LS: Which has come, sadly enough, as a high price to the Colombian population in general.
OV: Yes, we are looking at horrific statistics that go way beyond the state crimes of the 20th century in Latin America. Up until now it was Central America, Guatemala who held the record of victims from state-terror – 200,000. Second came Argentina with 30,000. Colombia has experienced 250,000 victims of state-terrorism in the past two presidencies alone, so since 2002 onwards. So this is quite horrific. Also the effects on trade unions are quite horrific. More trade unionists are killed in Colombia than in the whole world combined. It has the lowest rate of unionization in the whole continent. It has actually come to the point where there are not many more unionists to murder.
Yet, this is not an issue, this is not a problem, and much of the world does not know much about this. It is quite ironic if we look at the war on terror in the Middle East, where we are hearing a lot of news about the Assad regime in Syria, the “rebels” there, and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya was also terrible so we had to go in there and support the “rebels” – yet, we got the world’s oldest rebel organization, more than half-a-century old, which has popular support among the poorest in Colombian society, and that is why they are able to continue the fight, and it’s not drugs or terrorism, no.
Where is the support for the rebels in Colombia? Where is the debate about Colombian democracy? So the FARC become the target of the counter-insurgency-”counter-terror” war which both Washington and Bogota see as their number one priority there.
LS: Throughout the implementation of “Plan Colombia”, the private military companies (PMCs) which waged the “war on drugs” also made huge amounts of money. Is the “war on drugs” a business model for them, and has the “war on drugs” thus to continue as long as possible in order to perpetuate the profits that can be gained from it?
OV: It is very much a business model. I like that terminology because the Fortune 500 too are involved. Why is it a business model? We know that the narco-bourgeoisie manages the affairs of the drug trade at the colonial center, if we are going back to that narco-colonialism concept that I have used before, but who handles the rest of the operations for the empire, or from a US state perspective? Who else has the technology? Who is involved in executing the so called war on drugs?
These are essentially private-military companies, at least since “Plan Colombia” and with a history. That would be DynCorp and other key private-military companies like MPRI that had been involved, for example, in the aerial spraying of the coca crops in Colombia and military training. We know that rather than actually doing something about drug operations, what happened was that the very same firms were merely strengthening those involved in drug smuggling operations, and this is an ongoing problem which we have seen in this war on drugs, as I have documented in my studies.
This also means that these private companies are also involved in that financial arrangement that Catherine Austin Fitts suggested earlier on regarding the financial center. So the financial center is not just the financial system, but the main corporations and banks that are heavily involved in doing this. So by having these same private-military companies engaged in the war on drugs, they then can also invest their profits in the imperial center and play a role in managing the drug trade for the US imperial state.
LS: From A to Z, so to speak.
OV: Yes. You have a collaboration happening between the narco-bourgeoisie in Colombia and the imperial center by using private-military companies which have been involved in much of that history. If we go back to the history of what we do know about the Iran-Contra scandal, for instance, we see that many of these companies were sold off after they were used as contractors by the CIA, they were privatized by the very same companies that had been involved in “Plan Colombia” since the late 1990′s.
These are the same people and same companies that were actually involved in past criminal operations. I don’t see that simply as a coincidence. I see it as a continuity in how this is actually taking place.
LS: So I guess the real question is if the inter-linked “war on terror” / “war on drugs” is actually an effective way to keep competition small and under control?
OV: Yes, it’s about control, it’s about what Peter Dale Scott would describe as “managing market share”. It is really the imperial state through its agencies, but also by taking care of the financial center and also the operations through the PMCs they are deciding who gets the market share.
In the 1980s we saw a process where the Medellin cartel pretty much had unregulated control for their operations, but then we also saw the liquidation of Pablo Escobar and the handing over to the Cali Cartel, who also withered away for the Colombian state. Now we have an ongoing issue with Mexico replacing Colombian cartels as distributors with the same kind of episodes, and we hear analysts and officials basically saying again, yes, it’s the imperial state that is involved in all of this. It is about control, and more specifically, it’s the control of market share, which I think is essential to understand.
LS: Usually, where there are important commodities like oil and/or drugs in large quantities, the US intelligence services and the US military are never far away. Therefore, is oil another reason to link “the war on terror” and “the war on drugs” in Colombia?
OV: Well, if there ever is any commodity like oil that is of financial value definitely any imperial power will take advantage. This is a long history in itself. What I find interesting is that drugs are never considered. But if there are wars fought over oil and other commodities, why not drugs? In fact, if you re-examine the history of the global drug trade, what is happening in Colombia is pretty much the same kind of wars for commodities that have been fought since the dawn of time. Essentially, it is a fact that this is where the intelligence services go out and do the kind of cornerstone work in service of the commodity; in this case, I have to say, it is drugs.
LS: Why is the drug situation in Colombia by and large out of the news compared to the 1980s?
OV: Well, I think it’s the case because now Mexico is seen as the problem. In a way it serves as a distraction, and drugs are no longer seen as a state security problem in Colombia. It has been officially a success. You look at any report by the United States or even the United Nations on the Colombian situation, they say it has been a success; since 2008, they say, there was an 18% decline in drug production. But what it doesn’t say is that there hasn’t been a decline in drug use or drug distribution.
Where are all the drugs coming from then? In fact, it’s the Mexicans doing the distribution for the Colombians now. So by distracting the focus and diverting the attention to Mexico, what it is doing is allowing a rerun of the same episode of the 1980s in Colombia, by ignoring Colombia and manufacturing unrealistic figures.
We will eventually see an arrangement, a compromise emerging in Mexico, and we will hear statements from the DEA and the White House saying how successful the war on drugs was, but we will also see the same kind of arrangements happening there with some cartels being taken over.