U.S. Aid to Colombia Continues, Despite "Dire" Human Rights Record

May 13, 2002

Early in May, the U.S. government sent an estimated $104 million in military aid to Colombia after the State Department certified that the Colombian government is in compliance with human rights conditions as required by U.S. law. This certification also clears the way for hundreds of more in military aid to be sent over the next several months.

Several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), strenuously opposed the State Department's action and presented the government with documented reports detailing the Colombian government's "dire human rights record." In a joint statement, the three organizations denounced the "Colombian government's failure to take even minimal steps to meet the conditions" mandated under U.S. law. Specifically, the Colombian army failed each of three tests required to receive U.S. aid by 1) refusing to suspend high-ranking military officers responsible for human rights abuses; 2) failing to insure cooperation between the military and civilian, judicial authorities; and 3) continuing to maintain direct links with paramilitary death squads.

In a further statement, the Executive Director of WOLA said that "the decision to certify Colombia on human rights misrepresents the facts in order to keep the aid spigot open."