Colombia Spent U.S. Anti-Drug Aid Hiding Political Ties to Drug Trade

The CIA and embassy officials deny any knowledge or involvement

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The U.S.-funded counterinsurgency campaign against a Marxist rebel group in Colombia was viewed as so successful that it has become a model for strategy in Afghanistan. But things were not what they seemed: the Washington Post reports that U.S. ally and former president Alvaro Uribe has been implicated in "egregious abuses of power and illegal actions," involving U.S. aid an "possibly U.S. officials" -- all under the cover of fighting drug trafficking. American cash, equipment, and training were sent to Colombia to help break up cocaine-smugglers, but were actually used "to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe’s political opponents and civil society groups." And it gets worse: the reason the Uribe went after the Supreme Court, according to prosecutors, was because "its investigative magistrates were unraveling ties between presidential allies in the Colombian congress and drug-trafficking paramilitary groups." So yes, anti-drug aid money from the U.S. was used to keep ties between the government and its allies to the drug rings hidden. A group set up "to root out ties between foreign operatives and Colombian guerrillas" immediately turned its attention to the Supreme Court when it began investigating Uribe's cousin.

The CIA denies involvement or knowledge in illegal activities, but is that enough? How did this egregious corruption take place? Weren't we checking up on our funds? Colombian officials said at least one unit regularly met with an embassy official called "Chris Sullivan" (no word whether this person exists) who checked up on projects to see advancement. The Post adds that interviews with embassy officials indicate that while they claim they (naturally) had no knowledge of any illegal activities, it would not surprise them. “There were concerns about some kinds of activities, but also a need in the name of U.S. interests to preserve the relationship,” said one diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Perhaps the role of our own embassy officials in countries with institutionalized corruption is another avenue really worth investigating.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.