Interview With Colombian Paramilitary Commander

Monday, August 18, 2008; 8:26 PM

Ever Veloza, a paramilitary commander in the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, spoke to The Washington Post on July 26 in his cellblock at Itagui prison, just outside of Medellin, Colombia. Once the commander of two powerful militias, Veloza is now participating in special judicial proceedings in which he has confessed to hundreds of murders and outlined the role of military officers and prominent politicians in the paramilitary terror campaign that shook Colombia for a generation.

Below is a partial transcript of Veloza's comments:

Q: Colombian prosecutors say you are cooperating with their investigations. Why?

A:"What's important is not to talk a lot, but to tell the truth."

Q: You have said that businessmen helped expand the reach of Colombia's paramilitary movement. How?

A:"What did we do with money we got from businessmen? We bought arms. We bought ammunition . . . Rich businessmen here are the ones who benefited from this war."

Q: Was paramilitarism state policy, as some of your fellow commanders have said?

A:"When the Colombian army is so penetrated by the Self-Defense Forces, it's a problem of the state . . . It was not just one general linked with the Self-Defense Forces. It was many generals and many colonels."

Q: How responsible is Colombian society for the war and its atrocities?

A:"I am convinced that the ones who are most guilty are those who were legal and took us to war, like politicians and businessmen and military men. It was the banana companies that took us to the banana zone."

Q: What was your role in the banana zone, where foreign companies operate?

A:"My job was to go to the farms and make sure there were no strikes and that people worked. Who benefited? The international banana companies."

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