Statement On Colombia

Colombia is a close friend and ally of the United States, which makes the reports of rapes of indigenous girls by Colombian soldiers whose responsibility is to protect them particularly disturbing.  It is compounded by the fact that army officers were apparently informed of these abuses but the government only pledged to take action after they were uncovered by the press.  This follows the now months delayed report on orders by army commanders last year to increase body counts, and revelations that the army was illegally spying on journalists, human rights defenders, and political opponents.  These are not aberrations.  There have been countless abuses, including collusion with paramilitaries, since the beginning of Plan Colombia.  During the past 20 years, Colombia has received billions of dollars in U.S. military aid.  We want to support Colombia’s peace agreement by improving rural security and expanding economic development.  The military has an important role to play in that effort, and it needs the trust and support of local communities.  Decisive action is needed to change an entrenched culture in the armed forces that has condoned, and even encouraged, a pattern of abuses.