Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Congressman William Delahunt to Investigate U.S. Corporations' Support for Colombian Paramilitaries

By Dan Feder,
Posted on Sat Jan 19th, 2008

The U.S. commercial media have been fixated on the telenovela of hostage negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the recent visit to Colombia of three U.S. congressmen has been reported only in terms of how it relates to that issue. Unreported in any U.S.-language media was the meeting between Rep. Delahunt (Democrat of Massachusetts) and a number of jailed former leaders of the recently-demobilized narco-paramilitary army, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Bellow, we publish a translation of the story from the January 16 edition of the Colombian paper El Tiempo.

Delahunt says he has received new information on the extent to which U.S. corporations supported the AUC, which existed with relative impunity throughout Colombia, inflicting a government-protected, drug-funded reign of terror from roughly 1997 to 2004. (Whether that period has truly ended if of course debatable). Last year, the coal company Drummond was found not liable for the paramilitary murders of three mine union officials after extraordinary maneuvers by the judge and the Uribe administration to prevent key witnesses from testifying. And while Chiquita Brands was fined a sum amounting to less than one percent of its annual income for making payments to the AUC (the company’s leaders portraying themselves in the press as victims of extortion), no one in the justice department or the press seemed concerned that thousands of weapons for the AUC had entered Colombia through Chiquita’s private ports.

Time will tell if the Congressional investigation is able to ask the hard questions that the Justice Department wouldn’t...

Magnitude of Support from U.S. Frms in Past Years to Paramilitaries Concerns Congressman from that Country

So said democratic representative William Delahunt, after meeting with several former paramilitary bosses held in the Itagüí maximum security prison.

Delahunt, who spent four days in Colombia with his collegues James McGovern and George Miller, met with Salvatore Mancuso, Rodrigo Tovar (“Jorge 40”), Édgar Velosa (“HH”), Diego Fernando Murillo (“don Berna”) and Carlos Mario Jiménez (“Macaco”).

Although he added that he could not reveal the content of the interviews or the companies mentioned by the demobilized paramilitaries, Delahunt warned that “they were very specific and clear on the relationships between themselves and the American companies.”

Representative Delahunt heads the House International Relations Committee, which is investigating payments made to the AUC after the banana company Chiquita Brands was fined $25 million after it recognized having paid $1.7 million to paramilitary groups between 1997 and 2004.

“We are concerned by the magnitude of the participation of American companies in the payments they made to the AUC,” said Delahunt.

The congressman announced that now he will review the interviews with the former para bosses together with the researchers who accompany him, in order to move into the next phase of the investigation: corroborating what they said.

“I will return to Colombia in three or four months to interview other people who have important information on the issue. I will also meet with the executives of those companies in the United States that seem to be implicated,” he added.

Delahunt said that “it is worth seriously considering” that the money from fines placed on these companies could help to provide reparations to the victims of paramilitary violence.

He stated that the new results of these investigations would be not be released for a year or more. “This investigation is going to require considerable time and resources,” he emphasized.

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