Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Military March for Congress

During a bike tour today, we crossed paths with these unusual political marchers: ex-soldiers running for Congress.

One man told us that they had 10 candidates this year: 'We're going to run the government,' he predicted.

A military-run government might be a disturbing idea for many, particularly in a nation whose military has directly carried out or colluded with horrendous human rights violations, most notoriously the 'false positives' scandal, in which military units killed thousands of young men and disguised them as guerrillas in order to earn time off and bonuses. Colombia's military also supported paramilitary units which committed terrorism against civilians, including massacring villagers with chainsaws.

Soldiers want to be tried in their own military courts, she said.
Which is not to say that the military has not also played a valuable role, such as extending rule of law over parts of Colombia and protecting civilians from illegal armed groups, or that it should not have a voice in society. But in a country of laws and democracy, the military should be subordinate to civilian authorities.

Colombia's military is understandably uneasy about the peace treaty with the FARC guerrillas, which gives guerrillas a slap on the risk for sometimes horrific crimes, as well as eight seats in Congress. The peace agreement also provides near impunity for many guerrilla crimes, including narcotrafficking, as long as they were done in furtherance of the guerrillas' revolutionary ends. Ex-FARC leader Timochenko is now campaigning for the presidency, altho he has no chance of winning.

Military leaders may want to run their own candidates in order to counterbalance the ex-guerrilla politicians.
'We're going to run the country,' he boasted to us.

Soldiers are also fearful that the peace treaty could mean punishing soldiers for war-related crimes while guerrillas get off scot-free. That's why one young woman accompanying the march told us that the soldiers want to be tried for crimes in military rather than civilian courts. But human rights advocates say that soldiers should be tried in civilian courts for crimes not related to the conflict, such as sexual violence.

Marching along 26th Street.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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