Breaking the Silence about Colombia and Ourselves

According to the UNHCR’s latest figures, there are about 200,000 Colombians living in Venezuela as refugees – but less than 237 Venezuelans living in Colombia as refugees.[1] It you rely on the international media, you can be forgiven for assuming it was the other way around – that Colombia must be hosting hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled their country.[2]

Ever since the early 1990s, if one considers only crimes perpetrated within its own borders, Colombia has consistently had, by far, the worst human rights record in the Western Hemisphere (contrary to Ken Roth’s lunatic assertion that Venezuela and other ALBA bloc countries are the “most abusive”).  The Colombian military, and right wing paramilitaries with whom it is closely allied, have perpetrated the vast majority of atrocities in a civil war that has raged for decades.  In private, US officials have estimated hundreds of thousands of people killed by them. These killings have reached truly genocidal levels in the case of numerous indigenous groups who have been nearly wiped out. Colombia’s population of internally displaced people is almost 6 million, the highest in the world as of 2012.

If you follow Daniel Kovalik’s diligent work, you’ll understand why Colombia’s human rights record is so horrific and, at the same time, so widely ignored. Colombia has been lavishly funded and supported by the US government – and therefore depicted as one of the “good guys” by the international media. In September of last year, the New York Times editors singled out Colombia as a country that should “lead an effort to prevent Caracas from representing the region when it is fast becoming an embarrassment”.

The NYT editors registered zero “embarrassment” when US General John Kelly recently told Congress “The beauty of having a Colombia – they’re such good partners, particularly in the military realm, they’re such good partners with us. When we ask them to go somewhere else and train the Mexicans, the Hondurans, the Guatemalans, the Panamanians, they will do it almost without asking. And they’ll do it on their own. They’re so appreciative of what we did for them. And what we did for them was, really, to encourage them for 20 years and they’ve done such a magnificent job.”

General Kelly should add the international corporate media to his list of “magnificent partners”. It has kept most people ignorant of the mass murderers that US (and UK and Canadian) governments have been supporting for many years.

A very recent statement from Human Rights Watch (HRW) also praised Colombia. HRW said “UNASUR and the vast majority of Latin American governments have remained silent regarding the human rights situation in Venezuela. In January, the government of Colombia broke this collective silence….”.

Latin American governments have not been silent. Their collective statements have, for excellent reasons, rejected the US government’s assessment of the situation which is aped by HRW. The US government’s financing of atrocities in Colombia is only one of countless facts that expose the obscenity of HRW declaring the USA to be the “most powerful proponent of human rights”.

One of the rare periods since 1990 when atrocities in Colombia may have been surpassed in the hemisphere was in Haiti after a US-perpetrated coup ousted Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, on February 29, 2004. HRW did not oppose the coup and actually stooped to requesting more firepower for the UN troops tasked with consolidating the dictatorship installed by the USA (with crucial help from both France and Canada).  You are as likely to learn the details of quantum physics from the media as you are to learn the truth about the 2004 coup in Haiti whose anniversary just passed.

Peace talks taking place in Havana could potentially end Colombia’s civil war – and thereby deprive the USA of a “magnificent partner” in crime. However, Dan Kovalik reminds us that Bill Clinton’s “Plan Colombia was initiated in the midst of peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas, and actually played a key role in derailing these talks”.

The USA’s human rights record at home is terrible in some important (and quickly worsening) ways, but if one includes its victims beyond its borders then it is indisputably the most dangerous rogue state in the world. It cannot act as savagely as it does without a great deal of help – from other rich states like Canada and the UK, from the corporate media, and from establishment-linked NGOs like HRW.

As John Pilger very eloquently argued, the big imperial states act with such brutality and recklessness, their delusions and lies are so relentlessly spread by the media, that we are all gravely threatened. I think most people are decent enough not to require arguments based on self-interest, as important and valid as those arguments are, to oppose their own government’s crimes. They cannot, however, oppose what they do not even know about.


[1] Ecuador is home to roughly another 100,000 Colombian refugees according to the UNHCR.

[2] Venezuela’s net migration has been positive in the Chavista era (post 1999). Hundreds of thousands more people have immigrated to Venezuela than have emigrated from Venezuela. In Colombia, the opposite has been the case, about half million more people have fled Colombian than have immigrated there since 1999.


  1. avatar
    Michael March 7, 2015 1:18 pm 

    Joe’s first sentence largely says in all; “According to the UNHCR’s latest figures, there are about 200,000 Colombians living in Venezuela as refugees – but less than 237 Venezuelans living in Colombia as refugees.” Yet nearly ever day, at least weekly, we read in the New York Times how bad things are in Venezuela. Part of the mind-manipulation the mainstream media engages in, quite different that truly trying to inform with any sense of true insight or basic honesty. The NYTimes is one example, an important one given its status and how much other members of the media depend upon it.

    Venezuela, as any country, including our own, has serious issues to deal with, but remarkably positive and progressive things have happened and are taking place in Venezuela that we can and should learn from to further our own often feeble democracy.

    On the other hand, the seriously negative situation in a country like Colombia is generally absent from these same media sources. Why? Because the U.S. has had success in seeking to dominate Colombia, for a long time, while Venezuela has chosen a more independent road. For this, Venezuela and the late Hugo Chavez are continuously vilified.

    • avatar
      Joe Emersberger March 7, 2015 4:47 pm 

      thanks Michael. yes it is a very striking stat and the reason, I put it in the every first line.

Leave a comment