Getting Colombia Wrong MPs Letter to Prospect Magazine

Justice For Colombia News | on: Monday, 1 November 2010

In September the magazine Prospect carried an article in which it was claimed that Colombia was a ‘success story’ and that it should serve as an example to other countries, like Afghanistan, that are suffering from conflicts. The November issue of the magazine carried a letter from several Members of Parliament that have recently visited Colombia. They argued that the original piece demonstrated “an astonishing ignorance of the reality of the situation” in Colombia and that due to the massive scale of human rights abuses Colombia should rather be seen as an example of what not to do.

Below is the full letter sent by the MPs which can be seen, along with the original article, on the website of Prospect (registration required).

Getting Colombia Wrong

Tom Streithorst’s ‘Letter from Colombia’ demonstrates an astonishing ignorance of the reality of the situation on the ground in that conflict-ridden country and manages to confuse an improvement in the internal security situation with an overall improvement in human rights.

Portraying Colombia as the “one success story of the war on terror” is absurd when civilians continue to be murdered on a massive scale all over the country on a daily basis. It is the most dangerous place on earth to be a trade union leader (nearly 3,000 assassinated with the numbers going up each year), the most dangerous place for human rights defenders, student leaders and community activists, and one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists (seven gunned down last year alone). Hard to see how such a record can be described as a ‘success story’.

Describing the Colombian military “an effective fighting force which adopted counterinsurgency as its doctrine” only glosses over the brutal reality that the Army is responsible for the majority of Colombia’s human rights abuses. Indeed, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently accused the Colombian Army of a “systematic and widespread” campaign of murders of innocent civilians, on a scale which she said constituted a ‘crime against humanity’.

Former president Uribe is described in glowing terms yet no mention is made of his well-documented links to drug traffickers (including the infamous Pablo Escobar) and paramilitary death squads. In truth forced displacement, extrajudicial executions and the paramilitary infiltration of the state all multiplied under Uribe and, despite what ‘Letter from Colombia’ might have us believe, the country remains the world’s number one producer of cocaine.

Having recently visited Colombia where we met with many of the victims of Uribe’s regime, we agree with Streithorst’s proposal that “those hoping to pacify Afghanistan could do worse than study Colombia” – Colombia being a very good example of what not do to.

Madeleine Moon MP, Tony Lloyd MP, Eric Joyce MP and Jim Sheridan MP

House of Commons

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