An ICIJ Investigation U.S. Aid in Latin America

U.S. Military Aid to Latin America Linked to Human Rights Abuses

Few Americans know it, but the United States is currently embroiled in the biggest guerrilla war since Vietnam.

In this investigation

U.S. Aid in Latin America
Policies Inconsistent on Shooting Suspected Drug Planes
U.S. Aid in Latin America
Drug War Replaces Cold War
U.S. Aid in Latin America
U.S. Shrugged Off Corruption, Abuse in Service of Drug War

About this investigation

U.S. anti-drug money spent on Latin America has been funneled through corrupt military, paramilitary and intelligence organizations and ends up violating basic human rights.

Read More

More articles

MEXICO: During a 1997 training exercise, candidates for an elite Mexican military unit, the Air-Mobile Special Forces Groups, were divided into two teams. Team A was packed into a truck and ambushed by Team B, which took prisoners. The methods used by Team B members to extract information from their captured rivals were not exactly in line with international law. “They were beaten,” said one former officer who observed the training. “They were smothered by putting a plastic bag on their heads; they were hit with sticks on the soles of their feet.” The interrogation went on, he told ICIJ, “until they managed to escape.”

U.S. Aid in Latin America

The Helicopter War

WASHINGTON: As aid to Colombia mushroomed in the late 1990s, an ugly feud broke out over combat helicopters, the largest line item in the Clinton administration’s $1.3 billion Colombian aid package.

U.S. Aid in Latin America

Outsourcing War

COLOMBIA: One of the striking characteristics of the U.S. operation in Colombia and elsewhere in the Andes is hiring civilians for work traditionally carried out by U.S. military and intelligence services.

U.S. Aid in Latin America

Fighting One Half of the Drug War

COLOMBIA: Putumayo, a vast, rainforest-carpeted province in southern Colombia, is the main military target of the $1.3 billion U.S. aid package known as Plan Colombia. Coca grown in the region provides 40 percent of the cocaine sold in the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Pilots working for DynCorp, a major U.S. government military contractor, spray poison on the coca of Putumayo, while U.S.-trained assault troops secure the area for the fumigation raids. But there are other forces operating here, as well.

WASHINGTON: At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 5, 1998, Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, then head of the U.S. Southern Command, laid out the rationale for a large-scale U.S. military aid program unfolding for Colombia.

U.S. anti-drug money spent on Latin America has been funneled through corrupt military, paramilitary and intelligence organizations and ends up violating basic human rights.

Stay informed

Icij on twitter

About us

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of more than 200 investigative journalists in 70 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.

Learn more

Support us

Independent, fearless investigative journalism is expensive and ICIJ relies on your support.

Help protect global societies from unprecedented threats by supporting independent investigative journalism.