National Security Doctrine and notion of the internal enemy: the first contact that the United States had with the Colombian conflict

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'You shall not kill', the first chapter of the Final Report of the Truth Commission, explains in its first part how the United States interfered in the conflict Colombian based on external events such as the Cold War and the Cuban Revolution


Luis Guillermo Benito Paredes

Doctrine of National Security and notion of the internal enemy: the first contact that the United States had with the Colombian conflict

The notion of the internal enemy spread and was linked to social and political opponents, professors, trade unionists, students and political activists, who received generic treatment as subversives. PHOTO: Infobae Colombia (Jesús Avilés)

One ​​of the most important findings of the Truth Commission was that stigmatization conceived as a mechanism for the construction of the internal enemy has been essential for the persistence of the conflict in Colombia over the years, because through this the persecution of political opponents for their extermination has been justified.

From all shores war narratives were constructed that elaborated a notion of the enemy in various sectors of the society. For example, in businessmen and economic elites for the guerrillas, and in social and leftist movements for state agents.

The Final Report indicates that a large part of these narratives have an origin during the second half of the 20th century, when the world was experiencing a context of Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, which although they did not attack each other directly, they transferred their disputes to countries where there were civil wars.

In Latin America, the governments were aligned with the US security and defense policy, which unified ideologically the enemy in the personification of communismin all those forces that seemed to threaten the established order. This was intensified after the fear that the Cuban Revolution produced in the region.

It was like this in February 1962, during the last months of the government of the first President of the National Front, the liberal Alberto Lleras Camargo, the United States sent a mission headed by General William P. Yarborough, who visited four of the country's eight military brigades to Examine the assistance that would be provided to the Army in the framework of its counterinsurgency war.

For the Truth Commission, this mission and General Yarborough “are credited with laying down the foundations of the counterinsurgency doctrine, known in the continent as National Security”, which was applied in the country during the following decades “with serious consequences in terms of human rights”. This belief established the notion of the internal enemy as a stigma against government opponentsunder the argument that behind their actions was the power of international communism.

“The doctrine of the internal enemy was a doctrine obviously dictated or developed by the United States within the framework of the Cold War. Our armed conflict arose and was trapped in those mental frameworks, also of communists, capitalists, etc., “said Javier Benavides, an investigator of the Truth Commission consulted by Infobae Colombia.

The researcher added that the influence of the United States in the Colombian conflict was not “totalizing”, since that doctrine was not interposed but rather was adapted by the political and military elites to the Colombian conditions.

“For some it was an issue imposed by the United States, for others it was the adaptation of the military to these global conditions, so we started a bit from that fact that it was also a question of a global discourse read to the Colombian conditions and with Colombian particularities”, he explained.

Under the framework of this doctrine, the historic attack against the “independent republics” in Marquetalia, Riochiquito, El Pato and Guayabero, to resolve through violence the social problems around land ownership that had persisted in the country since the first half of the century, which had as a consequence the origin of the guerrilla of the FARC.

The notion of the internal enemy spread and was linked to social and political opponents, professors, trade unionists, students and political activists, who received generic treatment as subversives.

In 1965, the then president Guillermo León Valenciaissued a decree allowing civilians to be armed for national defense and the preservation of public order. Within the ideological frameworks of the Cold War, embedded in the social and political reality of the country, civilians became involved in the violence.

Under this protection, large landowners and political bosses formed self-defense groups with hierarchical orders that guaranteed the control of the most powerful. The first private armies of the great emerald dealers and drug traffickers were also formed. The Truth Commission affirms that all of these soon began to act criminally “in collusion with agents of the public force”.

The class enemy

But stigmatization as a way of justifying violence did not only come from the State, but from the guerrillas, who were also trapped in the mental frameworks of the Cold War , they created not an internal enemy but a “class enemy”.

“In the case of the guerrillas, that plane of the enemy also widened and that had disastrous consequences for our democracy (…) it was also a matter of widening that camp of the enemy, first the status quo, the military, those who They represented the power of the State and then with practices such as kidnapping, which was against the middle class, the people who went out on the roads to walk and who had nothing to do with the political establishment,” he explained. Benavides.

For the researcher, This “widening” of the field of the internal and class enemy underestimated on one side and the other the reforms by peaceful means. “This had as a consequence in our democracy that we are not prone to peaceful reform processes, but rather that we have already built fields in which there are friends and enemies, that is, that we cannot recognize in the other a contradictor, but rather an enemy to exterminate”.

The final recommendations

Benavides also explained that it is necessary for social demands to be taken more from a listening and negotiating approach than from a security approach. “If one sees, for example, milestones or moments such as the treatment of the social outbreak of 2019 and 2021, it is clear that there are institutional synergies in the treatment of social protest, that there is still a bias towards treat these types of claims as matters of what has been called public order.”

However, it recognizes that there have been changes since the 1991 Constitution. “That military treatment or that treatment with that security approach in protests in this period of time, in recent years, is not the same as what happened, for example, at times like the strike of 1977″.

One ​​of the final recommendations of the Truth Commission is to build gradual reforms of the entire Colombian security system< /b>. In this regard, Father Francisco de Roux, president of the Commission, during the presentation of the Final Report before the UN Security Council, said that: “We made armed security to give security to power, to the devices, the properties, the companies, even a security to take care of the same armed bureaucracy, but there was not enough security to take care of the people, the human being.”

“No primer of any political party can be placed next to the Final Report”: Alfredo Molano Jimeno