We speak with longtime journalist Mario Murrillo about his new book, Colombia and the United States: War, Terrorism and Destablization Murrillo teaches media and communications and is co-host of Wake-Up Call on the Pacifica radio station WBAI in New York. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Mario Murrillo is a long time journalist who has been covering Columbia. My colleague at WBAI Pacifica station in New York, he does the Friday Morning Wake-Up Call. His new book is "Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization". Can you put this, Mario, in context?
MARIO MURRILLO: The situation right now is very complex, as you know, Amy. I will put the situation with Coca-Cola in the context of the major development and the major story that’s happening in Columbia right now. That’s the ongoing "dialogue", negotiation between the government of (name?), President Bush’s chief supporter in the south American region —
AMY GOODMAN: He supported the invasion of Iraq?
MARIO MURRILLO: He’s the only government in the entire South American continent who supports the war in Iraq. He is negotiating right now, or talking with, the leadership of the A.U.C., the right wing paramilitary groups. And what they’re in the process of doing, and it’s a complicated process, but what they’re in the process of doing is basically granting "get out of jail free" cards to the major — to the criminals that carried out the major massacres in Columbia, including the assassinations that you have talked about, regarding the trade unionists. Basically, it’s a process in which the truth is not going to be coming out, and it’s basically, again, giving a green light to these right wing forces.
AMY GOODMAN: All of the international media’s focus is on Iraq right now. Iraq, the invasion, occupation, oil. Colombia is deeply connected to oil. This is part one of our conversation. We hope to have you back on Thursday to continue this issue. What is happening in Colombia, as eyes are on Iraq?
MARIO MURRILLO: Well, the situation in Colombia is that, first of all, it is, as I mentioned at the outset, this is the central front in the Andes of the Bush administration’s "War on Terror". And It’s basically spearheaded by Uribe. What they’re carrying out are these attacks, in civilian areas, supposedly weeding out terrorists and targeting the guerrillas, but what they’re doing is carrying out these major sweeps in the name of security and basically jailing priests, jailing activists, and jailing human rights activists and leaders, and doing this all in the name of bringing security to the countryside. And unfortunately — well, fortunately and unfortunately, the Uribe administration has been gaining a lot of the popular support, because on the highways and in certain sectors in Columbia you do see and you do sense a bit of security, much different than we saw two or three years ago when there was guerrilla attacks; but that’s at the expense of all sorts of violations that have been documented by human rights groups here in the U.S. and international human rights groups, against the civilian populations throughout the countryside.
AMY GOODMAN: Is the U.S. going to turn more to Colombia for oil with the trouble in the middle east?
MARIO MURRILLO: Well, that’s what they’re looking at in the next 20 years. Colombia, right now, is the seventh largest exporter of oil to the United States. Part of the question is, if we bring security to Colombia, can we make it a much more important vital source, as the oil from the middle east becomes less of a factor?
AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about John Negroponte overseeing Iraq; coming from being ambassador to Honduras during the time of the contras and supporting them?
MARIO MURRILLO: Well, he perfected the idea of death squads in Honduras, very often creating alliances with drug trafficking, and the same thing is happening in Colombia, basically. In the early 1980’s, during the Reagan administration, we saw the upsurge of the paramilitary terror that we see today that results in the kinds of actions that were just talked about in terms of the union organizers and Coca-Cola.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding hearings on Negroponte’s appointment today at the Baghdad embassy, which will be the world’s largest. Mario Murrillo, this is part one and I look forward to seeing you in two days for part two. His book, "Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization". It is published by Seven Stories Press.