Colombia: War Profiteers - Clarifying "who" they are

War profiteers are not only those that benefit from the arms industry, but also those that impulse military action and elaborate strategies to profit from war. Among war profiteers we can include:

Large private corporations

Here we refer to the transnational and multinational corporations that need control over our natural resources and our national territories in order to support their hegemonic project and so that relations of economic and political solidarity cannot be improved (which would permit true development of Latin American countries).

These profiteers also base their corporate strategy on the aggravation of armed conflict and the consolidation of military and paramilitary actors with the goal of imposing megaprojects which in turn allow them to appropriate large portions of our national territories and political power.

The following are some of the corporations that intervene as profiteers in our country:

CompanyMegaproject
Coca-ColaHydroelectric Dam in the Water and Biodiversity reserve of the macizo colombiano
NestléRanching and dairy production in the Cauca, Caquetá and Putumayo
Amoco, Texaco, ExxonGas pipeline that crosses Colombia, Venezuela and Panamá
Drummond Carbon and the methane gas exploitation in La Loma, Magdalena
MonsatoHydro resources in the Vega, Cauca (near the triple frontier of the Amazon region)

Under globalization these transnationals buy local public companies, in this was gaining control of natural resources such as petroleum, water, oxygen, nickel, leucite, plutonium, and mercury. These last four are used in the arms industry.

The consequences of these megaprojects include the expropriation of local communities' land, exploitation of the local labor force, and the aggravate of conflict because such projects deepen the structural causes of poverty and inequality.

Financial institutions

contribute to war in two ways: (1) through the lending of money to war investers, and (2) through the devastating accumulation of wealth which again deepens the structural causes of war in Colombia. 21.9 million people or 49.2% of the population of Colombia live in poverty, with the 14.7% of the population classified as very poor. It is worth mentioning Santander and BBVA banks which are today's leaders in mortgage lending and among the larges financial institutions in Colombia. These companies, at the international level are partners to the arms industry in Europe as well as lending to arms investors.

Nation-states

World powers: through economic, military and political intervention in other countries, the world's most powerful nations look to control the wealth and territories of less powerful regions. In the case of Colombia, the USA invests more than US $350 million per year in the internal war in Colombia. Furthermore, multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the WTO lend money to developing states, increasing the internal and external debt and imposing the requisite of adapting their economies to the neoliberal economic model.

And the third world countries, through national security and defense policies make the conflict even deeper. Public order is maintained at the detriment of fundamental human rights. Moreover, beginning in the 1990s, the consensus in Washington has been to promote the weakening of the welfare state and civil liberties while actively backing an essentially inactive promarket state which cedes many of its most important roles to private corporations and transnationals.

A further problem is the creation and maintenance of paramilitary structures, be it by the state - as in the case of Colombia - or as the summation of the interests of the private sector.

Some examples of corporate power and war speculation in Colombia:

  • The presidency which sees rights as services
  • The mafia which permeates military structures through drug trafficking and connections with the paramilitary groups. As a result of the proliferation of armed actors in Colombia, civil sector employment is reduced and military-related employment increases.
  • The Colombian and US governments, though plan Colombia and the patriot plan fight against narco-trafficking and for the elimination of the guerrillas. However, the drug war (which includes military action and the use of toxic herbicides) is directed against the weakest parts of the production chain: the coca farmers, the coca pasta producers and the civilian population. The real traffickers, landowners, politicians, and private actors that manage the drug market are often not targeted.
  • The defense policy places more emphasis on increasing military spending to the detriment of fundamental human rights, health, and education.
  • The Defense Ministry not only weighs heavily on the nation's budget, but also has a closely associated group of 21 companies, including Indumil (arms manufacturer), Hotel Tequendama, and the military university. This group functions as a rotating investment fund with invests in security related activities. We ask: what happens to the earnings from these investments?
  • The Ministry of the Interior and the reinsertion to civilian life of the 43000 demobilized soldiers: this 'peace' strategy ultimately seeks to capture more resources for the armed forces.
  • Private security firms contract demobilized paramilitary officers.

The Colombian government exhibits complete complacency in the face of demands and strategic plans from the US. Some examples:

  • Plan Colombia: this is a military strategy, which is reaffirmed in the October document "ley de la estampilla", and strengthened by the Andean Regional Initiative (IRA in Spanish). Although ostensibly created as a regional antinarcotics strategy, the IRA seeks to reconsolidate the militaries of the region.
  • Patriot Plan and the IRA seek to stop the consolidation of the triple way (Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela), as well as confirm the Amazon region as a source of biological patents.
  • Plan Houston, Puebla - Panamá, Bogotá which promotes the establishment of eucalyptus plantations and the integration of Colombia in the world economy via the interoceanic canal of Chocó, the completion of the Pan-American highway en the Darién region, and the gas pipeline which crosses Panamá, Colombia and Venezuela.

The media:

The media plays the role of information merchant, trafficking and profiting from stories about the war in Colombia. Furthermore, the media is very skewed toward supporting the status quo, supporting the consolidation of the armed forces, and reinforcing the idea that any kind of opposition is a form of terrorism or rebellion. The media tend to cast a positive light on the security plans of the government, the promotion of private security, and foreign investment and appropriation of natural resources.

In Colombia the mass media implicated in war speculation includes:

  • RCN which provides partial information panders to the interests of political parties and individuals who support the war. In the recent presidential election, no effort was made to create public debate between candidates, rather there was a profilization in favor of the big-business candidate. It is not a coincidence that this media group is controlled by the Ardila Lule groups whose interests are in line with the Uribe camp.
  • A series of programs support the armed forces, including the radio of the national police, the radio of the army, TV programs on the state channel, the 'Impacto' program on the UNO channel, and the 'men of honor' show which presents a positive image of the armed forces and leads people to see militarization as a way to resolve internal conflicts. These communication strategies capture state resources as well as generating their own revenue, which allows them to expand their social militarization programs.
  • Finally the armed forces and state security forces have a series of publications and communications aimed at making the population fell 'safe'. They also close off residential areas near cartels, and militarily occupy public spaces, thereby generating a society based on military control over civilian life in the urban centers.

One would have to arrive at the conclusion that being a war profiteer is a easy and more lucrative business that being and actor in armed conflict. Also it is apparent that those involved in war profiteering are often more Machiavellian than the soldiers themselves. They control the fine strings of power and death, but they don't directly get their hands dirty because they are not the ones who do the killing.

FOKA (Acción Kolectiva por la Objeción Fiscal)
Translation: Matt Yarrow