Colombia's Government-Sponsored Terrorism To Be Funded by U.S. Taxpayers
Senator Wellstone Demands Albright Investigate Latest Frenzy of Killing and Torture by Death Squads Tied to Colombian Military
Senator Paul Wellstone's office has released the following announcement.
U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone today strongly called on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to move swiftly to investigate the reported murder and disappearance of 71 civilians in February in El Salado and six civilians this past weekend in La Union, Colombia, and see to it that those involved in these atrocities are brought to justice.
According to an article in today's New York Times, on February 17th a paramilitary group killed 36 people in El Salado, sixteen of which were executed in the town's basketball court. Another 18 were killed in the surrounding countryside, and 17 are still missing. Both massacres were allegedly committed by paramilitary groups in collaboration with members of the (U.S.-funded) Colombian Armed Forces. Yesterday, President Clinton signed a bill that will provide hundred of millions of dollars in military assistance to the Colombian government to support its counter narcotics efforts.
In his letter to Albright today, Wellstone wrote: "During the debate surrounding Plan Colombia, the Administration and the Colombian government pledged to work to reduce the production and supply of cocaine while protecting human rights. The continuing reports of human rights abuses in Colombia confirm our grave reservations regarding the Administration's ability to effectively manage the use of the resources that will be provided while protecting the human rights of Colombian citizens."
During the debate in Congress over Plan Colombia, Wellstone and others objected to the plan's military component, the "Push into Southern Colombia," given the detailed and abundant evidence of continuing close ties between the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups responsible for gross human rights violations. The final package was conditioned on the Administration and the Colombian government ensuring that ties between the Armed Forces and paramilitaries are severed, and that Colombian Armed Forces personnel who are credibly alleged to have committed gross human rights violations are held accountable.
Wellstone put the following questions to Secretary Albright:
"1) How will the Administration ensure a vetting process guaranteeing that Colombians indirectly facilitating human rights violations, as well as those accused of direct violations, will not serve in battalions being trained by the United States military?While the evidence in this case strongly indicates the link between the armed forces and the paramilitaries in the massacre at El Salado, it clearly confirms a negligence of the duty of the Colombian military and police to protect the civilian population.
2) What will the Administration do to ensure that the alleged murders and human rights abuses in El Salado are investigated, and that those responsible are prosecuted?
3) How will the Administration address the needs of the victims at El Salado, including the nearly 3,000 residents displaced by the incident?"
Similarly, on July 8, helicopters and soldiers from the Colombian 17th Army Brigade appear to have facilitated killings of six men by a paramilitary unit in La Union. "We are very concerned about the credibility of the vetting process used to insure that Colombian soldiers accused of human rights violations will not serve in the battalions scheduled to receive training from the United States military. It is our understanding that the vetting process checks only for those accusations of direct involvement in human rights violations and does not consider the fact that soldiers may indirectly facilitate abuses. This is reported to have been the case in El Salado," Wellstone wrote.
In June, Wellstone blasted the Clinton Administration's "Push into Southern Columbia" military plan during Senate debate, and offered an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that sought to transfer $225 million from aid earmarked for the Colombian military into U.S. domestic drug treatment programs. The Wellstone amendment failed by a vote of 89-11 following an intensive lobbying effort against it by the Administration.
For further information, contact Jim Farrell or Mark Hilpert at Senator Wellstone's office, 202-224-8440.
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