Meditation Focus #3: THE CIVIL WAR IN COLOMBIA (Web posted May 15, 2000)


What follows is the third Meditation Focus suggested by the Global
Meditation Focus Group. Thank you for helping us in disseminating this
important material.


1. Summary
2. Focus Group Recommendations
3. About the Focus Group
4. More on the Colombia Crisis

1. Summary

In Colombia the civil war between left-wing guerrilla groups and
State-backed paramilitary groups has lasted for over three decades, and has
resulted in human-rights abuses, including murder, kidnapping, torture,
intimidation, and the forced displacement of terrorised populations.
Colombia now has the largest displaced population in the world, after Sudan
and Angola. President Andrés Pastrana's recent call for the creation of
another rebel safe haven has prompted threats of all-out civil war from
angry residents of the region where the new zone will be established. Please
hold in your heart, mind, and spirit the vision of peace and healing in
Colombia. You may like to include in this vision the growth of inner
security, community experience, forgiveness, and trust, in place of
insecurity, social division, anger, and fear.

(Please see below in section 4 if you need more details on the crisis.)

2. Focus Group Recommendations

The Focus Group suggests that we focus our meditations and prayers on this
situation for the week beginning Sunday May 21 at noon Eastern Time.
Please hold and empower the vision, as guided by Spirit during your meditation,
of what needs to occur for a peaceful and lasting resolution to be found,
in so far as it furthers the highest good of all.

We also invite anyone interested to review an important complementary document
entitled "Suggestions for Enhancing the Effectiveness of our Healing Focus
in Meditation" that has been prepared to assist meditating people in better
addressing the issue of effective focalization. It is available on the
Focus Group Webpage at as well as much more
information. If you already reviewed this document, please note that the
following addition has been made this week after some discussions within
the Focus Group on the issue of free will...

"It is important to realise that holding a vision, and experiencing that
vision as a manifesting reality, is not the same as trying to impose our
will on specific people to bring about peace - an activity we would discourage.
What people on Earth choose to experience is their own privilege as free will
beings learning their own lessons. What we can do is to increase the
availability of healing where Spirit decides it is needed and to *offer*
it to certain situations of suffering, with an accompanying vision of healing.
The difference is that we honour people's free will experience, without taking
it away from them, whatever stage they are at on their path of growth, but
recognise at the same time that they have potential for change, and that there
is an alternative to conflict and suffering, which we add our energy to. Like
angels, we don't force people to change, we merely work in partnership with
their God-Self, supporting their evolution with love, light, and compassion."

The Focus Group also has the following three complementary recommendations to

1) People may take a few moments at the top of any hour, once a day, to join
with all those meditating on the suggested weekly focus at the top of that
same corresponding hour in other time zones around the world. They may also
choose to meditate or pray every day at any moment that best suits them,
knowing that their added positive vibrations will complement the positive
vibrations emitted by other people on that same day.

2) People may also join with all others to meditate simultaneously every
Sunday, beginning at 5 pm Universal Time which is 9 am Pacific Standard
Time (Los Angeles), noon Eastern Time (New York), 6 pm Central
European Time (Paris) - please see the World Clock at to find out your own corresponding
local time - or if you prefer simply take about 30 minutes beginning at
noon local time to meditate and pray on the suggested focus for this week.

3) Please dedicate the last five minutes of your meditation to the healing of
the Earth as a whole. Experience the potential for divine self-realisation
unfolding within all life, and, through the connections that unite all, may
the love and wisdom flow to where it is needed, awakening us all to our
greater identity, and to the sacredness of all life. Please hold a vision
for the healing of all social and ecological crises through the love,
wisdom, and power of Spirit, and finish your meditation by seeing the Earth
as a radiant, complete whole. This concluding segment will be part from now
on of each new Meditation Focus we propose.

3. About the Focus Group

The Focus Group members wish to acknowledge that we do not claim to have
presented here a complete view of all the aspects of the issues under
consideration. Our basic aim is to work impartially for the highest good of
all, with the guidance of Spirit. We encourage everyone participating in
this global healing work to similarly strive to become neutral channels so
as to help step down the powerful Divine vibrations of Love, Peace and
Unity to a level at which they can be of assistance to alleviate the
suffering of people and instill the goodwill necessary to resolve
peacefully any conflictual situation involved with this week's Meditation

If you are not familiar with how the Focus Group was created, how each
focus is being selected, who is part of the Focus Group and so on, we
recommend you take a few minutes to visit our international website at where our information is also available in
French and Spanish.

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4. More on the Colombia Crisis

a) For general background information on Colombia, including its history, a
good online reference source is Encarta, which can be found at

Excerpt: 'Many of the attitudes that led to Colombia's sharp class divisions
originated in 16th-century Spain and became ingrained in Colombian society
during the colonial period. Family lineage, inherited wealth, and racial
background continue to be powerful determinants of status. Economic progress
during the 20th century has only slightly reduced the concentration of
political, social, and economic power in the hands of the small upper class.
As a result of these social divisions, Colombia has experienced a period of
ongoing political violence since the 1950s.'

b) For an in-depth treatment of the civil war, see

Excerpt: 'FARC and a smaller rebel group called the National Liberation Army
(ELN) fund their insurgency in part by taxing and protecting the drug trade.
Kidnapping and extortion are their other main sources of income, and human
rights violations against civilians are common [...] But the civil war has
not brought out the best in the Colombian security forces, either. Human
rights organizations have long criticized the military and police for
carrying out a "dirty war" -- killing, torturing and abducting people with
real or perceived links to left-wing guerrillas. Civilians unlucky enough to
live in a village suspected of harboring insurgents have been the most
frequent targets, although street children, drug addicts, prostitutes and
transvestites have borne the brunt of "social cleansing." And Colombia's
security forces are committing these human rights violations with training
and equipment supplied courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. That's no coincidence.
For decades, Colombian security forces have worked hand-in-hand with
paramilitaries, who also oppose insurgent guerrillas -- supplying personnel,
intelligence, "black lists" and even backup on the battlefield.'

c) For a military overview, see

Excerpt: 'While most peace processes end with the disarmament of opposition
groups, both of Colombia's guerrilla groups are very reluctant to turn in
their weapons and attempt a new existence as political parties. Their
reluctance is somewhat justified by the sad examples of Colombian guerrilla
groups that demobilized in the past, only to fall victim to the ongoing
campaign against the country's "peaceful left."'

d) For the human rights issues in Colombia, see and

Excerpt: 'Efforts to pass crucial human rights legislation stalled in
Congress, including a military penal code reform and a bill criminalizing
forced disappearances. The outgoing administration of Ernesto Samper failed
to promote these measures aggressively, ignoring an opportunity to achieve
crucial human rights reforms. That obligation passed to the government of
Andrés Pastrana, who had not, at this writing, announced a plan for
addressing issues like continuing military support for paramilitary groups
and impunity [...] For their part, paramilitaries continued to commit
massacres, murders of civilians and combatants hors de combat, torture, the
mutilation of corpses, death threats, forced displacement, hostage-taking,
and looting, among other violations. In the first eight months of 1998, for
example, paramilitaries were linked to most of the massacres committed,
meaning the killing of four or more people at the same place and at the same
time. In many cases, bodies were also dismembered, decapitated, and
mutilated with machetes, chain saws, and acid [...] All guerrilla groups
continued to engage in hostage-taking for extortion or to press a political
point. According to the País Libre Foundation, a nongovernmental group that
collects information on kidnaping, guerrillas are responsible for half of
the estimated 1,088 kidnapings registered in the first seven months of 1998.
All parties to the conflict continued to use land mines. For instance, the
UC-ELN used land mines in populated areas of Antioquia, Arauca, and
Santander, among others, endangering the civilian population and causing
casualties among farmers and children. Although Colombia signed the Mine Ban
Treaty in December 1997, it has yet to ratify it.'

e) Miscellaneous links:

Colombia Support Network:
Urgent Action: Help Save the Colombian Rainforest:
The Reason Behind The $1.6 Billion Colombian Aid Package:
A Shortcut To Hell:
"Enough IS Enough!" Amnesty International Reports:
One Million People Internally Displaced by the Armed Conflict:
Colombia Human Rights Network - Stop U.S. Military Aid for Colombia Now:

f) One of the latest reports on the Colombia situation appeared in The
Dallas Morning News on May 12, 2000. An excerpt from the article follows.
For the full article, see

'SAN PABLO, Colombia - President Andrés Pastrana's latest peace gambit for
Colombia - the creation of yet another rebel safe haven - prompted threats
of all-out civil war this week from residents of the tumultuous northern
region where the new zone will be established [...] Residents across dozens
of northern municipalities halted transportation, burned tires and waved
placards Wednesday to protest Mr. Pastrana's plan to create a safe haven for
members of Colombia's second-largest rebel group, the 5,000-member National
Liberation Army, known by its Spanish initials ELN [...] Mr. Pastrana says
he remains committed to the idea of safe havens as a government goodwill
gesture to the rebels. "All of us, without exception, must understand that
the moment has arrived for us to devote all our capabilities and efforts to
end so many years of violence and conflict," the president said in his April
25 announcement of plans to establish the new 1,200-square-mile safe haven,
which he is calling a "zone of encounter." He said government forces would
be withdrawn from the new zone for about nine months but promised that
federal judicial and governing authority would remain in effect there [...]
With those examples in mind, residents in the northern provinces of Bolívar
and Antioquia say they would rather fight than submit to rule by any rebel

g) There is also a new important development related to this country as explained in the following:

A court in Colombia gave the go-ahead yesterday to Occidental Petroleum to drill for oil on rainforest land claimed by the U'wa indigenous tribe, overturning an earlier court decision that had suspended drilling in response to a petition from the U'wa. Work on construction of an exploratory drilling site is expected to resume immediately. The 8,000-member U'wa tribe -- which has fought the planned drilling project since 1995, attracting international support from environmentalists and human rights advocates -- said it will step up its resistance outside the courtroom. A number of U.S. activists have called on Vice President Al Gore, who has close ties to Occidental, to defend the U'wa and their land, but he has refused to become involved in the issue.

More information on this issue: Las Vegas Sun, Associated Press, 05.16.00

More information on this issue: The Nation, Ken Silverstein, 05.22.00

h) Below is Noam Chomsky's commentary on Colombia, as found at

In 1999, Colombia became the leading recipient of US military and police
assistance, replacing Turkey (Israel and Egypt are in a separate category).
The figure is scheduled to increase sharply for the next two years. Through
the 1990s, Colombia has been the leading recipient of US military aid in
Latin America, and has also compiled the worst human rights record, in
accord with a well-established correlation.

We can often learn from systematic patterns, so let us tarry for a moment
on the previous champion, Turkey. It has received substantial military aid
from the origins of the Cold War, as a major US outpost. But arms
deliveries began to increase sharply in 1984, with no Cold War connection
at all. Rather, that was the year when Turkey began a large-scale
counterinsurgency campaign in the largely Kurdish southeast. Arms
deliveries peaked in 1997, exceeding the total from the entire period
1950-1983 (fiscal years), amounting to about 80% of Turkish military
equipment, including heavy armaments (jet planes, tanks, etc). By 1999,
Turkey had largely suppressed Kurdish resistance by terror and ethnic
cleansing, leaving some 2-3 million refugees, 3500 villages destroyed (7
times Kosovo under NATO bombs), and tens of thousands killed. A huge flow
of arms from the Clinton administration was no longer needed to accomplish
these objectives.

Nevertheless, despite the great success achieved by some of the most
extreme state terror of the 1990s, military operations continue while
Kurdish citizens are still deprived of even minimal rights (again, a regime
much harsher than Kosovo under Milosevic). On April 1, 10,000 Turkish
troops began new ground sweeps in regions that had been devastated by the
US-Turkish terror campaigns of the preceding years, also launching another
offensive into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish guerrilla forces -- in a
no-fly zone where Kurds are protected by the US air force from the
(temporarily) wrong oppressor. As these new campaigns were beginning,
Secretary of Defense William Cohen addressed the American-Turkish Council,
a festive occasion with much laughter and applause, according to the
government report. He praised Turkey for taking part in the humanitarian
bombing of Yugoslavia, apparently without embarrassment, and announced that
Turkey had been invited to join in co-production of the new Joint Strike
Aircraft, just as it has been co-producing the F-16s that it used to such
good effect in approved varieties of ethnic cleansing and atrocities within
its own territory, as a loyal member of NATO.

In Colombia, however, the military armed and trained by the US has not
crushed domestic resistance, though it continues to produce its regular
annual toll of atrocities. Each year, some 300,000 new refugees are driven
from their homes, with a death toll of about 3000 and many horrible
massacres. The great majority of atrocities are attributed to the
paramilitary forces that are closely linked to the military, as documented
once again by Human Rights Watch (February 2000). The Colombian Commission
of Jurists reported last September that the rate of killings had increased
by almost 20% over the preceding year, and that the proportion attributable
to the paramilitaries had risen from 46% in 1995 to almost 80% in 1998,
continuing through 1999. Forced displacement in 1998 was 20% above 1997,
and increased in 1999 in some regions according to Human Rights Watch.
Colombia now has the largest displaced population in the world, after Sudan
and Angola. Prominent human rights activists continue to flee abroad under
death threats, including now the courageous head of the Church-based human
rights group Justice and Peace, Fr. Javier Giraldo, who has played an
outstanding role in defending human rights. The AFL-CIO reports (Feb. 2000)
that several trade unionists are murdered every week, mostly by
paramilitaries supported by the government security forces. Hailed as a
leading democracy by Clinton and other US leaders, Colombia permitted a
challenge to the elite system of power-sharing by an independent political
party, which, however, faced certain difficulties, such as the
assassination of about 3000 activists, including presidential candidates,
mayors, and legislators. Meanwhile, shameful socioeconomic conditions
persist and may even have intensified, leaving much of the population in
misery in a rich country with concentration of wealth and land-ownership
that is high even by outrageous Latin American standards.

The president of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights, former
Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa, writes that it is
"poverty and insufficient land reform" that "have made Colombia one of the
most tragic countries of Latin America," though as elsewhere, "violence has
been exacerbated by external factors," primarily the initiatives of the
Kennedy Administration, which "took great pains to transform our regular
armies into counterinsurgency brigades," ushering in "what is known in
Latin America as the National Security Doctrine," which is not concerned
with "defense against an external enemy" but rather "the internal enemy."
The new "strategy of the death squads" accords the military "the right to
fight and to exterminate social workers, trade unionists, men and women who
are not supportive of the establishment, and who are assumed to be
communist extremists."

As part of its strategy of converting the Latin American military from
"hemispheric defense" to "internal security" -- meaning war against the
domestic population -- Kennedy dispatched a military mission to Colombia in
1962 headed by Special Forces General William Yarborough. He proposed
"reforms" to enable the security forces to "as necessary execute
paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist
proponents" -- the "communist extremists" to whom Vasquez Carrizosa alludes.

In Colombia, a governmental commission concluded that "the criminalization
of social protest" is one of the "principal factors which permit and
encourage violations of human rights" by the military and police
authorities and their paramilitary collaborators. Ten years ago, as
US-backed state terror was increasing sharply, the Minister of Defense
called for "total war in the political, economic, and social arenas," while
another high military official explained that guerrillas were of secondary
importance: "the real danger" is "what the insurgents have called the
political and psychological war," the war "to control the popular elements"
and "to manipulate the masses." The "subversives" hope to influence unions,
universities, media, and so on. "Every individual who in one or another
manner supports the goals of the enemy must be considered a traitor and
treated in that manner," a 1963 military manual prescribed, as the Kennedy
initiatives were moving into high gear. Since the official goals of the
guerrillas are social democratic (whatever their actual goals may be), the
circle of treachery targeted for terror operations is wide.

The Kennedy-Yarborough strategy was developed and applied broadly in the
years that followed. Violent repression spread throughout the hemisphere,
reaching its awesome peak in Central America in the 1980s. Colombia's
advance to first-rank among the criminal states south of the border is in
part the result of the decline in US-backed state terror in Central
America. As in Turkey ten years later, its primary aims were achieved,
leaving in its wake a "culture of terror" that "domesticates the
expectations of the majority" and undermines any aspiration towards
"alternatives that differ from those of the powerful" in the words of
Salvadoran Jesuits who learned the lessons from bitter experience; those
who survived the US assault, that is. In Colombia, the problem of
establishing approved forms of "stability" remains, and is even becoming
more severe. The correlation with increasing arms shipments is familiar.

The sharp increase in arms shipped to Colombia is officially justified in
terms of the "drug war," a claim taken seriously by few competent analysts,
even apart from the instructive historical pattern, barely sampled here. As
many have observed, the military themselves are heavily involved in
narcotrafficking, and their paramilitary associates -- who openly proclaim
their reliance on narcotrafficking -- are not the targets of the planned
operations. The targets are guerrilla forces based on the peasantry and
calling for internal social change, which would interfere with integration
of Colombia into the global system on the terms that the US demands,
dominated by elite elements linked to US power interests that are accorded
free access to Colombia's valuable resources, including oil.

But let us put these matters aside and consider a few other questions. Why
do peasants in Colombia grow cocaine, not other crops? Colombia was once a
major wheat producer. That was undermined in the 1950s by US "Food for
Peace" aid, a program that provided taxpayer subsidies to US agribusiness
and counterpart funds for US client states, used commonly for military
spending and counterinsurgency. A year before President Bush announced the
"drug war" with great fanfare (once again), the international coffee
agreement was suspended under US pressure, on grounds of "fair trade
violations." The result was a fall of prices of more than 40% within two
months for Colombia's leading legal export.

Further background is discussed by the late political economist Susan
Strange in her last book. In the 1960s, the G77 governments of the Third
World (now over 130, accounting for 80% of the world's population)
initiated a call for a "new international economic order" in which the
concerns of the large majority of people of the world would be addressed.
Specific proposals were formulated by UNCTAD, established by the UN to
address such concerns. But these plans scarcely even had to be dismissed.
Official "globalization" is designed to cater to the needs of a different
sector, namely its designers -- hardly a surprise, any more than the fact
that in standard dogma "globalization" is depicted as an inexorable process
to which "there is no alternative."

One early UNCTAD proposal was a program for stabilizing commodity prices, a
practice that is standard within the industrial countries by one or another
form of subsidy. In 1996, Congress passed the "Freedom to Farm Act" to
liberate American agriculture from the "East German socialist programs of
the New Deal," as Newt Gingrich put it. Subsidies quickly tripled, reaching
a record $23 billion in 1999. The market does work its magic, however: the
taxpayer subsidies go disproportionately to large agribusiness and the
"corporate oligopolies" that dominate the input and output side, as
Nicholas Kristof correctly observed in the _NY Times_. Those with market
power in the food chain (from energy corporations to restaurant chains) are
enjoying great profits while the "agricultural crisis," which is real, is
concentrated among smaller farmers in the middle of the chain, who produce
the food.

But the devices used by the rich to ensure that they are protected by the
nanny state are not available to the poor. The UNCTAD initiative was
quickly shot down, and the organization has been largely marginalized and
tamed, along with others that reflect the interests of the global majority
to some extent. Reviewing these events, Strange observes that farmers were
therefore compelled to turn to crops for which there is a stable market.
Large-scale agribusiness can tolerate fluctuation of commodity prices,
compensating for temporary losses elsewhere. Poor peasants cannot tell
their children: "don't worry, maybe you'll be able to eat next year." The
result, Strange continues, was that drug entrepreneurs could easily "find
farmers eager to grow coca, cannabis or opium," for which there is always a
ready market in the rich societies.

The programs of the US and the global institutions it dominates are
constructed to magnify these effects. The current Clinton plan for Colombia
includes only token funding for alternative crops; others are to take care
of constructive approaches, while the US concentrates on military
operations -- which, incidentally, happen to benefit the high-tech
industries that produce military equipment and have been lobbying for the
escalation. Furthermore, IMF-World Bank programs demand that countries open
their borders to a flood of (massively subsidized) agricultural products
from the rich countries, with the obvious effect of undermining local
production. And peasants are instructed to become "rational," producing for
the export market and seeking the highest prices -- which translates as
"coca, cannibis, opium." Having learned their lessons properly, they are
rewarded by attack by military gunships while their fields are destroyed by
chemical and biological warfare, courtesy of Washington.

Another question lurks not too far in the background. Just what right does
the US have to carry out these operations in other countries to destroy a
crop it doesn't like? We can put aside the cynical response that the
governments requested this "assistance"; if they hadn't, they wouldn't be
the governments for long. The number of Colombians who die from US-produced
lethal drugs exceeds the number of North Americans who die from cocaine,
and is far greater relative to the populations. In East Asia, US-produced
lethal drugs are causing millions of deaths. These countries are compelled
not only to accept the products but also advertising for them, under threat
of severe trade sanctions; the Colombian cartels, in contrast, are not
permitted to fund huge advertising campaigns in which a Joe Camel
counterpart extols the wonders of cocaine. Does China, then, have the right
to carry out military, chemical, and biological warfare in North Carolina?
If not, why not?

Yet another question has to do with the alleged concern over drug use. The
seriousness of that concern was illustrated when a House Committee was
considering the Clinton proposals. It rejected an amendment proposed by
California Democrat Nancy Pelosi calling for funding of drug demand
reduction services. It is well known that these are far more effective than
forceful measures. A Rand study funded by the US Army and the government
drug control agencies found that funds spent on domestic drug treatment
were 23 times as effective as "source country control" (Clinton's Colombia
Plan), 11 times as effective as interdiction, and 7 times as effective as
domestic law enforcement. But that path will not be followed. Rather, the
"drug war" targets poor peasants abroad and poor people at home; by the use
of force, not constructive measures to alleviate problems at a fraction of
the cost. We might also ask why there are no Delta Force raids on US banks
and chemical corporations, though it is no secret that they too are engaged
in the narcotrafficking business.

The next question is: why the "drug war," in its specific form? An answer
is implicit in an observation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of
the few Senators to pay close attention to social statistics. By adopting
these measures, he observed, "we are choosing to have an intense crime
problem concentrated among minorities." And why should that choice be made
in a period when a domestic form of "structural adjustment" is being
imposed? Answers do not seem too hard to find.