U.S. Gives $30 Million to Colombian Armed Forces: Why?

The U.S. State Department has given certification to Congress that Colombia meets “statutory criteria related to human rights.”  This disburses the last funds that the U.S. pledged to give the Colombian military, an amount exceeding $30 million.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged that despite issuing the remaining funds, impunity in Colombia remains a concern. The State Department asked Colombia’s justice system to strengthen the fight against human rights violations.

Colombia’s Prosecutor-General’s office is in need of organization and is noted for slow response times to crimes.  The State Department encouraged the Prosecutor-General’s office to effectively investigate wiretapping and surveillance frequently conducted by Colombia’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS).

Just sworn in on August 7 of this year, Colombia’s new President Juan Manuel Santos has been making strides against criminal groups operating in the country and threatening human rights activists.  The Santos administration has started illustrating a commitment to human rights, creating a labour roundtable, meeting with NGOs and attempting to improve the relationship with the judicial system.

President Santos was pleased with the certification by the State Department and called the decision “just” in a statement posted on the presidential website.  He went on to admit that there is much work to be done for the future:  “This is good news and more than anything just because it recognizes the attempt we’ve been making against a problem that no one denies.  Everyone knows that it existed and still exists, but to lesser extent.”

The State Department released a press statement explaining that Colombia took “positive steps to improve respect for human rights in the country.  Firm direction by the government that extrajudicial killings will not be tolerated has led to a rapid reversal in this disturbing trend.”  The Department also took note, however, that “there continues to be a need for improvement.”

The money will be used to help Colombia combat drug trafficking and widespread guerilla violence.  It will also go towards monitoring human rights abuses by security forces.

Since 2000, Colombia has received over $6 billion in U.S. military and other aid under what is known as Plan Colombia.  This initiative was constructed in hopes of decreasing leftist rebels, far-right militias and the notorious Colombian drug trade.

R. Renee Yaworsky

Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

September 16th, 2010

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