U.S. Policy in Colombia

U.S. Policy in Colombia

Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cut off of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions.

Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of US military aid for well over a decade and the largest in the western hemisphere. Since 1994, AIUSA has called for a complete cut off of all US military aid until human rights conditions improve and impunity is tackled. Yet torture, massacres, "disappearances" and killings of non-combatants are widespread and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day. In 2006, US assistance to Colombia amounted to an estimated $728 million, approximately 80% of which was military and police assistance.

"Plan Colombia" -- the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means. The US government began granting large amounts of aid to Colombia in 2000 under the Clinton administration. Since the beginning of Plan Colombia, the US has given Colombia over $5 billion with the vast majority going to Colombia's military and police. These amounts are significantly higher than what is being given in economic and social assistance.

In addition to its call for a cut off of aid, AIUSA has supported the inclusion of a human rights "certification" provision in US aid packages for Colombia that require the Secretary of State to certify Colombia's progress on human rights criteria before aid can be distributed. The criterion includes suspension of military personnel who have aided or abetted paramilitary organizations, apprehension of leaders of paramilitary organizations, as well as others. While these provisions originally applied to 100% of U.S. security assistance to Colombia, Congress has changed the provision so it now only applies to the last 25% of U.S. assistance.

Despite overwhelming evidence of continued failure to protect human rights the State Department has continued to certify Colombia as fit to receive aid. The US has continued a policy of throwing "fuel on the fire" of already widespread human rights violations, collusion with illegal paramilitary groups and near total impunity.

Furthermore, after 10 years and over $8 billion dollars of US assistance to Colombia, US policy has failed to reduce availability or use of cocaine in the US, and Colombia's human rights record remains deeply troubling. Despite this, the State Department continues to certify military aid to Colombia, even after reviewing the country?s human rights record.

Despite the government sponsored "demobilization" process both Colombian and international human rights organizations have repeatedly documented and reported on continued military-paramilitary collaboration, including reports issued by the United Nations, are abundant. We see on-going use of military courts to handle cases of human rights violations and failure to take decisive action to combat impunity.

Human rights organizations also worry about extraditions of paramilitary leaders to the U.S. as another obstacle to justice. A 2010 report by the International Human Rights Law Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, Truth Behind Bars: Colombian Paramilitary Leaders in U.S. Custody, describes how the extraditions of paramilitary leaders to the U.S. have had adverse consequences for Colombia's ongoing human rights and corruption investigations and undermine U.S. counternarcotics efforts. The report recommends that the United States incentivize the extradited leaders? cooperation with accountability efforts and improve cooperation with Colombian prosecutors and judges.

Year after year US policy has ignored the evidence and the cries of the United Nations, Colombian and international non-governmental organizations and the people of Colombia. Plan Colombia is a failure in every respect and human rights in Colombia will not improve until there is a fundamental shift in US foreign policy.