Colombia: U.S. "Misses an Opportunity"
The U.S. State Department’s human rights certification for Colombia does not hold that country accountable for its failure to break persistent links between the military and abusive paramilitary groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Today’s certification releases approximately $27 million in military aid. It marks the fifth time in three years that the State Department has certified Colombia despite compelling evidence of non-compliance with six conditions contained in Public Law 108-7, which regulates foreign aid for fiscal year 2003. Colombia receives the third largest amount of U.S. military aid, after Israel and Egypt. The most important condition requires Colombia’s armed forces to sever links with paramilitary groups. Yet the Colombian military continues to work with paramilitaries that are included on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. “At a time when the United States has unprecedented influence over Colombian affairs, this is a missed opportunity to gain real advances,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. “The U.S. failure is especially striking now, since the bulk of the aid-over $300 million-is not subject to human rights conditions. In other words, certification can no longer be explained away as necessary to serve other policy goals, such as the fight against illegal narcotics.” Full Story