29 September, 2010 — National Security Archive
Ambassador Cited Accused Colombian General’s Reliance on Death Squads
“Systematic” Support of Paramilitaries “Pivotal to his Military Success”
Infamous General a “Not-So-Success” Story of U.S. Military Training
For more information contact:
Michael Evans – 202/994-7029
Washington, DC, September 29, 2010 – The U.S. ambassador to Colombia reported in 1998 that the “systematic arming and equipping of aggressive regional paramilitaries” was “pivotal” to the military success of Gen. Rito Alejo del Río Rojas, now on trial for murder and collaboration with paramilitary death squads while commander of a key army unit in northern Colombia.
The Secret “Biographic Note” from Ambassador Curtis Kamman is one of several documents published today by the National Security Archive pertaining to Del Río, whose trial resumes this month after years of impunity and delay. The documents are also the subject of an article published today in Spanish at VerdadAbierta.com, the leading online gateway for information on paramilitarism in Colombia. The article was also published in English today on the Web site of the National Security Archive.
“The collection is a unique and potentially valuable source of evidence in the case against Del Río, reflecting years of reports linking the senior army commander to paramilitarism,” said Michael Evans, director of the Archive’s Colombia Documentation Project. “As Del Río’s trial resumes, the court should examine the contemporaneous accounts of U.S. officials who were required by law to monitor and certify Colombia’s human rights performance.”
Other revelations include:
* The U.S. embassy takes a favorable view of Col. Carlos Alfonso Velásquez, who called for an investigation of Del Río’s ties to paramilitary groups, noting that his statements “add credibility to our human rights report.”
* A report on a conversation with Col. Velásquez, who told U.S. military officials that cooperation with paramilitaries “had gotten much worse under Del Río.”
* Documents reporting conspicuous increases in anti-paramilitary operations after Del Río’s transfer out of northern Colombia. The embassy said it was “more than coincidental that the recent anti-paramilitary actions have all taken place since the departure from northern Colombia of military personnel believed to favor paramilitaries.”
* The embassy notes a disturbing instance of possible military-paramilitary complicity in a paramilitary attack outside Bogotá just weeks after Del Río took command of the nearby military brigade.
* The shifting U.S. opinion about Del Río is clearly evident in two U.S. military reports from early 1998. In the first, Del Río, who attended the U.S. Army School of the Americas, is lauded as a U.S. military training “success story.” But a second, corrected, report from March 1998 lists Del Río instead as a “not-so-success” story, citing his alleged paramilitary ties.
Visit the Archive’s Web site or VerdadAbierta.com for more information about today’s posting.
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.