Clinton Waives Colombian Human Rights Abuses

Clinton recently signed a waiver authorizing a $1.3 billion aid package for Colombia despite the fact that the Colombian government did not pass any of the five human rights provisions that were legislated as conditions of the aid.

It is not unusual for the US to give aid to a government infamous for atrocious human rights abuses. But in this case the US government is brazenly talking out of two sides of its mouth. On the one hand they say that the purpose of the aid is to help fight drugs and end human rights violations in Colombia. On the other hand, they are giving aid to the very regime which they admit is guilty of drug-dealing and vicious human rights abuses.

According to the U.S. State Department's own reports, torture, massacres, homicide, forced displacement and arbitrary detention are rampant throughout Colombia. Journalists and human rights workers are repeatedly threatened with violence and threats against their life. Violence against women and children, child prostitution and child labor are also widespread. In the first nine months of 1998, there were at least 2000-3000 reported deaths. 300,000 people were displaced from their homes in 1998 alone. From 1995-1998 more than 750,000 people were forcibly displaced, and the situation continues to get worse.

The human rights conditions attached to the U.S. aid bill are so vague and weak that, even if implemented, couldn't rectify the horrors of the situation. For example, one stipulation calls for the suspension of servicemen accused of gross human rights violations. Another calls for the appointment of a judge advocate general to investigate military misconduct. Furthermore, 80% of the aid is earmarked as direct assistance to the military and police. Such assistance includes 18 UH-60 "Blackhawk" helicopters and 42 UH-1H "Huey" helicopters (notorious anti-personnel weapons used in Vietnam and El Salvador).

The US government, itself, is imposing a reign of terror on the Colombian people in order to protect the economic and strategic interests of US imperialism. In a "Memorandum of Justification" for the waiver, for example, the White House said that the President was overriding the human rights clause because Colombia is a matter of national security interests: "The US has important interests in promoting economic reform, protection of US citizens, and hemispheric stability," it states.

Today, the Colombian working class, the peasantry, the indigenous peoples, the urban poor, etc., are actively coming out in opposition to the neo-liberal economic program being imposed on the country by the U.S. and international bankers. Repeated nationwide strikes and political struggles have been organized to stop the privatization and foreign take-over of Colombia's economy and to demand increased expenditures on social programs. In addition, for decades Colombian peasants have been fighting for their rights to land and a livelihood in opposition to the landed oligarchy. And again, this oligarchy is linked by 1,001 threads to U.S. monopolies which have turned Colombian agriculture into a cash-crop export economy and which today are further drooling at the prospect of grabbing Colombia's newly discovered oil wealth.

The $1.3 billion in military aid and the escalating U.S. intervention in Colombia is directed squarely against these popular movements -- against the struggles of the working class, the peasants and other impoverished and oppressed people of Colombia for national liberation and social progress.

The human rights abuses in Colombia and Clinton's waiver demonstrate that U.S. imperialism will stop at nothing to achieve its parasitic aims. It is the duty of the American working class and people to fight against this war.

U.S. Imperialism, Hands Off Colombia!