Military links between Israel and Colombia date back to the first five years of 1980 when a contingent of the Colombia battalion "... one of the worst violators of human rights in the western hemisphere, received training in the Sinai desert from some of the worst violators of human rights in Middle East," according to the U.S. investigator Jeremy Bigwood (who) observed that the training of young Colombian paramilitaries could not have been done without the express permission of the highest authorities of the Israeli defence forces.
In those years, landowners and ranchers of the Caribbean region of Uraba and Magdalena Medio (among them Uribe) were not satisfied with the "inefficiency" of the army in its fight against the guerrillas of FARC and ELN for which, in 1983, a group of "young idealists" went to Israel, not exactly to study "agrarian socialism" of the chosen people.
Of land-owning family, Carlos Castaño was then 18. Six months later, filled with "patriotic fervour", he returned to Colombia and tried to apply blindly what he had learnt in Course 562 imparted by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). He went back to the Bombona battalion but, disillusioned, concluded that the army was not killing "seriously".
Together with his elder brother Fidel, Carlos organised the death squad Los Tangueros, a name taken from his ranch, Las Tangas. In My Confession he declared: "In fact, I copied the concept of armed ‘self-defence' from the Israelis". In his interviews (to Spanish journalist Mauricio Aranguren Molina), Castaño emphasised the relations he cultivated in Course 562 with an Army Colonel, Aflonso Martínez Poveda, and "other men of Colombia Battalion".
The serial killer comments abundantly about the "firmness of Zionism... that has always been ... defeating terrorism... from there I was convinced that it is possible to defeat the guerrillas in Colombia". Castaño died in 2004 and recent history remembers him like how he was: one of most bloodthirsty Colombian paramilitaries.
Not only was Castaño trained in Israel, but also Salvatore Mancuso, the other "historic leader" of the (paramilitary) AUC currently in prison. From about the Nineties, Mancuso organised the paramilitaries of Convivir, financed by Alvaro Uribe, then governor of Antioquia (and now the President). In an interview with Margarita Martínez of Associated Press (13/02/02), the paramilitary boss bragged of "... not executing more than three persons at the same time".
The ‘security' company Spearhead, headed by the retired Israeli Colonel Yair Klein, started to train paramilitaries in Puerto Boyacá after the ceasefire of May 1984 signed by President Betancur (1982-86) and the secretary of FARC.
At that time of global rightist gains, the ranchers of Magdalena Medio belonging to ACDEGAM (an agrarian pressure group) were not interested in peace. It bought arms manufactured by Industrias Militares (Indumil) and Army officials such as Lt.-Col. Luis Bohórques (Brigade 14, Bárbula Battalion) handed them over to the paramilitaries. Everything legal, everything in order.
Klein's paramilitary model turned out to be a ‘success'. Beyond the brilliant massacres of poor urban and rural people, four presidential candidates were assassinated. Enthused with the results, Klein filmed the training. The broadcast of the film by ABC News led to a global scandal. More than the Israeli professionals, the film showed known Australian mercenaries and British ones of the Special Air Service. The errant operative was getting in the way of the growing importance of the Colombian-Israeli economic relations like the purchase of 14 Kfir combat aircraft in April 1988. In February 1989 the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot recognised the "possible participation" of Israelis in drug trafficking.
A case that resonated in 2001 was the sale of 3,000 AK-47 rifles and 2.5 million rounds of ammunition, a deal agreed in Guatemala by Oris Zoller, director of GIRSA, a subsidiary of the Israeli war industry. It was said the Nicaraguan police had bought the arms. The Colombian ex-President, César Gaviria, blamed the Nicaraguans in a report. Wes Carrington, State Department spokesman, was more imaginative, saying the automatic rifles were destined for "arms collectors in the United States". Finally, the nimble Israeli trafficker Simon Yelinek, resident in Panama, made sure the lethal cargo reached the clients: the AUC of Colombia.
The official presence in Colombia of Israel Ziv, retired IDF general, represents a qualitative leap in the war plans of Uribe and his Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos. Engaged for the moderate sum of $10 million, Ziv could well have collaborated in the attack against FARC in Ecuadorian territory. His experience gives him away: in October 2002, as head of the Givati Brigade, Ziv invaded the refugee camp of Al Amal (Gaza). Infantry troops, tanks and armoured vehicles caused a massacre in which the old, the disabled, women, children and babies died.
General Ziv is on the payroll of Counterterrorism International and is member of the Task Force on Future Terrorism (FOTFF), created in June 2005 by the Office of Homeland Security of — Israel? No, of the USA. FOTFF operates under the orders of Secretary Michael Chertoff and Lee Hamilton, director of the ultra-conservative Woodrow Wilson Centre, nest of academics, psychologists, businessmen and ‘intelligence' experts.
In Colombia, Ziv's operations base is in Tolemaida. He meddles at the highest level. The Defence Vice Minister Sergio Jaramillo described as "precious" the Israeli help. "They are like psychoanalysts to us: they raise issues we had not thought about."
What will they be?