January 12, 2010
U.S. places new restrictions on foreign aid to Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism.
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)
According to Congress’s new demands established in the aid package at the end of last year, the State Department must now verify that Human Rights defenders, including, but not limited to, journalists, unionists and politicians of the opposition, are being respected before Colombia can receive its annual US foreign aid allotment.
Congress included this new measure when it approved the budget law for foreign operations in 2010. Colombia is set to receive $530 million dollars in foreign aid from the US in 2010.
Like all years since the start of Plan Colombia in 2000, Congress included their “conditions package” in which it asks the State Department to certify, before handing over a percentage of the funds (30%), that the country is complying with various regulations, such as stopping and bringing to justice in civil courts military personnel accused of human rights violations, implicated in extrajudicial executions or by paramilitary ties.
But now, they must also verify that no human rights abuses have been incurred by the groups of people mentioned above.
“The new condition is extraordinary because for the first time a link has been established between US aid to Colombia and the protection of human rights activists. Congress sent a clear message…that more should be done to protect human rights in Colombia,” stated correspondent Andrew Hudson of Human Rights First – an NGO that has spent many years working for this change.
Sergio Gómez Maseri, El Tiempo Correspondent