Just like Vietnam, just as in Colombia. A story of insurgencies and helicopters.
Guerillas in the depth of the jungle, helicopters patrolling the sky, one could first think about the Vietcong and American choppers but this is happening today in Colombia. Read about it here.
Guerillas in the depth of the jungle, helicopters patrolling the sky, one could first think about the Vietcong and American choppers but this is happening today in Colombia. The Colombian and the Vietnamese conflicts are very unique, but the similarities are no surprise. A FARC-EP guerillero shared his thoughts with me: „When we hear a helicopter, we prepare to shoot or to die". The war from the sky is terrorizing the Colombian people but in the mainstream media you won’t hear any reporting about the state terrorism of the Colombian oligarchy, always guided by US intelligence. This article is focused on the war from above in what is knows as the 'Colombian conflict'.
In the year 1999 the Colombian government presented a new strategy in cooperation with the USA to guarantee „peace and wealth for the country", this plan is still running today. The program has the name 'Plan Colombia'. It was officially designed to combat the drug business but in fact, it was aimed at fighting insurgencies, especially the FARC-EP.
During the birth of Plan Colombia, the guerilla was so overwhelmingly strong, that the Colombian military could not even defend major cities from the FARC guerilla. The rebels took control of village after village and the threat of the FARC taking control of city after city was real. The Colombian military was desperately in need of money and expertise. Fortunately for them, when it comes to fighting communists, the USA has no morals and does not hesitate. They align with anyone, even with a defacto narco-state. The Colombian-North American alliance was set. When the money from the US started to flow into Colombia's military, the country was just about to become a failed state. The FARC-EP was at its peak. They controlled one-third of the countries territory. This was about to change, as the CIA advised the military in the amazon-jungle and andes now.
„Plan Colombia" emphasizes efficient technology, rather than large numbers of new equipment being used, of course, the opposite was the truth. Colombia became the world's third-largest recipient of US military aid after Egypt and Israel. $80 billion up to $100 billion was invested into the Colombian Forces. The Air Force was equipped with a huge variety of new technology in the following years. The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters entered service, especially attack variants equipped with cameras and sensors to monitor guerrilla related activities. The development of the Black Hawk was based on the experiences the army gathered in the Vietnam war. The AC-47 gunships were developed and used during the Vietnam War and are now in service with the Colombian Air Force. The Huey-Helicopter first saw combat operations with the US-Army during the Vietnam war and is now being used by the Colombian Air Force.
The same type of technology used by the USA to combat anti-colonial movements & commit war crimes in Vietnam is now being used in Colombia almost for the same purpose. It's almost as if the CIA and the Colombian administration had a meeting and were like: „This is how we did it, now it's your turn."
After almost 20 years it is clear, „Plan Colombia" turned out to be a total disaster with tens of thousands left dead, missing, or displaced. 2016 the FARC signed the peace deal and handed over their weapons to become a legal parliament party. Four years later, thousands of guerilleros and guerilleras decided to take up arms again after the state violated the signed contract. The FARC is split into factions, the two major ones being the „Segunda Marquetalia" and the „Western Coordinating Command". The social injustice in the country is still as present as ever, pressuring the population into joining the ranks of an armed rebellion to escape poverty.
„When we hear a helicopter sound, we prepare to shoot or to die"
The jungle is so thick, it is not an easy task to spot the guerillas from the sky. Sometimes the helictopers fly into the horizon, but then there are cases when it is not a single flyover but several helicopters circling for hours to unload soldiers into the jungle nearby the guerilla. In less than 30 minutes the guerilla units have to pack up their camp and move. During their peak, FARC-EP units used to be so big, you could argue that it was their major weak point. At that time, the Air Force published recordings of how the highly developed thermal cameras first located the FARC units from the air and then started areal bombardments, destroying camps and everyone living in it, also minors and civilians. A base after a bombing is lifeless. The guerillas suffered so many areal bombardments, they learned to defend themselves to the best of their abilities. Networks of trenches run through the camps. Often every guerilla builds a personal trench by their bed. Lines of cords are installed to guide the rebels at night so they do not have to ignite bright torches. Bunkers make it possible for the FARC to read at night and not have the lights attract the helicopters and planes.
To get an understanding of what the situation is like nowadays, we contacted rebels of both major FARC-EP organizations.
„The strengths of the helicopters from the army are that they can see us better from the sky and have a better position to aim. Our weakness is that we have to run away from a helicopter. When we are in flat land, they find us very quickly, but in a jungle, we can hide better.
When they fly over us, we are looking for a rather broad, thick tree. We are hiding behind and on it to protect our bodies. So while the helicopters are flying and maybe turning back, we climb into the trees so that the helicopters hit the tree and not us. This way we can defend ourselves better and also take aim and hit the helicopter.
When I see a helicopter flying in the sky, the first thing I think of is going to a thick, large forest. Then the comrades and I hide quietly somewhere in the forest, in a tree, or a ravine so that we don't attract any attention. Sometimes we also go over a hill that is free and where there is no one. But that rarely happens. When we are in the forest or one of the other places, we lie down on the ground and try to separate ourselves more.
And when we are with the population, for example on a sidewalk or in some house, we quietly hide under the roofs and look up and wait for the helicopters to fly past us.
My first thoughts when I hear a helicopter nearby is that they are going to bomb us or they are going to take a consignment to the army." – Guerillero of the FARC-EP Frente Carlos Patiño in Cauca
„When we hear a helicopter sound, we prepare to shoot or to die. We defend ourselves with mortars and their ammunition. The weak point of a helicopter is when ist landing. Look. Against a helicopter you must shoot in the back, never in front, in the back, it will fall. They say, always in the tail." – Guerillero of the FARC-EP Segunda Marquetalia Organisation in Cauca
Comuna 13 und Operacion Orion
State terrorism, behind this word hides an unimaginably large amount of violence.
In the 90s and early 2000s, the big cities of Colombia were a battlefield for drug cartels, right-wing paramilitaries, police, army, and communist guerrillas. In the 1990s, Comuna 13 in the metropolitan city of Medellin was one of the least violent areas in the city, with a homicide rate well below the city average. Unlike other parts of the city where the right-wing AUC paramilitary group was predominant, the west wing of the city was controlled by communist urban guerrilla organizations known as the Armed People's Commandos (CAP). Together with the CAP, the ELN, which is most strongly represented in this region, but also some militias of the FARC-EP organized life in Comuna 13. None of the 3 guerrilla organizations had dominion over the other, but their shared ideology made them successful in coexistence work. The guerrillas organized the impoverished people living there, built infrastructure and housing. They saw their task primarily in defending the population and the project that was being developed there. The city's strategic entry and exit points was under their control. On a mountain slope crisscrossed by paths, steep stairs, narrow streets, alleys, and dark corners, the Comuna is home to 200.000 people.
Álvaro Uribe took office on August 7, 2002, and the situation began to turn into a nightmare for Comuna 13. Uribe immediately ordered to "recapture" Comuna 13. 5 battalions of the special task force of the anti-guerrilla battalion, police units from Medellin as well as from Bogota and Antioquia, the domestic secret service, a total of over 3000 men, began a 5-day long all-out war against the project in Comuna 13. The overwhelming violence of the state forced the guerrillas to withdraw after a few hours of resistance, but military helicopters and armored vehicles continued to fire on the neighborhood. What became clear through this, even when the guerrillas gave up, the fire was not stopped, but directed against the population of Comuna 13. The people were punished for rising against the state and living with the guerrillas. The war was directed against the impoverished population, which the state first ignored and then punished when they resisted. That is state terrorism, that is the daily reality in Colombia to this day. Hundreds of civilians were injured in the battle. The number of civilians killed remained unclear as official counts contradicted others and some civilian casualties were reported as guerrillas killed in action. Besides, around 70 people disappeared and 355 were arrested without a warrant.
We managed to contact some people living in Comuna 13 today who personally have a story to tell about Operacion Orión.
„I lived trough operation Oriom. It happened to me once that the army helicopter passed very low to the ordinary people and began to shoot regardless of whether there were elderly children or innocent people. Well, I had to see people walking down the streets or running wounded since no type of transport was going up here since everyone was scared.
In the last days, the community was tired of so much war that everyone agreed to draw white rags or flags asking for peace since they had been shooting without resting for more than 2 days. The truth is, I was used to war, so even if they were shooting, I would go out into the street, in reality, the shots didn't scare me anymore.
I tell you the truth after they took out the Guerilla this became a lack of control (…). The truth is, I still believe that the government got here not because it was something bad but because neither the public services nor the taxes could enter here and that did not suit the government"
Ultimately, it can be said that neither the most expensive military equipment nor the highly developed helicopters are a solution to the Colombian conflict, but only force more people to defend themselves, if necessary with weapons. Meanwhile, the elites are forging new plans under the name of „Colombia is growing“. The parliamentary FARC party responded: „This harmful government wants to condemn the country to perpetual war. As a good servant of the United States, they want to reissue Plan Colombia, which brought death and despair to Colombians.“