A group of 55 members of the United States congress have written to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over ongoing human rights violations against protesters in Colombia and to call for a review of US funding to Colombia’s security forces. The letter calls on the State Department to ‘facilitate inclusive social and political solutions’ to the instability which has engulfed Colombia in recent weeks.
Since the latest round of National Strike mobilisations were launched on 28 April – to protest against tax reforms, economic inequality and the murders of hundreds of social activists, among other issues – security forces have sough to suppress dissent through force. As international bodies such as the United Nations and Organization of American States have expressed concern over the violence, protests have intensified across the country and drawn in new social sectors, particularly young Colombians unaffiliated to organisations which form the National Strike organisational committee.
The US congress members highlighted major violations committed by Colombian security forces, including the police firing at unarmed indigneous protesters in Cali amid ‘significant escalation in the use of aggressive and excessive use of force by the public security and military forces against civilian demonstrators’. They also called for dialogue between the government and civil society representatives, as well as :
- State department condemnation of the violence committed by Colombian security forces and an end to the excessive use of force.
- Suspension of US funding to Colombian security forces, particularly the ESMAD riot police unit responsible for the majority of abuses, and the establishment of clear guidelines for Colombian policing and accountability.
- Freeze sales of weapons and crowd control equipment to Colombian police and ESMAD.
- Issue a caution to Colombia’s government over its repressive approach to public protest.
- Demand respect for human rights defenders and journalists in Colombia.
- Condemn statements by high-profile politicians in Colombia which seek to stigmatise protesters.
- Support dialogue wherever suitable.
The United States is Colombia’s largest military and trade partner. So far, it has not indicated it will meet the recommendations urged by the US congress members.
Read or download the full letter via the link below.