Friday, June 08, 2007

U.S. Anti-Terror and Anti-Drug War Benefit Colombian Government, Despite Human Rights Concerns

WASHINGTON - JUNE 7 - Despite a post-9/11 shift to emphasize terrorism in the U.S.-backed fight against drugs in Colombia, policy goals have been stymied by ongoing human rights violations and a wave of scandals linking scores of government officials to paramilitary groups designated by the United States as terrorist groups, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Colombia benefited from a nearly half a billion dollar increase in overall U.S. military aid in the three years following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Foreign Military Financing (FMF), which finances foreign government purchases of U.S. military services and training, rose from zero in the three years before the attacks to more than $100 million in the following three years. This aid came on top of the nearly $2 billion during the same time period from U.S. taxpayers that Colombia received from the Pentagon and State Department to counter drug trafficking in the region, the Center's "Collateral Damage" series found.

American largesse has positioned the troubled nation among the top 10 recipients of U.S. military aid in the three years after 9/11. Despite that, U.S.-trained Colombian military and security forces have been criticized by human rights groups for their alleged kidnappings, torturing and murder of civilians.

"What matters now is the fight against terrorism, not the protection of human rights," said Professor Bruce Bagley, a Colombia expert at the University of Miami. "Despite the fact that the demobilization of paramilitary groups has contributed to fewer massacres and the kidnapping numbers are down, last year Colombia was still the most dangerous country on the planet for union leaders and activists."


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