US Military Aid to Columbian increases Civilian Deaths

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When Colombian military units receive an increase in U.S. aid, they allegedly kill more civilians and frame the deaths as combat kills, according to a new report.

The report, released Thursday by two American human rights organizations, raises serious questions about the implications of U.S. military aid to Colombia. The United States has provided more than $7 billion in mostly military aid to Colombia since 2000 for fighting drugs and counterinsurgency — making it the largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel.

The army is accused of killing civilians and presenting them as guerrillas killed in combat to pump body counts. The Colombian military faces significant political pressure to produce concrete results in its war against the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the country’s left-wing guerrilla insurgency.

The report was based on a two-year study using records of 3,000 reported extrajudicial killings since 2002 and lists of 500 military units approved to receive U.S. assistance. It found that in regions that received the largest increases in U.S. aid, the number of reported extrajudicial killings surged 56 percent on average in the four years surrounding the aid boost. When U.S. assistance was withdrawn or reduced, the number of army killings of civilians dropped.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation and the U.S. Office on Colombia published the report. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment.The report’s authors argue that their findings demonstrate a violation of the Leahy Law, which requires the U.S. government to vet foreign forces before receiving aid to ensure they are not guilty of severe human rights abuses.

Title: Colombia: US aid may have sparked civilian killings

Source: Global Post Dispatch, 7/31/10

Author: Nadja Drost

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University