COLOMBIA MAKES CASE TO KEEP U.S. AID
Colombia's attorney general arrived in Washington Tuesday in an effort
to ease growing concerns in the Bush administration that the country
is not doing enough to curtail human rights abuses, risking the loss
of up to $65 million in military aid.
The Bush administration has generally lauded Colombian President
Alvaro Uribe's achievements in security and counternarcotics, citing a
broad array of data, from declining kidnapping rates to a drop in coca
Colombia dispatched its attorney general, Luis Camilo Osorio, to brief
State Department officials Tuesday and U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft today as top administration officials hardened their language
on alleged human rights abuses in Colombia.
Osorio's visit came as Colombian prosecutors charged three soldiers
with the killing of three leftist labor union activists, a sign that
members of the armed forces will be punished if they break the law,
Carolina Sanchez, a spokeswoman for Osorio, said in a phone interview
The United States has disbursed more than $3 billion to the country
since 2000 in an effort to cut drug production and weaken
narcotics-funded illegal armed groups.
Last week Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Uribe to ``keep his
eye on human rights and civil rights, to make sure that while he is
cracking down, it is done in a way consistent with acceptable human
A negative certification to Congress of Colombia's human rights record
could stop the disbursement of up to $65 million of this year's $259
million military aid package for Colombia, according to State
Colombia must show ''substantial progress'' on issues that range from
suspending members of the security forces accused of rights violations
to ''vigorously prosecuting'' members of the armed forces accused of
abusing human rights or working with the paramilitaries, according to
a State Department official who declined to be identified.
He said the United States, though heartened by achievements in
security and counternarcotics, was ``troubled by the persistent
problem of impunity.''
''Despite some prosecutions and convictions, the authorities rarely
brought high-ranking officers of the security forces charged with
human rights offenses to trial,'' the official added.
Osorio presented a detailed report on Colombia's advances on human
rights ''with an eye on the certification,'' Sanchez said.