COLOMBIA MAKES CASE TO KEEP U.S. AID

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  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

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    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
    plantations.

    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
    from Bogota.

    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
    rights standards.''

    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
    Department officials.

    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.