Small Wars Journal

El Centro

Colombian Army’s Kill Orders Put Civilians at Risk, Officers Say

Colombian Army’s Kill Orders Put Civilians at Risk, Officers Say by Nicholas Casey – New York Times

The head of Colombia’s army, frustrated by the nation’s faltering efforts to secure peace, has ordered his troops to double the number of criminals and militants they kill, capture or force to surrender in battle — and possibly accept higher civilian casualties in the process, according to written orders and interviews with senior officers.

At the start of the year, Colombian generals and colonels were assembled and told to sign a written pledge to step up attacks. Daily internal presentations now show the number of days that brigades have gone without combat, and commanders are berated when they don’t carry out assaults frequently enough, the officers said.

One order causing particular worry instructs soldiers not to “demand perfection” in carrying out deadly attacks, even if significant questions remain about the targets they are striking. Some officers say that order has instructed them to lower their standards for protecting innocent civilians from getting killed, and that it has already led to suspicious or unnecessary deaths.

The military tried a similar strategy to defeat Colombia’s rebel and paramilitary groups in the mid-2000s, before a landmark peace deal was signed to end decades of conflict.

But the tactics caused a national outrage when it emerged that soldiers, aiming to meet their quotas, engaged in widespread killings and disappearances of civilians.

Now, another incarnation of the policy is being pushed by the new government against the country’s remaining criminal, guerrilla and paramilitary groups, according to orders reviewed by The New York Times and three senior officers who spoke about them...

Read on.

SWJED Sat, 05/18/2019 - 12:17pm

Colombia’s Peace Deal Promised a New Era. This Is What It Looks Like.

Colombia’s Peace Deal Promised a New Era. This Is What It Looks Like. By Nicholas Casey – New York Times

After Colombia’s government signed a peace deal with the country’s main rebel group, ending decades of war and upheaval, both sides said it heralded a new era. But two and a half years after the militants agreed to lay down their arms, many of the promises made are not being honored, and the prospect of a true, lasting peace now seems far from certain.

This is what we found:

  • As many as 3,000 militants have resumed fighting, threatening the very foundation of the accord.
  • Many of the millions of Colombians who once lived in rebel-held territory still await the promised arrival of roads, schools and electricity. The government’s pledge to help rural areas was a big reason the rebels stood down.
  • Since the peace deal was signed, at least 500 activists and community leaders have been killed, and more than 210,000 people displaced from their homes amid the continuing violence. That undercuts a core selling point of the deal: that it would bring safety and stability.
  • Colombia’s new president, Iván Duque, a conservative who took office in August, has expressed skepticism of the accords and wants to change a commitment that was fundamental to the rebels agreeing to lay down their weapons.

Colombia’s five-decade civil war took at least 220,000 lives and devastated large swaths of the countryside. In rebel-held areas, government services disappeared and the infrastructure crumbled. Many turned to the drug economy to survive.

All sides were accused of atrocities — kidnappings, rapes and summary executions — that bred deep-seated animosities across the country and even within families. In a war so deeply personal, finding a way out posed an enormous challenge.

So when the government and the largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, reached a peace agreement in September 2016 after years of negotiation, much of the world applauded. Juan Manuel Santos, then Colombia’s president, won the Nobel Peace Prize

Much, much, more - Read on.

SWJ El Centro Book Review - Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The work "Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War" represents the first book (& ebook) to be published by this blog site. Borderland Beat is an informational and collaborative English language blog (drawing upon US and Mexican contributors) reporting on the Mexican narco wars.

About the Author(s)

Inside Gang Territory In Honduras: ‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them’

Inside Gang Territory In Honduras: ‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them’ by Azam Ahmed – New York Times


In one of the deadliest cities in the world, an embattled group of young men had little but their tiny patch of turf — and they would die to protect it. Journalists from The New York Times spent weeks recording their struggle…


Read on.

Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle

Building Better Gendarmeries in Mexico and the Northern Triangle by Michael L. Burgoyne - Wilson Center's Mexico Institute

Facing record homicide rates and a public outcry to reduce violence and restore peace, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed the formation of a “National Guard” as a possible solution. While controversial, it has garnered the support of large majorities in the Mexican Congress, and in two-thirds of the states, ensuring that the National Guard will be constitutionally recognized.


In a new report published by the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, author Michael L. Burgoyne, a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer, looks at the limitations of current policing models in Mexico and Central America to confront “militarized criminal violence.” He further examines the historical experiences of Stability Police Forces in France, Spain, and Italy and draws some important lessons that could bolster efforts in Mexico and Central America to form their own versions of gendarmeries to better address the serious threats posed by organized crime. Finally, he highlights the limitations of current United States security cooperation programs for addressing these strategic challenges.

Read the paper here.

Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 15: Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM) Emerges in Massachusetts

The arrests on racketeering charges of over a dozen members and associates of the Primeiro Comando da Massachusetts (PCM), a gang with ties to Brazil, in Eastern Massachusetts highlights the potential for transnational gang networks to emerge within criminal diasporas. This note documents the first significant case of Brazilian gang emergence in the United States.

About the Author(s)

Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán: Imagery, Symbolism, and Narratives

The 279 page edited work Los Caballeros Templarios de Michoacán: Imagery, Symbolism, and Narratives is divided into a preface, introduction, twelve chapters, postscript, imagery data set, four appendices, selected references, and further readings. This Small Wars Journal-El Centro eBook is edited by Robert J. Bunker and Alma Keshavarz.

About the Author(s)

Some Questions to Help You Better Understand the U.S.-Colombia Security Dynamic and Opportunities to Enhance the Relationship

The dramatic increase of Venezuelan refugees entering the country, record-level coca cultivation and cocaine production levels, and the power vacuum created by the disarmament, and demobilization of the country’s oldest insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in key cultivation and smuggling areas are just a few things for U.S. policy makers, defense officials, and legislators to take into consideration as they evaluate bilateral security assistance to Colombia.

About the Author(s)

Bait and Smuggle: Mexican Cartels Divert Border Cops with Migrant Surges and Ferry Drugs Where the Coast is Clear

Bait and Smuggle: Mexican Cartels Divert Border Cops with Migrant Surges and Ferry Drugs Where the Coast is Clear by Anna Giaritelli - Washington Examiner

A northern Texas sheriff says his county has seen a big uptick in methamphetamine and heroin seizures since October, saying Mexican drug smugglers are using large groups of migrants to divert Border Patrol’s attention while they run narcotics over the border in nearby areas.


Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn told the Washington Examiner drug seizures have picked up since 2016 and spiked “tremendously” in the past six months just as groups of 100 or more people began showing up at the border.


Data from the county, which includes Forth Worth, shows nine pounds of meth was seized in 2016. In 2018, that figure jumped to 22 pounds. In the past six months, 110 pounds of meth have been discovered by the sheriff’s department.


Heroin busts followed a similar trajectory. Less than one pound of heroin was found by the department in 2016, but last year more than 61 pounds were confiscated. Since October, 20 pounds have been seized.


“We’re several hundred miles away from the border, however, the border does impact us,” he said.


In that six-month time frame, the number of people apprehended while illegally crossing the southern border also increased. Last month, 92,000 people were taken into custody…

Read on.