Colombia: Trusted American Ally?

President Álvaro Uribe meets with Obama

President Álvaro Uribe meets with Obama

For the present administration (as well as the former), Colombia is considered an important strategic ally in the Americas, with its “like-minded” government providing a diplomatic counterpoint to left-wing power-houses including Venezuela. This summer, the countries forged the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, designed to “facilitate effective bilateral cooperation on security matters in Colombia.” The highly controversial agreement (at least in Latin America) allows the US military increased access to Colombian bases, ostensibly to battle narco-traffiking and other regional security threats.

This partnership would be ideal, if Colombia did not have one of the worst human rights track records in the world.

This week,  a panel of experts and activists addressed Congress expressing their concern for the safety of human rights defenders in Colombia. United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya testified that the Colombian government has failed to curb a “pattern of harassment and persecution” that plagues the efforts of human rights activists in the country, and has cost a number of them their lives.

According to Andrew Hudson of Human Rights First, activists in Colombia are subject to “the full gamut of human rights violations, including torture, threats, misuse of state intelligence, systematic stigmatisation, unfounded criminal proceedings and impunity for violations of defenders.”

Panelists pointed to the case of Carmelo Agamez, a human rights defender from the town of San Onofre, who has spent the last 11 months in jail after being accused of consorting with a paramilitary group that he had spent his life battling. In a phone interview from his jail cell, Agamez told the Christian Science Monitor that the charges were attempt to keep him quiet.

According to the panel, much of the blame for abuses falls on the government of current President Álvaro Uribe, who has labeled human rights activists as “subversive,” even going so far as to equate them to terrorists. Kelly Nichols, executive director of the U.S. Office on Colombia, further pointed out that “the capacity of the president and his advisors to order intelligence operations without safeguards or oversight” was in need of revision.

Should the Obama administration be ‘playing ball’ with a country where 3 million people are displaced by violence while human rights activists are sent to prison on trumped-up charges? According to Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, Obama should be doing much more to push the Uribe government to truly clean up its act on human rights.

By Mary Tharin

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3 Comments

Filed under Foreign Policy, Human Rights

3 responses to “Colombia: Trusted American Ally?

  1. Palomudo

    Colombia is run by narco politicians, Uribe was Pablo Escobar right hand man, the NSA has him listed as #82 in the drug dealer lists. The USA is the largest consumer of drugs in the world and the CIA and DEA are the biggests smugglers, cocaine plays a huge part in US economy.

    Americans are a bunch of blood thirsty drug addicts who invade rape and kill on a daily basis and have the balls to acuse others of wrong doing.

    The financial crisis created by your masters (the zionists) is going to destroy you. Enjoy your tragedy, you deserve every minute of it!

  2. Jim

    Palomudo – I think its a little hard to paint 300 million north americans with the same brush, but I understand your frustration. The inability (or unwillingness) of the US public and gov’t to make the connection between lack of progress on curbing domestic consumption and the complete failure of the international war on drugs is astounding. The US public has no awareness whatsoever of its complicity (as consumers of drugs and exporters of highly effective killing machines and training) in the ongoing violence down here.

    Of course, it takes two to tango. There is no viable political opposition in this country. Everyone is paranoid about everything (can’t blame them given that violence has touched just about every family here.) Colombia needs a leader to emerge that can assuage these fears and help the country reconnect with the rest of the continent, which has been under going a period of renewed international cooperation. Uribe is not that leader. He is one divisive paisa.

    I think the best course of action for the gringos would be to move away from military assistance and towards a new paradigm of a public health approach to domestic drug use and an economic development approach to its activities in Colombia.

    That probably won’t happen soon as our attention remains focused on our robot planes killing innocents Afghanistan/Pakistan. We can only take on so many drug money fueled conflicts at once.

  3. Pablo

    This article is way too far from being honest to those readers who might even believe what it says. The reality is that in Colombia there are many kinds of NGOs looking to protect and denounce abuses from many of the actor in a conflict were there has not been truce for over 40 years. But quoting president Uribe as saying that (“Current President Álvaro Uribe, who has labeled human rights activists as “subversive,” even going so far as to equate them to terrorists.”) he never accused all human rights activists as terrorists to start……and there is truth to this quote as well… one of the arms of terrorist organizations in Colombia have become human rights activists who in reality are supporters of FARC, ELN or AUC, sometimes they are members of this terrorists organizations. Why wouldn’t a terrorist organization who has killed, kidnapped and destroyed the lives of many Colombians be stopped from using their own supporters to denounce the government for violations that never occurred.

    There are just a few of these terrible NGOs and they should be prosecuted with all the weight of the law but, the reality is that in Colombia there are many NGOs who PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS TRUTHFULLY. President Uribe has been right to denounce some who call themselves human rights activists who in reality are wolfs dressed as sheep that are looking to benefit the terrorist organizations of FARC and ELN.

    HONESTLY, this terrorists know that what is better than to accuse the Colombian government of human rights abuses where there have not been… and believe me there are rotten apples in government and they are paying their dues… just starting with congress and now with the false positives ( where few people of the armed forces have been prosecuted for framing civilians as fighters) but at the same time terrorists do not have to wear uniforms and follow international conventions such as Viena’s.

    NGOs and human rights activists are very necessary in country like Colombia but accusing the government of not doing enough to protect activists is a lame excuse and accusation… because they are protected.

    Let me note that it is impossible to control the many armed actors in Colombia. If a human rights activist steps on a Paramilitary or Guerrilla leader’s foot who knew how to get somebody killed with the snap of his fingers, it is not going to be as difficult to quiet the activist who is bordering him because activists have a tendency of exposing themselves to dangers on their mission to protect and serve the unprotected.

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