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Washington Post’s Colombian Snow Job, Revisited


A couple of weeks ago, I noted how the Washington Post’s editorial page had marked the visit of Colombian president Álvaro Uribe by publishing a scathing attack on the Democratic Congressional leadership. Indeed, according to my sources the piece–headed “Assault on an Ally”–was far beyond a suck-up to Álvaro Uribe. It was essentially a transcription of a set of talking points the Colombian leader used during a meeting with the Post’s board.

It’s pretty much a commonplace these days to observe that the Post features a team of extremely talented reporters with an embarrassingly bad editorial board at their helm. But today we see another demonstration of that point.

The Post’s editorial crassly dismissed the concerns expressed by the Democratic leadership and human rights groups about the spread of paramilitary organizations in Colombia. For months now, human rights monitors have linked these paramilitary groups to Álvaro Uribe and political figures close to him on one side. They have also shown how the paramilitary groups are involved in widespread violence – including targeted killings–and are deeply enmeshed in the drug trade. In theory, of course, the focus of Plan Colombia is not just to eliminate leftist guerillas–it is to battle political violence and the drug trade. While the leftists have suffered serious setbacks, political violence and the cocaine trade are doing just fine under Plan Colombia, thank you.

Today, the Post’s Juan Forero reports from Medellín that the human rights observers had assessed the situation perfectly:

Top paramilitary commanders have in recent days confirmed what human rights groups and others have long alleged: Some of Colombia’s most influential political, military and business figures helped build a powerful anti-guerrilla movement that operated with impunity, killed civilians and shipped cocaine to U.S. cities.

The commanders have named army generals, entrepreneurs, foreign companies and politicians who not only bankrolled paramilitary operations but also worked hand in hand with fighters to carry them out. In accounts that are at odds with those of the government, the commanders have said their organization, rather than simply sprouting up to fill a void in lawless regions of the country, had been systematically built with the help of bigger forces.

Now assuming that the author of the “Assault on an Ally” editorial – which is to say, the transcriber of the talking points – actually reads the news reporting of the Post, perhaps he’ll fess up to his error and apologize to the people he stupidly maligned.

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