The CIA knew of ties between the Colombian armed forces and
paramilitary death squads since 1994, declassified intelligence
documents published by U.S. based research group the National Security
According to one 1994 intelligence report published by the George Washington University research group, the security forces “employ death squad tactics in their
counterinsurgency campaign” and had “a history of assassinating
leftwing civilians in guerrilla areas, cooperating with
narcotics-related paramilitary groups in attacks against suspected
guerrilla sympathizers, and killing captured combatants.”
Another document quoted a Colombian army colonel saying that there was a “body count syndrome” in the Colombian Army that “tends to fuel human rights abuses by well-meaning soldiers trying to
get their quota to impress superiors” and a “cavalier, or at least
passive, approach when it comes to allowing the paramilitaries to serve
as proxies … for the COLAR in contributing to the guerrilla body count.”
The same military official said then things “had gotten much worse” under (now retired and arrested) General Rito Alejo del Rio Rojas.
Colombia had always denied the killing of civilians or ‘false positives‘ until November 2008 when 27 members of the armed forces were sacked, army chief Mario Montoya was forced to resign and the Ministry of Defense announced a thorough investigation.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, more than a thousand members of the armed forces are being investigated for these false positives.
Testimonies of demobilized members of paramilitary umbrella organization AUC — suspected of thousands of human rights violations — repeatedly implicated the armed forces’ support of paramilitary activities, including massacres.
The U.S. has supported the Colombian army with training and funds through Plan Colombia, a multi-billion operation to counter teh cultivation of coca and left-wing guerrillas in Colombia.