Colombia: Happiness a Product of Fear –FIU-SOUTHCOM

Colombia Strategic Culture Report-October 2009 (Click for pdf version of full report), by Victor Uribe-Uran
Quotes culled by Jenny Grubbs

Any strategic decisions on the use of force will require factoring in Colombia’s mountainous and fragmented geography. Despite modernization of transportation and infrastructure, large portions of the territory remain underdeveloped, disjointed, and inaccessible. P. 4

A stable temperate to tropical climate does not pose any major logistical challenges for decisions to utilize force. Colombia’s climate favors military action at any time, except perhaps for limitations derived from rainy seasons of relatively short duration. P. 4

Colombians are deeply hierarchical, individualistic, and polarized. They distrust one another and exhibit little tolerance for the trappings of democratic governance. P. 5

The presence of left-leaning governments in neighboring countries, particularly Ecuador and Venezuela, is the most significant emerging problem that poses a potential threat to Colombia’s security. P. 6

Colombians appear to be flexible. At least Colombian men seem to be. Women might be as well, but that is an additional subject. An analysis of the nation’s strategic culture begins and ends with this male malleability. P, 13

Colombians hardly have the rigidity of form and belief that underpin systematic efforts, like revolutions, for example p. 13

Colombians live in an intensely face-to-face society. They walk out onto their sidewalks each morning carefully groomed. Deeply sociable, they continuously seek to be surrounded by one another, by those "above" and "below" them. They want to be at the center of things.17 Aloneness, isolation, and solitude are viewed negatively, as pathological. P. 13

The countryside and rural folk do not count for much, in their opinion. Separated, campesinos are understood to be far inferior and dispensable. P. 13

Colombians hang together. They are opposed to sharp changes. They want a strong government, but one that does not get in their way. P. 14

Their violent behavior, private and also public, tends to be more inter-personal than political. The military is a weak institution, little respected, even today. P. 14

Apart from Catholicism, another widespread sentiment among the elite concerned the permanent obsession with the need to colonize what seemed to be an endless and savage frontier. In this regard, there was a radical difference between the American frontier ideal embodied in the works of Frederick Jackson Turner,26 and the one depicted in one of Colombia’s foundational texts, that is, the 1923 novel La Voragine by writer and diplomat José Eustasio Rivera.27 p. 16

Colombia’s weak national-level security forces also proved largely incapable of reining in revolutionary guerrilla violence during the National Front period (1958-1974) and beyond, despite repeated resorts to "states-of siege" powers by successive Colombian governments. P. 20

These humiliating military setbacks lead to a growing realization among Colombia’s economic and political elites of the need to modernize and professionalize the Colombian Armed Forces. This modernization process began in earnest first under President Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) and subsequently under President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2006; 2006-present). P. 20

Via the US-approved Plan Colombia after July 13, 2000, Washington enthusiastically supported and assisted Colombia’s military modernization program with over six billion dollars in US aid between 2000 and 2009. P. 21

Within Colombia’s military forces, the so-called "false positive" scandal of 2008-09, in which elements of the Colombian army were accused (and subsequently convicted) of murdering innocent civilians and then, after dressing them in FARC uniforms, claiming they were guerrilla fighters, provides clear evidence of ongoing human rights violations on the part of at least some Colombian military officers and soldiers, and raises troubling questions regarding the depth and degree of the Colombian military’s commitment to protecting human rights. P. 22
[The much more troubling question is the role of the U.S. military training, financing, and industrial restructuring model in which merit pay was given for bodies delivered in the false positive scandal- this, of course, is erased here. -AP]

Acording to a recent survey cited in the report by Lastra, Colombians are among the happiest people in the world. P. 24

This reported happiness is also the product of many years of being constantly exposed to the fear that something might happen to you and your family, or learning almost every day from the media that a number of persons were killed, kidnapped or threatened in almost every corner of the country, from a well-known venue in Bogota to a small remote village. P. 24

In the name of security, Colombians accept and have become accustomed to high levels of corruption within the security forces, the political establishment, and the judicial system. P. 25

Despite these transgressions of justice and breaches of the military code, citizens’ security remains the centrepiece of security culture in Colombia. Today, no politician or public official, let alone the public, will campaign or argue against Uribe’s security policies. P.25

It seems clear too that the FARC has received support from the Venezuelan regime. It is no wonder why Venezuela has proactively tried to involve itself in mediating between the Colombian government and the rebels, and why it has demanded, on numerous occasions, that Colombia recognize the insurgent group as a belligerent force under international law. P. 28

The greatest innovation in strategic culture over the past eight years was the inception and consolidation of "democratic security," a policy promoted by President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2006, 2006-2010). P. 29

Colombians are more of a threat to themselves than to others, and have been so for centuries. P. 30

Security is unquestionably a growing concern for the violence-haunted and violence-prone Colombian elite and populace, who are truly exhausted by many years of war against local insurgents and organized crime. P. 30

Even drug traffickers were more effectively tamed at first through deals and promises of leniency than through violent repression. P. 30