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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Colombia and the U.S.: Political Violence, Narcotics, and Human Rights, 1948-2010

About this Collection

The National Security Archive's Colombia collection traces 50 years of U.S. policy toward its most important Andean ally throughout a period of sustained conflict, political corruption and civil unrest. The approximately 2,000 documents from the State Department, Pentagon, Central Intelligence Agency, and other agencies focus on U.S. efforts during the Cold War, when incipient insurgent groups first formed in the Colombian countryside; during the drug war, when powerful narcotics trafficking organizations threatened the country's political institutions; during the rise of paramilitary violence in the 1990's, when right-wing militias terrorized rural Colombia in a bid to dislodge guerrilla influence from lucrative narcotics trafficking regions; and during Plan Colombia and beyond, when the human rights issue came up against a multi-billion dollar U.S. investment in Colombian security forces.

The collection features intelligence assessments of all the armed actors, detailed dossiers on Colombian political and military figures, and U.S. embassy records on the human rights vetting of Colombian security forces. The set includes documents on a number of important human rights cases, including the 1985 Palace of Justice tragedy, and the 1997 paramilitary massacre at Mapripán, which raised serious questions about the collaboration of Colombian security forces with illegal paramilitary groups. The collection also sheds light on the recent "para-politics" scandal, which has tied dozens of high-level Colombian officials to the drug trade and to illegal death squads, and the controversial negotiations leading to the demobilization of some paramilitary groups under President Álvaro Uribe.

Research Value of the Collection

Colombia and the United States: Political Violence, Narcotics, and Human Rights, 1948-2010 traces more than 60 years of U.S. involvement in the country—site of Latin America’s longest-running internal conflict, from the early days of the Cold War through the deluge of recent political scandals, which have revealed unprecedented levels of corruption in the country’s major political institutions. The 2,343 declassified documents from the State Department, the CIA, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and other agencies represent a uniquely valuable cross-section of primary source material on U.S. policy toward, and analysis of, its most important Andean ally. The set covers critical phases of the bilateral relationship, including the drug war—when the Medellín cartel threatened to bring down the country’s political institutions—and the dirty war of the 1980s and beyond, when right-wing paramilitary militias in league with narcotics traffickers and Colombian security forces assassinated thousands of leftist political leaders and terrorized rural populations to wrest control of the drug trade from leftist guerrilla groups.

The set also focuses on U.S. efforts to monitor billions of dollars in military aid and to isolate its drug war-related military assistance from the government’s abusive counter-insurgency operations—as well as the post—9/11 decision to erase those distinctions and allow the use of U.S. aid in a "combined campaign" against insurgents, paramilitaries and narco-traffickers. The collection features previously classified intelligence assessments of all the armed actors and detailed dossiers on Colombian political and military figures. It includes documents on a number of important human rights cases, including the 1985 Palace of Justice tragedy, and the 1997 paramilitary massacre at Mapripán, which raised serious questions about the collaboration of Colombian security forces with illegal paramilitary groups and complicated U.S. counter-narcotics programs. The set also sheds light on a number of recent scandals, including "para-politics," which has tied dozens of high-level Colombian officials to the drug trade and death squads; the "false positives" affair, which has linked the Colombian Army to the executions of thousands of civilians; the illegal wiretapping of journalists, judges, activists and members of the political opposition by the government’s top intelligence agency; the Chiquita fruit company’s history of illegal payments to a paramilitary terrorist organization; and the controversial negotiations leading to the demobilization of paramilitary groups under President Álvaro Uribe.

1948-1990

1990-2009