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As Colombia's Brutal Paramilitaries Get Their Own Autonomous Zone, Rumors That Their Warlord is Hiding in Israel

With the May 13 signing of the so-called Fatima Accords at talks near Monteria, capital of Cordoba department, the notorious United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) have been granted their own de facto autonomous zone. The so-called Zone of Location, covering 368 square kilometers in Cordoba's Tierralta municipality, is now in the hands of ten paramilitary commanders and an estimated 400 gunmen--officially as a prelude to their disarmament and "demobilization." Under the plan, the zone is to serve as a safe haven for demobilizing AUC paramilitary fighters to gather before surrendering their weapons. (El Tiempo, May 14; Colombian Presidency press release, May 13)

The problem is that the paramilitary reign of terror in Colombia's countryside and barrios has hardly abated. The day after the accord was signed, three street vendors and a young girl playing in the street were killed by heavily armed gunmen--identified by witnesses as paras--in Espinal, Tolima department. Also that day, authorities discovered the corpses of three of six local men kidnapped by paramilitaries in La Guajira department, apparently in dispute over local sales of contraband Venezuelan gasoline. (El Tiempo, May 15)

Another problem is that the great grand-father of the paramilitary movement, Carlos Castano, was not at the signing of the Fatima Accord, and is not believed to be in the Location Zone. His whereabouts have been unknown since at least February.

A May 19 story in the New York Times speculated that Castano had been assassinated by rivals in the paramilitary movement after, in the course of disarmament negotiations, he admitted his fighters and commanders had been responsible for assassinations and massacres--and that 70% of the AUC's funding comes from the cocaine traffic. Castano himself faces drug charges in the US, and 18 AUC commanders--including his older brother Vicente Castano--were recently classified as major drug dealers by the US Treasury Department. An unnamed DEA official said that Colombia's leftist guerillas are also involved in the drug trade but that "they pale in comparison" to the AUC.

See also WW3 REPORT #97

The first possible answer to the Castano mystery emerged June 1, when an AFP report in the Israeli daily Haaretz claimed he is hiding in Israel. The article claimed Castano was first secretly moved to Panama under US guard in mid-February, and then smuggled to Israel. The AFP account suggested Castano's life was threatened after he agreed to cooperate with US efforts to crack down on drug trafficking.

The Colombian government refused to confirm or deny the AFP report. But an accompanying article in Haaretz said Israeli Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry officials found no evidence that Castano had entered Israel--while conceding he may have entered the country under a different name.

Israeli intelligence is said to have played a key role in establishing the Colombian paramilitaries. In his best-selling book of autobiographical interviews with journalist Mauricio Aranguren Molina, "My Confession: Carlos Castano Reveals His Secrets," the elusive warlord says that he arrived in Israel at the age of 18 in 1983, when he was first building his paramilitary movement in Cordoba, for clandestine military training. Under cover of studying science at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, he joined a group of other Latin Americans for one year at a "private school" where, in a secret program code-named 562, Israeli Defense Forces veterans gave instruction in warfare, geopolitics, the international arms trade, "how to purchase rifles," "psychological operations," "terrorism and anti-terrorism" and "the fundamentals of atomic weaponry."

Castano is effusive in his praise for the Israeli military, saying that the AUC's entire "concept of armed self-defense is a copy of the Israelis; every citizen of this nation is a soldier in potential... This, without a doubt, is a visionary people and an example of mastery."

See also WW3 REPORT #s:

63, 42

(Bill Weinberg)


Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, June 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Reprinting permissible with attribution.