching element of their actions.
The most significant characteristic of "social banditry" per se is that it is locally acknowledged, tolerated and even supported, and that it could not survive for long - at least in rural areas - without the acknowledgement, the tolerance, and the support of the populace.
Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics: US Counter-insurgency Efforts
in Colombia 1959-1965
by Dennis M. Rempe
>From "Small Wars and Insurgencies" Vol. 6, No. 3 (Winter 1995), pp. 304-327
Published by Frank Cass, London
This article analyses the role played by the United States between 1959 and 1965
in developing counter-guerrilla training, civic action programmes, intelligence
structures, and communications networks in Colombia, and in aiding the Colombians
to undertake offensive counter-insurgency and psychological warfare operations in
order to destroy bandit-guerrilla organisations within that nation. By
specifically examining the development and impact of US counter-insurgency policy
on low-intensity conflict in Colombia, and by utilising previously untapped US
military and intelligence records, this work addresses a gap in the historiography
of the period. 1 Indeed, it establishes the unique role played by the United
States in facilitating the development of all aspects of Colombia's internal
security infrastructure in order to contain 'one of the world's most extensive
and complex internal wars of this century'. 2
Relations between the United States and Colombia in the field of national
security began to expand as a result of World War II and Colombia's geostrategic
proximity to the Panama Canal. This relationship intensified as the US and USSR
engaged in cold war. While Colombian policy-makers supported Washington's global
strategy, they were consumed for almost two decades after the war by the internal
crisis which came to be known as La Violencia.
Political, socio-cultural, economic, and military factors all contributed to the
emergence of violence in Colombia. These included a widening gap between rich and
poor, polarised political loyalties between the two traditional parties, the
Liberals and Conservatives, which had filtered down through all levels of society,
and a political system inadequately prepared to adapt to changing expectations,
the spread of new ideas, and the uneven impact of modernisation. Since this was
largely a peasant conflict, land distribution was a critical issue which fuelled
social, political, and economic differences. Political mobilisation of the
population after World War II eroded the structure of a society already burdened
by regional differences, elite control over the institutions of power, and a
certain cultural acceptance of violence. The situation was further aggravated by
both an inefficient and partisan police force and an ineffective and politicised
military which competed with one another and were distrusted by the public. 3
In an atmosphere of ongoing rural violence and sustained political agitation,
the murder of populist Liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan on 9 April 1948
produced the Bogotazo: two days of riotous violence, mob control of the streets
of Bogota, and some 1,400 people killed. 4 Although the Bogotazo was ultimately
contained in the capital, it sparked a cycle of Liberal-Conservative guerrilla
and counter-guerrilla actions influenced, in some instances, by communist
elements. It was within the context of this violence - civil war followed by
military dictatorship - that the US-Colombian national security relationship
developed. The larger issues of hemisphere defence, development of conventional
armed forces, the Korean War, trade and investment, military assistance, the
persecution of Protestants, and the search for internal political stability
dominated relations between the two countries until well into the second term
of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, as US policy shifted towards
internal defence after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Liberal Alberto Lleras
Camargo, first President of the newly-formed bipartisan National Front
government, welcomed this new policy initiative and sought to implement it
rapidly in Colombia. In September 1959 Eisenhower authorised the State
Department to determine whether the Colombian government would receive a team
of US counter-guerrilla experts to survey the situation and recommend courses
of action. 5 This initiative 'was the first major effort of the US to
influence the internal security problems of Colombia'. 6
Special Survey Team in Colombia
A US Special Survey Team arrived in October 1959 to investigate Colombia's
internal security conditions. 7 The team consisted of counterinsurgency experts
with experience in the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea and other parts of Asia, as
well as Latin America. Its report on the Colombian situation concluded that the
new National Front administration of Alberto Lleras Camargo needed to focus on
restoring honesty and efficiency in government and uniformed authority. Public
confidence in the institutions of the state had been completely lost, and moral
values had been 'outraged and even warped' as a result of the years of violence.
Only Lleras Camargo commanded enough respect, the survey team believed, to
re-establish law and order and make people believe that government was capable
of working for the national interest. 8 Recognising the primarily criminal,
rather than subversive, nature of Colombia's violence, the survey team suggested
that both banditry and guerrilla warfare could be substantially reduced within
a year by employing a special Lancero (Ranger) unit as a mobile counterguerrilla
force. In the long term, the organisation and doctrine of Colombia's US
developed conventional armed forces would have to change. Emphasis needed to be
placed on developing a domestic military intelligence service and implementing
psychological warfare, public information, and civic action programmes. In
order to shield the interests of both Colombian and US authorities against
'interventionist' charges any special aid given for internal security was to
be sterile and covert in nature. 9
For the Colombian armed forces, establishing the use of combined arms in
counter-guerrilla operations would be a vital component in the successful
prosecution of anti-violence measures. Formation of a joint staff, improved
training methods, and personnel selection, as well as logistical reform, had
to be undertaken. The Army, the survey team concluded, was essentially non-
political, but the National Police were politicised and needed rehabilitation
in order to become effective. US officials, conversely, would be primarily
tasked with providing aid and advice, especially regarding the use of ranger
troops and the establishment of effective military intelligence, psychological
warfare, and civic action units. An expanded US Mission was needed to develop
a national intelligence structure, and to re-orient the armed forces toward
unconventional warfare rather than the conventional capabilities that the
Americans had previously stressed. As well, economic and military assistance
programmes had to be co-ordinated between the various US and Colombian
agencies involved. 10
A variety of military and civilian advisers were needed with experience in
political and psychological warfare, intelligence, human relations, and
special operations in order to implement the new programmes and for long-term
training, mobile teams, and community self-help groups. Others would work
with the National Police while Colombian police observers would be sent to
Canadian, Mexican, and Philippine constabularies for training assistance
since immediate action on police issues was fundamental to the effective
development of counter-violence measures. 11
Owing to the sensitive nature of Colombian internal security missions,
the survey team further advised the use of third country nationals, covertly
under US control, but apparently contracted by the host government. Military
and civilian personnel used in this manner brought skills and experience
acquired in their own country which might be difficult to find in the United
States. Moreover, obviously non-US advisers had low 'interventionist
propaganda-exploitation' value if discovered. However, policy guidance would
be required from US officials regarding the use of third country nationals
as field advisors to forces actively engaged in guerrilla-bandit suppression
activities. 'Cover' arrangements for those not openly identified as US
employees needed to be made, and they were to be placed under general
supervision of the chief of the appropriate mission and a special officer
for internal security matters. Finally, use of other than current US-military
pattern material was also recommended: identification was to be removed and
supply to be undertaken through other than regular US military aid channels. 12
In April 1960, one month after receiving the survey team's (edited) report,
Lleras began to put into effect some of its recommendations. A broad policy
of agrarian reform was undertaken in an attempt to provide land to peasants
and to develop Colombia's agricultural sector. Long-range civicaction
programmes such as better roads, medical aid, and schools for rural areas
were proposed. By 1961 the Colombian Institute of Land Reform (INCORA) began
to operate, promoting rural cooperatives and irrigation projects to improve
land use. 13 On an official visit to Washington that same April, however,
Lleras commented to Eisenhower that the Colombian Army continued to receive
US Mission training in conventional warfare. Diplomatically, he declared
that the fault lay with Colombia's generals, who emulated the American army
rather than preparing for guerrilla-type warfare. Eisenhower agreed that
more emphasis needed to be placed on anti-guerrilla training, but also
stressed that US Mission officials were bound by both the Morse Amendment
and the policy directives of the Colombian government. 14 The special
survey team report, however, was quite specific in regard to the origins
of the actual problem.
Taking into consideration the existing, substantial guerrilla potential
and the contemporary history of Colombia, which includes heavy fighting
against Communist guerrillas, present disregard of counter-guerrilla
and unconventional warfare can only be attributed to traditionalism and
the emphasis placed on US conventional warfare orientation and doctrine. 15
Immediately after the Lleras visit, the Defense Department, on Eisenhower's
directive, began a comprehensive study of the Colombian Army's requirements
to combat guerrilla warfare. In fact, the department reviewed the need for
expanded counter-guerrilla training on a worldwide basis as part of the
greater emphasis towards the new Overseas Internal Security Programs
initiative. 16 Colombia would be one of the nations in the forefront of
this new policy development.
Inception of the bipartisan National Front system in Colombia brought both
co-operation between the two warring political parties and restoration of
the Army's 'nonpolitical' image. Since the new system was based on an
interparty consensus, those bandit and guerrilla groups which continued to
operate after the October 1958 amnesty declaration became, by definition,
either dangerous to public order or subversive. Consequently, the Army
targeted these groups without the same political risk it had confronted
before the National Front period. 17 Following the advice of both the
Lleras government and the US survey team, American military assistance was
reoriented in 1961 towards the violence problem. Earlier plans to develop
a special counter-guerrilla team deployed from helicopters were rejuvenated.
A 'special impact shipment' of approximately $1.5 million worth of military
hardware was received by the Colombian armed forces in late 1961 and early
1962 to enable them to undertake Orden Publico (Public Order) missions.
Three H-43B (medium) helicopters, as well as a variety of vehicles,
communication equipment, and small arms were delivered in an effort to
equip and mobilise the specialised ranger type unit, which would become a
prototype for other units involved in the campaign against rural violence
and uncontrolled banditry in the countryside. 18 It was also the first
tangible effort by the US government to assist Colombian military forces
in their struggle against internal violence, and led to a vastly expanded
internal security effort under MAP support. By October 1962 the first
operational Orden Publico mission was flown jointly by a Colombian pilot
and a US Air Force instructor. 19
Another substantial change occurred in 1960 with the nomination of
Brigadier General (promoted to Major General) Alberto Ruiz Novoa to
Commanding General of the Colombian Army. Ruiz advocated that the armed
forces be used 'as agents to mend the national social fabric and to
develop the social infrastructure'. Destroying guerrillas was not enough;
the Army also had to 'attack the social and economic causes as well as
the historic political reasons for their existence'. 20 These strong
views later brought Ruiz to the position of Minister of War in August
1962, but his frequent political attacks against the second National
Front government of Conservative Guillermo Leon Valencia eventually led
to his forced resignation early in 1965. Interest in developing an
effective military intelligence programme also increased. As more
Colombian officers recognised the need for intelligence in maintaining
public order, they supported the US idea of establishing a broad
intelligence course for Latin American military personnel in Panama.
Beginning in 1960, the Colombian Army filled its quota in each class in
an effort to expand its programme, although there was some difficulty in
assigning personnel to duties on their return due to the lack of a proper
intelligence infrastructure. 21 Attempts to alleviate this problem were
made between February and August 1961, when the first intelligence
Military Training Team (MTT) was sent to Colombia. Though not completely
successful, it did establish a base from which follow-up MTTs were able
to develop a nascent military intelligence structure. 22 In the same
period operational planning began for a psychological warfare MTT to be
sent to Colombia, and course spaces were made available for officers
both at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and
the Canal Zone in psychological operations and counter-resistance
training. 23 In 1961 the Departamente Administrativo de Seguridad
(Administrative Department of Security-DAS) was instituted in place of
the deactivated Servicio de Inteligencia de Colombia (Colombian
Intelligence Service-SIC). Performing both intelligence and counter-
intelligence functions, it co-ordinated counter-subversive actions
amongst all security forces while the F-2 section of the National
Police concentrated on anti-bandit (criminal) measures. Ostensibly,
the agencies mandates were delineated by political versus criminal
acts of violence, but the inter-related nature of violence within the
Colombian context often made it difficult to differentiate between them. 24
The Yarborough Team
In February 1962 a US Army Special Warfare Center team headed by Brigadier
General William P. Yarborough was dispatched to Colombia in a follow-up
study to the 1959--60 survey team's overview of the internal security
situation. Its primary objectives were to study the violence problem,
evaluate the effectiveness of the Colombian counter-insurgency effort, and
make recommendations which would allow the effective deployment of a US
counter-insurgency TT. 25 During a 12-day mission the team toured areas
encompassing four of Colombia's eight brigades (see Map 1]. In its final
evaluation, the Yarborough team concluded that lack of central planning and
co-ordination was seriously effecting all levels of the counter-insurgency
effort. Fragmentation of resources, lack of essential communications,
transportation, and equipment, reliance on static outposts, and improper
use of military personnel in civil capacities placed the Army on the
defensive and allowed both subversive and bandit elements to acquire the
initiative. Inadequate collation and dissemination of intelligence at both
an army and national level further hampered the effort, as did the lack of
counter-intelligence training. Civic action and psychological operations
were sporadic, the relationship between the Army and National Police was
not properly delineated, and broader social, political, and economic
problems existed for which solutions appeared remote. 26
In general, the Yarborough team recommended that the US provide guidance
and assistance in all aspects of counter-insurgency. MTTs for psychological
warfare, civic action, air support, and intelligence were vital if proper
anti-violence plans, requirements, and operations were to be established.
As well, five Special Forces A-teams would be needed to work concurrently
with the battalions of the four brigades which were most seriously engaged
with guerrillas and bandits. As for the Colombians, the team concluded,
corrective measures were needed if an effective counterinsurgency plan was
to be undertaken. Collaboration between the DAS, National Police, and armed
forces in the fields of intelligence and counterintelligence, co-ordination
and standardisation of programmes structured to a national counter-insurgency
plan, as well as improved transportation, equipment, and communication was
needed. 27 At brigade level it was essential to garrison fixed outposts with
state police in order to give the Army increased mobility; intensify
anti-bandit propaganda; prioritise action areas; equip and maintain troops
for rapid reaction and night operations; and conduct joint, inter-brigade
operations. Armoured buses, filled with soldiers or police in civilian
clothing were to be covertly introduced into the transportation system and
operational zones isolated through curfews, civilian registration programmes,
and other populace control measures. Finally, exhaustive interrogation of
captured bandits and guerrillas using sodium pentathol and polygraph were to
be undertaken in order to gather intelligence information on hostile groups. 28
Reflecting the political instability surrounding the transfer of power from
Lleras to Valencia, the Yarborough team presented this final report to the
Special Group (Counter-insurgency) with a secret supplement. In view of the
economic and political environment in Colombia, the team believed that
'positive measures' were needed should the internal security situation
deteriorate further. Civilian and military personnel, clandestinely selected
and trained in resistance operations, would be required in order to develop
an underground civil and military structure. This organisation was to
undertake 'clandestine execution of plans developed by the United States
Government toward defined objectives in the political, economic, and military
fields'. 29 While pressuring for reforms, it would also undertake
'counter-agent and counter-propaganda' functions as well as 'paramilitary,
sabotage, and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents'.
Should such a structure already exist, the Yarborough team declared, it
should be immediately employed against communist elements. Indeed, the team
suspected that 'the Rurales operating in the Llanos are CAS (Covert Action
Staff) directed through DAS in Colombia.' If this was the case they believed
it was a 'step in the right direction' as long as CAS had 'positive
leadership influence' over the security force. 30
Actions and objectives proposed by the Yarborough team strengthened those
already recommended by the earlier survey. From this study a Colombian
Internal Defense Plan evolved designed to integrate military efforts with
the economic, social, and political aspects. The military portion of this
overall plan was prepared and implemented by the Colombian Army in the
summer of 1962 under the guidance of a US counter-insurgency MTT. Known
as Plan LAZO, it called for military action which would target leading
bandit elements and suppress and eliminate guerrilla forces; broad civic
action programmes within the violence zones; and an improved anti-violence
apparatus in order to maintain internal security. Although direct combat
use of US Special Forces A-teams did not happen, maximum use of training
MTTs was made instead. 31 With the inception of Plan LAZO, counter-violence
measures became more determined as security force missions were increasingly
aimed towards destroy and capture. 32
Resurgent political violence which, by 1962, had increased 30 per cent
over 1960 incidence levels surrounded the transfer of power from Lleras to
Valencia. Elections in 1960, 1962, and again in 1964, aggravated party
factionalisation and fuelled partisan violence. 33 Former dictator Rojas
Pinilla added to these problems by attempting to break the National Front
political monopoly with the formation of the Alianza Nacional Popular (ANAPO)
movement in 1960. Semi-revolutionary organisations sympathetic to Cuba also
developed during this period. A 'Workers-Students-Peasants' Movement (MOEC)
was formed in January 1960 - Colombia's first Fidelista political
organisation - although its power faded after its leader, student Antonio
Larrota, was killed in May 1961. As well, the United Front of Revolutionary
Action (FUAR) led by Gloria Gaitan (daughter of the slain Liberal leader
of 1948) and husband Luis Emiro Valencia organised intellectuals in an
attempt to re-establish Gaitanism as a political force. Many splinter
groups which coalesced during this time were often organised by students
and intellectuals associated with these organisations, some of whom had
gone to Cuba and been trained in guerrilla warfare techniques. 34
Although the Communist Party was legal in Colombia (intelligence estimates
placed membership between 8,000 and 10,000 with an additional 28,000
sympathisers) it was excluded from the National Front political arrangement.
Instead the Partido Communista Colombiano (Colombian Communist Party-PCC)
attempted to infiltrate the hard-left elements of the Liberal party and
support and control labour strikes, demonstrations, and propaganda
distribution. Of greater concern to both US and Colombian security forces
were its attempts both to organise and strengthen communist enclaves which
had developed during the early Violencia period by establishing auto-defence
militia units and to obtain direction and control of bandit and former
Liberal guerrilla paramilitary capability. 35 Within these so-called
'independent republics', US intelligence estimated that 11 groups of
communist guerrillas consisting of 1,600 to 2,000 men were active. Another
29 former (non-communist) guerrilla groups of approximately 4,500 men
continued to exist, primarily in the southern and central departments of
Colombia. Remnants of the fighting since the assassination of Gaitan,
these groups continued to maintain arms and were unresponsive to government
actions to improve social and economic conditions in their areas unless it
was co-ordinated through former guerrilla leaders. Though largely inactive,
they remained a potential threat to the government, particularly if the
National Front system failed and partisan violence escalated in the
countryside. Finally, somewhere between 90 and 150 bandit gangs totalling
over 2,000 men were reported to be active primarily in the coffee-rich
Cauca Valley region. Operating in a highly individualistic, though
quasi-guerrilla fashion, these groups often maintained intelligence nets
throughout rural communities. Organisation, US intelligence specialists
concluded, had increased, and their operations were becoming more
co-ordinated. However, inter-bandit rivalry continued to cause clashes and
attempts by the communists to control these gangs had, at that point,
achieved little success. 36
Targeting the communist enclaves and the bandit gangs became the primary
aims of the Colombian Army under Plan LAZO. By late 1962, approximately 75
per cent of military forces were engaged in some form of antiviolence
measures. 37 To facilitate internal security in Colombia and throughout
the other American republics, the Latin American Special Action Force (1st
Special Forces, 8th Special Forces Group) had been stationed in the Canal
Zone in August 1962. It provided the majority (90 per cent) of mobile
training teams used in support of internal defence. Numerous MTTs involved
in a broad range of instruction went to Colombia in the decade after the
Yarborough team report. Everything from supply, engineering, sanitation,
and other civic action projects, to intelligence, counter-insurgency,
psychological warfare, and special operations were taught. Indeed, more MTTs
were sent to Colombia during this period than anywhere else in Latin America. 38
In 1962 several major initiatives were undertaken by US military training
teams which had considerable long-range impact on the Colombian Army. The
counter-insurgency MTT, as previously discussed, was instrumental in the
development of Plan LAZO. Initial training in psychological warfare was also
conducted by this team and then followed-up by an MTT which oriented the
Colombian Army Staff and the War College class in psychological operations.
In early November a civic action team was deployed to formulate plans,
develop operational methodology, and improve Troop Information and Education
(TI and E) programmes in conjunction with US Information Services and the
Agency for International Development (AID). Under the auspices of this team a
'propaganda' (information) platoon was organised, trained, and field tested in
Cundinamarca, the department around Bogota, in 1963. 39
Civic action within the context of Plan LAZO was implemented as a means of
improving internal security. By having military forces undertake projects on
behalf of citizens, the government showed concern and interest in its people.
Economic development often alleviated factors contributing to violence,
opening areas to greater pacification efforts by security forces. Long-range
programmes involving health centres and roads seemed to be the most successful:
road construction fostered by the US Military Assistance Program (MAP) and MTT
support began in June 1963 and over the next several years gravel surfaced
routes were started in the violence-ridden departments of Huila, Cauca, Caldas,
Valle, Cundinamarca, Santander, and Tolima. Providing access for both civil and
military traffic, maintenance and construction of 'farm-to-market' and
penetration roads had a direct effect on the suppression of violence in these
Other proactive measures which the Colombian Army undertook with the aid of US
MTTs in violence-affected or communist-influenced areas included the construction
of water wells and potable water systems; literacy training programmes;
development of youth camps; and construction of rural schools and dispensaries
which provided dental treatment and medicine. In one instance, a dispensary
established in an area of Caldas department was instrumental in turning the
populace against one leader of a bandit gang. 41 While not directly under US
military control through Plan LAZO, community action groups and public safety
programmes were simultaneously begun under the Alliance for Progress. Assistance
was provided to enhance community development at the local level, and both the
National Police and DAS were given aid in order to improve training,
administration, operations, communications, and public relations. A close
working relationship also continued between US and Colombian labour through AID,
the AFL-CIO, and ORIT (Inter-American Regional Labor Organization). Training,
loans for low-cost workers' homes, scholarships for trade union studies, and
factory tours in the United States were facilitated through the newly formed
(spring 1962) American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). 42
In November 1962 the US Army Mission prepared a plan for a civic action
communications network in the Llanos - Amazonas regions. A civic action MTT
extensively surveyed existing communication nets throughout Colombia, as well
as identifying those still in the planning phase. During this survey a Colombian
Ministry of Government project for the area was discovered which had been
delayed due to funding problems. After some negotiation, a joint agreement was
reached to combine the two plans, and a completion date set for December 1963. 43
The new system allowed military, police, and border elements to utilise the
system for security purposes while, at the same time, the central government
could also maintain closer communication links with its territorial areas (see
Map 2). By 1965 plans were formulated to expand the communications net into
isolated regions along the western (Pacific) coastline of Colombia. 44
Another communications project undertaken by the Mission, in conjunction with
plans developed by a Colombian Air Force officer, was the development of a
rural civil defence early-warning radio net. Established in violent areas with
the support of the local community, it was utilised as a means of gathering
intelligence and providing early warning against bandit or guerrilla attacks.
Each net was considered a 'Federation' with subscribers contributing $200 for
radio equipment which brought two-way communication down to individual farm
level. Originally the system was intended to link together the battalions in
I, III, VI, and VIII Brigade areas to the civilian populace and authorities,
to local and national police, and to the air force. 45 By spring 1965, 11
separate networks had been established, supported by federations which had
suffered considerable economic dislocation in the violence: coffee
co-operatives along the Cauca River in Caldas, Valle, and Tolima departments;
agricultural groups in the sugar growing region of Cauca department and
cotton growers in Magdalena department; and other armed agricultural groups
along the central Magdalena River Valley from Bolivar and the major oil
extraction and refining area of Santander department to Huila. (see Map 3).
Each net consisted of up to 100 citizen band radio sets distributed to farms,
civilian defense centers (net control stations), and military civil defense
monitor and repeater locations. Based on the success of the original nets,
another 47 were scheduled for installation in the 1966-68 period. 46
Vehicles, radios, and other equipment were also provided for II Brigade
(Guajira area) in order to establish a surveiIlance-intelligence net to
control Colombia's northern coast against subversive agents and contraband'. 47
An integral part of Plan LAZO was the development of intelligence structures
within the Colombian armed forces which would co-operate with the civilian DAS,
F-2 of the National Police, and other government agencies. Attempts to start an
intelligence establishment and training effort began, as described earlier,
with the two-man MTT of 1961. It was followed by a second, three-man military
training team which provided assistance from 18 May to 15 November 1962. A
permanent Mission intelligence adviser also arrived that same year. The team
gave several short-term (three week) 'crash' training programmes for
interrogators, mobile intelligence groups (grupos moviles de inteligencia -
GMI), and Localizadores teams (grupos inteligencia de localizadores - GILs or
Intelligence Hunter/Killer teams). GILs were composed of 25 veteran officers,
NCOs, and civilians, heavily armed, and trained to operate in the field for
long periods. They were used both to fight and penetrate hostile groups as well
as work with informants." 48
Perhaps the most notable military aspect of Plan LAZO, however, was the
adoption of counterguerrilla warfare techniques that were highly dependent
on sophisticated intelligence - gathering and analysis. ... Army tactical
units acquired a 'comando localizador,' or unconventional warfare shock
group, which clandestinely killed or captured guerrilla and bandit
leaders. In addition, Mobile Intelligence Groups (grupos moviles de
inteligencia) were attached to all major operating units. Their activities
seem to have included counter-guerrilla work similar to the comando
localizador, as well as information-gathering. 49
In April 1964 a Military Intelligence Battalion was created to undertake
combat intelligence, counter-intelligence, and special operations, and to
assist in coastal surveillance and internal security operations against
infiltration of agents, 'provocateurs', arms, and propaganda. It was also
utilised to find, destroy, or eliminate communist and extremist activities
through a network of clandestine agents. 50
>From May through October 1963, a joint US army, navy, and air force MTT was
sent to Colombia to update Plan LAZO and develop a Command level counter-
insurgency plan for the Colombian Armed Forces as a whole. Plan LAZO was
reviewed and validated, though the team concluded that it lacked
effectiveness as a joint operational plan, having been established strictly
for the Colombian Army's anti-violence effort. Still, it was used as the
basis upon which additional plans were formulated, including the Colombian
Armed Forces (Joint) Counterinsurgency Plan (1964-66). 51 Prior to the
arrival of the joint MTT, the Colombian Armed Forces developed and issued
Internal Security Directive 001. Directed at all three military services,
the National Police, and DAS, it called for co-operation through a Joint
Operations Center (JOC) and for the establishment of an intelligence agency
which would consider military and national intelligence requirements. 52
The joint MTT found the directive 'overly ambitious', particularly in the
Colombian ability to undertake combined arms actions. Still, fostering the
development of a National Intelligence Agency - plans for which the US
Mission Intelligence Advisor had helped to draft - was considered vital.
The team also spent considerable time establishing the basic guidelines
and organisational structure for the JOC. This came into being in 1964 and
was coupled with ongoing US army, navy, and air force coordination with
their Colombian counterparts in order to ensure a realistic assignment of
tasks and missions under Directive 001. 53
Reacting to the Violencia
Incidents in the early years of the Valencia administration added urgency
to the anti-violence measures undertaken by the government. Riots by
strikers in the petroleum industry in 1963, nightly bombings in Bogota and
other cities in August that same year, as well as 'nuisance' bombings to
protest joint US - Colombian naval exercises (Operation 'America') in
November, raised the spectre of urban terrorism grafted on to the ongoing
rural crisis. 54 On 3 November the Venezuelan government discovered an
arms cache of Cuban origin intended for Colombian guerrillas. This fuelled
fears of Cuban-backed subversion in the area, though in fact most of the
arms held by bandit and guerrilla groups came from army stocks through
theft or illicit purchase. Still, there were reports of arms smuggling, as
in the earlier Violencia period, across the borders of Venezuela, Panama,
and Ecuador. 55 City bombings directed at property continued into 1964,
with radical sections of ANAPO, the Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal
(Liberal Revolutionary Movement-MRL, hardline), and communists being blamed
for the actions. 56 That summer, a bomb factory outside of Bogota blew up
and documents linking the factory owners to Venezuelan guerrillas and
suspected Colombian terrorist groups were found. 57 Security forces,
though, continued to have success both against urban terrorists (killing or
capturing nearly two dozen people largely associated with the FUAR and MOEC),
and rural bandits (killing 388 in 1962 alone). 58
A concentrated effort by Colombia's security forces to co-ordinate
antiviolence measures continued through the Valencia presidency. Psychological
warfare and public information campaigns were undertaken in conjunction with
civic action and counter-insurgency operations. A psychological operations MTT
in 1964 trained over 100 officers and NCOs at army and brigade level in
tactics, planning and dissemination of propaganda, and coordinating
psychological warfare with combat operations. 59 On 24 May 1963 the First
Tactical Helicopter Squadron was established at Palenquero; it was used
extensively to move troops, provide resupply and medical evacuation, and for
reconnaissance missions. 60 Numerous other joint efforts were initiated
including the creation of an Armed Forces Intelligence Committee which had
DAS, National Police, and other governmental agencies representation; an
intelligence school which trained personnel on an inter-service basis; and a
Joint Air Coordination and Photo Interpretation Center to coordinate air photo
mapping and surveillance responsibilities. All were formed under the supervision
of US MTTs and civilian agencies. 61
Even prior to the inception of Plan LAZO, action against the communist-influenced
independent republics was deemed essential to Colombian internal security. While
most of these regions were relatively passive and caused little interference in
government affairs, 62 they had gradually developed shadow governments, ruled by
skilled Marxist guerrilla leaders, not subject to control from Bogota. 63 Early
in the National Front period, Lleras Camargo attempted a two-track policy against
the guerrilla zones. Peasants were encouraged to participate in rehabilitation
programmes while guerrilla leadership which resisted government efforts to gain
local support were eliminated. 64 This was the case in 1961, when the Republic of
Marquetalia was declared by guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda Velez (also known
as 'Tiro Fijo' or Sure Shot). The Lleras government, fearing that a Cuban-style
revolutionary situation might develop, launched a surprise attack against the
area in early 1962. Although unsuccessful in driving the irregular forces from
their stronghold, several army outposts were established in the area. 65
Ironically, Marulanda had begun his guerrilla career in the early (1949)
Violencia period with other Liberal irregular forces from the area. His group
later combined with communist fighters in the conflict prior to the formation of
the National Front. 66
Probing actions against the enclaves accelerated after Plan LAZO was developed. A
long-term strategy was adopted and implemented in five phases:
(1) counter-guerrilla training was given to security forces, civic action
programmes were initiated, security personnel were infiltrated into guerrilla
groups, and informers were recruited;
(2) psychological operations were undertaken in order to establish control over
the civilian population;
(3) operations were initiated to blockade specific areas and isolate guerrilla
groups from their sources of support
(4) in-place informers and infiltrators were used to splinter the internal
cohesion of the guerrilla groups and ongoing offensive counterinsurgency
operations coupled with psychological warfare were undertaken to destroy
guerrilla units and leadership;
(5) operational zones were reconstructed economically, socially, and politically
under the auspices of US aid programmes. 67
For Colombian security forces, 1964-65 were pivotal years in the struggle against
the enclaves. On 18 May 1964 the Valencia government launched Operation
'Marquetalia' against Marulanda's guerrilla forces. A combined arms approach was
used including heavy artillery, bombing by the air force, and infantry and police
encirclement of suspected guerrilla villages. 68 Some 3,500 men swept through
designated combat zones while 170 elite troops were airlifted into Marulanda's
hacienda redoubt in an attempt to trap the guerrilla leader. 69 Paez Indians had
been recruited and were used with notable success against the guerrillas as
scouts and guides through difficult terrain. 70 Most of the guerrillas, including
Marulanda, were driven out of the Marquetalia area, escaping the army cordon into
the neighbouring 'republic' of Rio Chiquito. On 20 July 1964 Marulanda and other
guerrilla leaders from the Tolima-Cauca-Huila border areas met in the First
Southern Guerrilla Conference. Declaring themselves 'victims of the policy of
fire and sword proclaimed and carried out by the oligarchic usurpers of power',
the new coalition called for 'armed revolutionary struggle to win power'. 71
Composed originally of both communist and non-communist bandit and irregular
forces, this southern guerrilla bloc, with some financial and political aid from
the PCC, consolidated its command into the unified group which became known as
the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Colombian Revolutionary Armed
Forces or FARC). 72 Still, by 1965, relentless anti-guerrilla campaigns by
Colombia's security forces ended the existence of the so-called independent
republics. Coupled with ongoing anti-bandit operations, significant progress was
made in suppressing rural violence after the inception of Plan LAZO. In June
1965 Colombian Army Intelligence listed 30 guerrilla-bandit gangs with a combined
strength of some 700-800 men as still active:
I Brigade - three bands totalling 25-30 men.
III Brigade - three bands totalling 170-225 men.
(one band, headed by communist 'Mayor Ciro', 150-200 men)
IV Brigade - five bands totalling 50-60 men.
V Brigade - four bands totalling 65 men.
(40 in the Ejercito de Liberacion National (National Liberation Army- ELN)]
VI Brigade - twelve active bands totaling 375-400 men.
(six of the bands were communist containing 250-300 men)
VIII Brigade - three bands totaling 25 men. 73
In the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, US policy initiatives during the
early National Front period in Colombia resonated positively, particularly in the
military field. Yet while there was a close alignment in the US-Colombian security
relationship during this time, strategic needs and perceptions of those needs
often differed. For the United States, counterinsurgency, paramilitary operations,
and internal defence became integral parts of US national security policy in the
Cold War arena. Colombian officials, both Liberal and Conservative, undertook
these policies as organic to the survival of the nation - although they were
concerned by the implications of the revolution in Cuba and were prepared to act
in concert with the United States in order to best protect their own perceptions
of the national interest.
While the National Front system initially provided stability, restricting
dangerous political antagonisms, it also restricted normal political competition.
This contributed to voter apathy, infighting within the parties, and the formation
of more extreme political elements. Disillusionment with the Valencia government
increased as economic, political, juridical, and social problems underwent only
marginal reforms, and political opportunism continued. 74 Still, this early
period offered the armed forces the opportunity to depoliticise their image and
concentrate on those groups considered dangerous or subversive by the new inter-
party government. Through the Colombian Internal Defense Plan, the US played a
substantial role in facilitating the development of all aspects of Colombia's
internal security infrastructure.
Plan LAZO proved to be an ambitious anti-violence effort for the Colombian Armed
Forces, given the previous lack of counter-insurgency training or intelligence
support available. Although not wholly successful, many bandit and guerrilla
forces were eliminated and zones which might have been used effectively as base
areas ('focos') for staging guerrilla operations were placed under government
control. Civic action contributed to both social development and economic growth,
but it also 'increased the public's expectation of, and created bureaucratic
mechanisms for, the military's presence to be felt in time of national political
tension'. Indeed, the political advocacy and forced resignation of General Ruiz
Novoa caused the government to better co-ordinate civic action into its future
counterinsurgency programmes while re-emphasising 'the physical repression of
guerrillas as the primary task of the armed forces'. 75 By 1966 the Violencia
period had effectively been brought to an end. However, new internal security
problems related to this earlier violence did arise. Mobile FARC forces
developed in VI Brigade area and early in 1965, unrelated to the campaign
against the enclaves, an attack on the village of Simacota (V Brigade - Santander
Department) was undertaken by the ELN (formed in 1963--64). This was considered
to be 'the first prominent incident of Castro backed insurgency during the
National Front tenure'. 76 Another radical group, the PCC-ML (Marxist-Leninist)
was also founded in 1964 in reaction to the pro-Soviet line of the 'mainstream'
PCC. Pro-Maoist, its action arm the Ejercito Popular de Liberacion (Popular Army
of Liberation - EPL) was formed several years later. 77 With this new potential
threat of organised rural insurgency coupled to urban kidnappings and other acts
of terrorism, Colombia remained 'one of the stickiest areas' for internal
security problems in Latin America. 78 Nonetheless, the security structures
established by Colombians in collaboration with the United States during this
period - psychological operations capability, inter-regional communications
networks, and an intelligence and counter-insurgency apparatus - have proved to
be essential to a nation which appears to be plagued by 'permanent and endemic
1. I am particularly indebted to Ms Hannah Zeidlik, Ms Gerri Harcarik, and Dr
Don Carter of the US Amy Center of Military History. Mr John Taylor, Mr Edward
Reese, and Mr Will Mahoney of the US National Archives, Ms Kate Doyle and the
staff of the US National Security Archives, and Dr Richard Stewart of the John
F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center US Army Special Operations Command Archives
for facilitating my research.
2. Russell W. Ramsey, 'Critical Bibliography on La Violencia in Colombia'. Latin
American Research Review 9/1 (Spring 1973), p.3.
3. 'Army Roles. Missions, and Doctrine in Low-intensity Conflict (ARMLIC):
Preconflict Case Study 2 - Colombia.' File HRC 319. 1. US Army Center of
Military History Archives, Washington, DC (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Operations
Research, Inc. under contract No. DAAG 25-67-0702 for US Army Combat
Developments Command, 15 Dec. 1969), pp.xii, 1,9-10.
4. 'National Intelligence Estimate: NEE 88-65 - Prospects for Colombia, 9 July
1965'. Declassified Document Quarterly Series, Vol. 14 (1988), Microform
003075 (Washington. DC: Carrollton Press, 1989), p.3. (Hereafter referred to as
5. 'Staff Summary Supplement #247 - Colombia Seeks Aid in Suppressing Bandit
Groups, July 1959'; 'Staff Summary Supplement #315 - US May Survey Colombian
Guerrilla Problem. 23 Sept. 1959'; DDQS. Vol. 10 (1984), Microforms 002410,
000249, 1 page supplements.
6. 'Summary and Conclusions', File 228-01 Permanent: HRC Geog G Colombia
400.318 (Washington. DC: US Army Center of Military History-Colombia File,
1965). p.33. (Hereafter referred to as Colombia Document). Clearly, US
advisory and training efforts and the Military Assistance Program had also
been used to influence military efforts in Colombia for several decades,
although the primary focus had previously been directed towards conventional
warfare and hemisphere defence.
7. 'State Visit by Colombian President Lleras. 5-16 April 1960: Position Paper
- US Assistance to Colombia in Combatting Guerrillas'. DDQS Vol.8 (1982).
Microform 002466(A). p.2.
8. 'Summary and Conclusions', Colombia Document. p.53.
9. 'Colombia Survey Team Recommendations for US Action'. ibid., Annex A to
Tab E. pp. 1-2.
10. 'Planning and Objectives'. ibid., Tab E p. 1.
11. As note 9. pp.3- 10.
13. 'Central Intelligence Agency Office of Central Reference Biographic
Register: Alberto Lleras Camargo, December 1961', in CIA Research Reports, Latin
America, 1946-1976, Reel 2. Document No. 0506, p.2; 'Agency for International
Development - Spring Review: Agrarian Reform in Colombia, June 1970'. in AID
Spring Review of Land Reform, June 1970, 2nd Edition, Vol. V - Land Review in
Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela (Washington, DC: Dept of State, 1970). Summary;
Jorge P. Osterling, Democracy in Colombia: Clientelist Politics and Guerrilla
Warfare (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. 1989), p.97.
14. 'Memorandum From E.P. Airand to General A. J. Goodpaster (Staff Secretary
to the President), 7 April 1960'; Memorandum From Maj. John S.D. Eisenhower
(Assistant Staff Secretary) to Douglas Dillon (Under Secretary of State). 14
April 1960'; 'Memorandum From Maj. John S.D Eisenhower to John N. Irwin 11
(Assistant Secretary of Defense). 14 April 1960', DDQS Vol. 10 (1984),
Microform 001306, 1 page supplements.
15. 'Colombia Survey Team Recommendations for US Action'. Colombia Document,
Annex A to Tab E. p.2.
16. 'Memorandum From John N. Irwin to Maj. John Eisenhower, 16 April 1960', in
DDQS Vol. 10 (1984), Microform 000834, 1 page.
17. Richard Maullin, Soldiers, Guerrillas, and Politics in Colombia (Lexington,
MA: Lexington Books, 1973), pp.66-7. Violence in Colombia had transformed itself
from primarily politically-motivated guerrilla warfare to agrarian extortion
practiced by bandits. There were exceptions, most notably in the so-called
'independent republics' - Agriari, Viota, Tequendama, Sumapaz, El Pato,
Guayabero, Suroeste del Tolima. Rio Chiquito, 26 de Septiembre, and Marquetalia
- which formed in southern Cundinamarca and eastern Tolima. Most were controlled
by (Liberal) irregular peasant groups, though several were influenced by
communists. Coffee plantations were primarily affected by bandit groups,
although owners of sugar, cotton, and cacao were also subject to extortion by
these gangs who would sell the crops through the black market. Both guerrilla
and bandit groups often maintained 'subrosa political relationships with major
figures of the legitimate government and opposition involving the trade of
votes, hatchet jobs, and influence'. (Maullin, p.8) These links with local and
central power structures made anti-violence measures particularly difficult to
undertake in the pre-National Front period. (See Norman A. Bailey, 'La Violencia
in Colombia.' Jnl of Inter-American Studies 9 (Oct. 1967). pp. 561-75.)
18. 'Helicopter Operations in Colombia'. Tab L. p. 1. 'Military Sales and
Military Assistance Part I - 1943 to 1960'. Tab 1. p.6; 'Planning and
Objectives'. Tab E. p. 2, Colombia Document.
19. Ibid. except 'Planning and Objectives'
20. Alberto Ruiz Novoa. El Gran Desafio (Bogota: Ediciones Tercer Mundo, 1965).
pp.53 and 95-88, as cited in Maullin (note 17), p.68.
21. 'Mission History - US Army Mission to Colombia, 1959 and 1960,' Colombia
Document, Tab C. pp.93-4. 98.
22. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia. 1961-1965'. ibid.. Tab F. p. 1.
23. 'Public Relations, Public Information, Troop Information and Education (TI
and E). and Psychological Warfare', ibid., Tab M, p.2.
24. Russell W. Ramsey, 'The Modern Violence in Colombia, 1946-1965', PhD Thesis
(Gainesville, FL: Univ. of Florida, 1970). pp.405-6.
25. 'Planning and Objectives', ibid.. Tab E, pp. 1-2.
26. 'Visit to Colombia, South America, by a Team from Special Warfare Center.
26 February 1962 - Major Conclusions', pp.3-4, Low Intensity Conflict document
collection, National Security Archives, Washington, DC (Hereafter referred to
as LIC doc. coil.).
27. 'Visit to Colombia, South America by a Team from Special Warfare Center,
26 February 1962 - Recommendations'. pp.5-8. LIC doc. coll.
29. 'Visit to Colombia, South America by a Team from Special Warfare Center,
26 February 1962 - Narrative Report: Survey Team Activities Colombia,
Observations,: pp. 1-8. LIC doc. coil.
29. All quotes from' Colombia Survey Report - Secret Supplement. 26 February
1962'. 1 page, LIC doc. coll.
30. Ibid. The acronym 'CAS' given within the context of the secret supplement
seems intimately related to what Philip Agee describes as the merging of CIA's
former International Organizations Division and the Psychological and
Paramilitary Staff into Covert Action Staff. (Philip Agee. Inside The Company -
CIA Diary (Baltimore: Penguin Books. 1975). p.319.]. However, Agee places this
name change in the Plans Directorate early in 1964. (See also Loch Johnson.
America's Secret Power. The CIA in a Democratic Society (NY. OUP, 1989) and
Alfred H. Paddock, Jr.. US Army Special Warfare: Its Origins (Washington, DC:
National Defense UP, 1982) for further information on CAS and its origins.)
CAS - Panama was also consulted by the Yarborough team before they left for
Colombia. With regards to the Rurales, they consisted of about 120
horse-mounted, non-uniformed, government paid police (the report compares
them to the Texas Rangers) which patrolled sections of the Llanos. Their
inception appears to stem from the early period or the military dictatorship
of Gen. Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (June 1953-May 1957) - see Ramsey (note 24),
31. 'Planning and Objectives', Tab E. pp.1-3; 'Summary and Conclusions', pp.
1, 26, 33, Colombia Document.
32. 'Summary and Conclusions', ibid., pp.5. 18.
33. Maullin (note 17), pp.28-9.
34. Richard Gott, Rural Guerrillas in Latin America (Middlesex: Penguin Books.
1973). pp.291-2: Maullin (note 17). p.29. Colombia had broken diplomatic
relations with Cuba in Dec. 1961 and supported Kennedy's action through the
Cuban Missile Crisis in Oct. 1962.
35. Capt. Charles L. Daschle, AI(CE) Assistant G2, US Army Special Warfare
Center, 'The Background to Potential Insurgency in Colombia, 9 Sept., 1962'.
pp.3-6. John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center - United States Army Special
Operations Command Archives. Fort Bragg. North Carolina. (Hereafter referred
to as JFKSWC - USASOC Achives).
36. Ibid.. pp.7-16; 'Summary and Conclusion'. Colombia Document. p. 18.
37. 'Minutes, of Meeting of Special Group (CI). 12 April 1962'. p.3, in LIC
38. Capt. Roy Benson, Jr, 'The Latin American Special Action Force of the US
Army as a Counterinsurgency Force. December 1965'. p.2; 'Classified US Army
Special Forces MTT Missions, Latin America 1962-1973, Enclosure 2 - Colombia,'
pp.2-7, both in Jack Taylor Donation Box 2 - Vietnam: Files - Latin America -
MTTs, Colombia - MTTs, NSA. See also 'Training', Annex B to Tab K (Mobile
Training Teams 1960-1968) Colombia Document for MTT information not
declassified in Jack Taylor collection.
39. 'Public Relations, Public Information. TI and E, and Psychological Warfare'.
Colombia Document, Tab M. p. 1.
40. 'The US Army and Civic Action in Latin America, Vol. 3 (I July 1963 to June
1967)', prepared by Staff Historian, Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 HQ-USARSO, Oct.
1968. File USARSO-1. 1963-67 cy. 1, pp.32-4. Center for Military History
Archives; 'Civic Action Projects,' Colombia Document, Tab H, pp. 1-2.
41. 'History of Counterinsurgency Training in Latin America (Oct. 1962 to 31 Dec.
1965), 3D Civil Affairs Detachment.' prepared by 3D Civil Affairs Detachment,
Fort Clayton, Canal Zone Headquarters, United States Army Forces Southern
Command. File 8-2.9A DA cy. 1. p. 1. US Army Center of Military History
Archives: 'Civic Action Projects'. Colombia Document Tab H. pp.2-4. 7-8.
42. 'Alliance for Progress - The Progress of Colombia -Third Year: 17 August
1961-17 August 1964.' Tab D. pp.19-21; 'US Assistance Strategy'. Part III to
Tab D. pp. 3-4. Colombia Document.
43. 'After Action Report, Civic Action Mobile Training Team No.48-MTT-01-63.
Colombia, South America, 10 May 1963,' pp.6-7. JFKSWC-USASOC Archives.
44. 'Civic Action Projects: Llanos - Amazonas National Territories Net'.
Columbia Document. Tab H. pp.5-7.
45. As note 43, pp.7-8.
46. 'Civic Action Projects: Rural Civil Defense Early Warning Radio Nets'.
Colombia Document. Tab H. pp.4-5.
47. 'Training'. ibid., Tab K, p. 6.
48. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia (1961-1965)', ibid.. Tab F. pp. 1-4.
49. Maullin (note 17). p.75.
50. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia (1961-1965)', Colombia Document.
Tab F p.5.
51. 'Report of Joint Mobile Training Team to Colombia (RCS CSGPO-125). No.
48-MTT-104-63. 19 November 1963', pp. 1,5. JFKSWC-USASOC Archives. As late as
1965, however. some did not consider the overall Colombian Country Team Internal
Defense Plan (IDP) 'a true Internal Defense Plan as envisaged in the Washington
Special Group Guidance dated September 1962. It merely treats the problem from a
military viewpoint and does not include all the elements necessary to insure a
well integrated and overall planning guidance for all agencies of the US CT.'
(See 'Summary and Conclusions'. ibid., p.34.).
52. 'Planning and Objectives', ibid., Tab E, p.3.
53. 'Report of Joint Mobile Training Team to Colombia (RCS CSGOP - 125). No
48-MTT-104-63. 18 Nov. 1963'. pp.3-6: 'Planning and Objectives'. Colombia
Document. Tab E. p.3.
54. 'Central Intelligence Agency - Survey of Latin America, OCI No. 1063/64.
1 April 1964,' p.65, CIA Research Reports, Latin America. 1946-1976.
55. 'Clandestine Arms Traffic in Latin America and the Insurgency Problem'
Research Memorandum RAR-49, 29 November 1963. Department of State, Bureau of
Intelligence and Research, DDQS Vol.14 (1988). Microform 003336. p.2;
'Memorandum for the President from Dean Rusk - Venezuelan Announcement of
Cuban Origin of Discovered Arm Cache, 27 November 1963', DDQS Vol. 15 (1989).
Microform 002137, p. 1.
56. 'Summary and Conclusions'. Colombia Document. p.16.
57. 'Guerrilla and Terrorist Activity in Latin America: A Brief Review',
Research Memorandum RAR - 38. 18 November 1964, Department of State, Director
of Intelligence and Research, DDQS Vol.2 (1976), Microform 283(C). p.2.
58. 'Central Intelligence Agency Memorandum - Cuban Training of Latin American
Subversives, OCI No. 0515/63, 27 March 1963', pp. 15-56. CIA Research Reports.
Latin America, 1946-1976. There is some discrepancy in the figures estimated
earlier by the Special Forces intelligence officer (150 bandit groups, approx.
2,000 men) and the sanitised source for the CIA. Figures from the latter for
1962 alone estimated 2.582 bandits captured, 1,020 detained on suspicion of
banditry, and 388 bandits killed. The CIA estimate does acknowledge that only
about two per cent of all those arrested and detained were actually convicted
59. 'Public Relations. Public Information, TI and E, and Psychological
Warfare'. Colombia Document. Tab M. p.3.
60. 'Helicopter Operations in Colombia'. ibid., Tab 1, pp.3-5.
61. 'USARMIS Intelligence Effort in Colombia (1961-1965),' ibid.. Tab F. pp.
2-7. For the full extent of US training see Tab F - Inclusion 1, 'Intelligence
School Courses' and Tab F Inclusion 2. 'Military Training Teams' of the ibid.
Some instructional delays did occur. A Special Operations MTT scheduled for
July 1964 was cancelled because it was not US policy to give that type of
instruction to Latin American countries at that time. Under strong Mission
pressure, the course did go ahead the following year, though clearly the
intent of US military training teams was not to teach these kinds of courses
in order to circumvent regular juridicial proceedings against hostile elements.
As well, a Polygraph MTT scheduled for the same year was also cancelled due to
CAS objections over the possible compromise of sources.
62. 'Summary and Conclusions', ibid.. p. 11.
63. Osterling (note 13), p.280.
64. Alberto Gomez. 'The Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia', as quoted in
Gott (note 34). p.298.
65. James D. Henderson. When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violencia in
Tolima (Tuscaloosa, AL: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1985). pp. 221-2.
66. Osterling (note 13). p.295. Marulanda was a member of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party as were several others within the guerrilla
leadership (see Gott note 34, pp.279-89).
67. Gilberto Vieira, 'La Colombie a I'heure du Marquetalia'. Democratie
Nouvelle, July-Aug. 1965, as quoted in Gott (note 34). pp.299-300.
68. Henderson (note 65). p.222.
69. 'The Backlands Violence is Almost Ended', Time, 26 June 1964, p.31.
70. Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley, Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America:
A Comparative Study of Insurgents and Regimes Since 1956 (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton UP, 1992). p. 146.
71. All quotes from Manuel Marulanda Velez, 'The Republic of Marquetalia -
Manifesto issued 20 July 1964 by the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia
(FARC)', in J. Gerassi (ed.) The Coming of the New International (NY: World
Publishing Co., 197 1), pp.502-3.
72. Maullin (note 17), pp. 14, 30, 40.
73. Ibid., pp. 18- 19.
74. 'Summary and Conclusions'. Colombia Document, pp.9, 28.
75. All quotes Maullin (note 17), pp.78-9.
76. 'Summary and Conclusions', Colombia Document, p.6.
77. Osterling (note 13). p.314.
78. 'Memorandum for the President from McGeorge Bundy: Colombia, 20 June
1965,' DDQS Vol. 10 (1984), Microform 002770, p. 1.
79. Gonzalo Sanchez, 'La Violencia in Colombia: New Research, New Question.'
(trans. Peter Bakewell), Hispanic American Historical Review 65 (April 1985),
Long ago, U.S. knew the troubles Colombia faced
St. Petersburg Times, Mar 6, 2001, by David Adams
More than 40 years ago a special team of U.S. security experts conducted a
secret survey of the complex conflict in Colombia.
Its findings were extraordinary, especially considering the time at which
they were written. They also bear particular relevance to the current debate
over U.S. policy.
"There's a remarkable similarity between what they called for then and what
is being done now," said Dennis Rempe, a Canadian military scholar who has
studied declassified U.S. documents.
The survey concluded that, short of "genocide or bankruptcy," no military
solution existed to Colombia's conflict. Instead, Colombia required
wide-ranging reform of its social, political and economic system.
Made up of CIA and military personnel, the special team outlined Colombia's
social ills, including a large rural population displaced by conflict,
widespread social inequality and a short-sighted political oligarchy that
served only its own interests.
The survey also suggested reorienting the Colombian security forces to
mount a coordinated domestic campaign to restore order, including efforts
to regain public trust in the armed forces.
Finally, the team advocated strong U.S. support for Colombia, in the form
of "special temporary aid."
This wasn't easy, largely due to some of the same foreign policy concerns
that exist today.
Although the Eisenhower administration was alarmed by a growing communist
threat in Latin America in the wake of the 1959 Cuban revolution, Congress
was reluctant to get militarily involved in countries with a poor
democratic track record.
Even so, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent a special shipment of
helicopters, vehicles, communications equipment and small arms to equip
Colombian anti-guerrilla units. With further U.S. guidance, in the summer
of 1962, the Colombian army began implementing the military portion of a
new defense plan.
"By 1966, Colombia's armed forces had conducted the most successful
counter-guerrilla/counter-bandit operations in the Western Hemisphere at
that time," according to Rempe.
But the military redirection was not matched by the kind of social and
political measures recommended by the special team.
"They (the U.S. team) had a vision of what was possible. But there was a
retrenchment of the political elites," said Rempe.
Fast-forward to 2001. With violence out of control once more, history is
repeating itself. Colombia has found itself back at square one. Worse, by
failing to address the social problems identified in 1960, the scale of
the crisis has grown exponentially.
Rural poverty is worse than ever. There are now almost 2-million displaced
people. Colombia also has become the world's largest supplier of cocaine,
fueling a conflict that no longer pits a few ill-funded leftist guerrillas
against the government. The guerrillas are now well- funded and well-armed.
In the absence of government action, fast- growing illegal paramilitary
forces also have emerged to wage their own private war.
So now, once again at Colombia's request, U.S. experts have been called
upon to help come up with a plan.
Have any lessons been learned from the past? It's perhaps too early to
Last year, Congress approved $1.3-billion in largely military funding for
Plan Colombia, an international proposal to stamp out the drug trade and
bring peace and stability to Colombia. For the first time, the $7.5-billion
plan includes massive spending on economic development and rural
infrastructure, as well as judicial and administrative reform.
But Colombia is currently relying on much of that money to come from
non-U.S. sources, including a large chunk from its own reserves. Critics
question whether any of that money will ever be made available.
In Washington, many now ask whether the United States should take the
initiative by shifting its policy away from military spending and more
toward social and economic aid.
Some argue for a broader, more long-term strategy, such as that hinted at
in the 1960 survey.
But two things have happened since then that make any such commitment
hard to argue. Firstly, the Vietnam experience has given a bad name to
all military-related overseas involvement. Secondly, the growth of drug
consumption in the United States has had a tendency to warp foreign
Instead of helping Colombia fix its problems by a concerted policy of
nation-building, U.S. foreign policy has been geared to one thing: halting
the flow of drugs headed for the U.S. market. Nothing else matters. Not
even if U.S.-financed eradication of Colombia's coca fields results in
increased violence in Colombia, as well as pushing the drug war over its
borders into neighboring countries.
As the special team survey found in 1960, Colombia needs rebuilding.
Military aid can help. But that alone won't fix the problem.
Besides the assistance given by the US to Colombia in the early 1960s,
outlined above, another example is the reorganization of the Colombian
intelligence services in 1991, documented in the 1996 report of Human
Rights Watch, "Colombia's Killer Networks: The Military-Paramilitary
Partnership and the United States."
The intelligence reorganization plan is also online at