From Vietnam Veterans Against the War, http://www.vvaw.org/veteran/article/?id=48

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Terrorism Funded by USA, A Colombian Friend of VVAW Murdered

By Barry Romo

Known to the outside world only as "Witness #1," he testified to being trapped in the community of Santodomingo, in the department of Arauca, Colombia on December 13, 1998. The village was attacked from the air by Colombian armed forces using Huey helicopters and weapons, both provided by the United States. Unarmed grandparents and parents, children and grandchildren were killed and wounded. In all, seventeen were killed, including six children; twenty-five people were seriously wounded. Not hit himself, he loaded the seriously wounded on his truck to get medical aid. The helicopters followed and shot at the vehicles with machine guns.

He testified along with eight other Colombians at the Tribunal of Opinion at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. Four needed to keep their identities hidden - their names hidden, their faces hidden behind a screen, trying to tell the truth and still keep their lives.

I had traveled to Arauca to investigate the massacre. The Colombian government and military and the U.S. government claimed that the casualties were from a guerrilla landmine, but the victims said the bombing had come from the air.

It was obvious, from the number and placing of explosions and casualties, and from the shrapnel we dug out of the homes, that it was made in the USA.

I meet and interviewed survivors, victims and human rights workers. Saw how the Colombian government and military treat their own people as the enemy, with curfew and operational orders - just like Vietnam.
There even were American airplanes in the area. They were working for the oil companies. But like Air America, they are private and have deniability.

On January 25, 2002 at 2:50 PM, Angel Riveros Chaparro, Mario Gonzalez Ruiz and Heliberto Delgado were waiting in front of the "Gato Negro" service station for a bus in Tame, Arauca Department.

Twelve armed men carrying rifles riding in two pickup trucks and on two motorcycles shot and killed Mario Gonzalez Ruiz and seriously wounded Angel Riveros Chaparro, who died the following day. They kidnapped Heliberto Delgado and then killed him outside of town. Tame is heavily occupied by the Colombian military and no one could have driven around with weapons without the consent of the military.

Angel was the president of the Municipal Association of Peasants in Tame. He was also "Witness #1." Five thousand peasants went on strike after the murders. I won't bring up terrorism and 9-11 and Afghanistan, the war on terrorism and Colombia, except to say that close to 5,000 were killed in Colombia last year and more than 90% of those deaths were caused by the government, the military and death squads, working together and separately. So proportionately, who are the evil ones?

Bush wants more troops in Colombia and is now calling it a "war on terror" - remember when it was a "war on drugs"? He wants $98 million in emergency funds for the military. The same units that were in Santodomingo and Tame.

There must be no funds and no advisors. There must also be implementation of the various human rights laws and amendments to cut off aid. The other people who testified are in danger and must be afforded protection.

In my apartment there is a photo of the Chicago tribunal's participants at a party afterward. Half the people are safe and their faces can be shown. Half are Colombian and theirs cannot be. Angel and some others are wearing VVAW baseball hats, which they loved.

The publicity of the tribunal, coming to the United States, being hidden behind a screen: these did not protect Angel. Only actions count.

Someday we will print that photo on the front page of The Veteran.

 

Barry Romo is a national coordinator of VVAW and a member of VVAW's Chicago chapter.

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