US Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers has admitted that he did not speak the truth when he last November declared under oath that Colombian guerrillas had received training in terrorist camps in Afghanistan
12.09.2002 (By Maria Engqvist, ANNCOL Stockholm) Top State Department official Rand Beers, who heads the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, has rescinded a statement made under oath before a federal court that claimed that guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had trained at Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan.
Beers committed perjury in an attempt to support a motion to dismiss a civil suit against US mercenary company DynCorp, the largest State Department contractor. DynCorp's mercenaries performs a host of military and support functions for the US and Colombian forces who are fighting left-wing insurgents in Colombia's civil war.
According to the UPI news agency, DynCorp and the State Department are trying to convince US District Judge Richard Roberts to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed last September by an estimated 10,000 Ecuadorians against DynCorp because a trial could compromise the wars on both drugs and terrorism.
The suit claims the defoliation missions flown by DynCorp have resulted in chemicals blowing across the border between the two countries and has led to a major loss of crops and severe health problems for the local population. Judge Roberts decision on the motion is pending.
"Any disruption through this litigation of the aerial eradication of illicit drug crops in Colombia will undermine national security by depriving the United States of a key weapon in its arsenal for stemming the flow of illicit narcotics into this country and by allowing international terrorist organizations in Colombia to continue to reap huge profits from drug trafficking with which they will target U.S. interests and American lives," Rand Beers' proffer says. The document then lists over 60 points that support the claim that the lawsuit should be dismissed based on national security concerns and without regard to the merits of its points.
One point in the original proffer made the case for links between FARC and al Qaida, including the presence of FARC personnel in Afghanistan as part of a close relationship between the two groups. "It is believed that FARC terrorists have received training in Al Qaida terrorist caps in Afghanistan," Beers says in the original document. "I wish to strike this sentence," the new version filed by Beers in August says.
Terry Collingsworth of the International Labor Rights Board, which is co-counsel for the plaintiffs, told UPI that the State Department "are so desperate to keep this suit away from a jury that they'll say anything to convince the judge it's related to terrorism."
Washington has previously made bizarre claims of connections between Muslim fundamentalists on one side and left-wing insurgents and popular movements in the Amazonas region on the other, to justify increasing its involvement in Colombia's civil war. On April 18th US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage announced that elements from the Al-Qaida and Hizbollah groups were operating in remote jungle regions near Ecuador's border with Peru and Colombia and that Ecuador was in desperate need of US help to combat them.
According to Armitage, who was speaking to the House Appropriations' Foreign Operations Subcommittee in an attempt to get further financing for the US campaign in Colombia, "We have got in the tri-border area a bit of a problem with al-Qaida itself and some Hizbollah elements."
The border region is home to various units of the FARC-EP guerrilla organisation as well as to, on the Ecuadorian side of the border in particular, vibrant environmental and indigenous rights movements.
Washington is keen to take control of the area not just to facilitate the counterinsurgency war but also for longer-term economic and strategic reasons and principally because huge oil deposits have recently been found in northern Ecuador.
However, the Ecuadorian government denied the claim and, according to the Foreign Minister Heinz Moller, "officially the government of Ecuador knows absolutely nothing about that, and the connotation that this statement could have concerns us enormously". Moller also demanded some form of proof from the US government.
Ecuador is keen not to get involved in the Colombian conflict partly due to the fact that the current regime in Quito has recently been rocked by numerous popular protests itself and the government does not wish to destabilise the situation further. Already the US has a large air base at Manta on Ecuador's Pacific coast although the Ecuadorians have forbidden Washington from using this for anything other than counter-narcotics operations.
Assistant Secretary of State Rand Beers' statements have been obtained by Narco News and can be read here
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