Justicia y Paz Colombia  

March 29, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The letter:

March 28, 2023

The Honorable Antony Blinken


Department of State

2201 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Blinken:

As supporters of human rights in Colombia, we are deeply concerned about the violence—including selective killings and massacres in rural areas—in the post-Peace Agreement era. We are particularly troubled by the killing of 11 individuals in the town of Alto Remanso on March 28th, 2022, by a Colombian security force unit that has received military support from the US.

At the time, Colombian military officials claimed that all of those killed in Remanso were members of the illegal armed group, Comandos de la Frontera (Border Commanders). This version immediately conflicted with testimonies by local witnesses—collected by human rights organizations and respected Colombian journalists—which pointed to at least four of those killed being unarmed civilians. Press investigations revealed compelling evidence that the military attempted to manipulate the scene of the killings, dressing the dead with military gear and weapons. This allegation echoes the modus operandi of the ‘false positives’ scandal.

According to Colombian press outlet Semana[1], the operation was executed by 3a Antinarcotics Battalion, which is part of the Command Against Narcotics and Transnational Threats (CONAT)[2]. In a September 14, 2021, press interview, Colombian Army Brigadier General Juan Carlos Correa Consuegra stated that, “We have a friendship and partnership with the United States. The United States continues to support us with training and equipment, which helps us to strengthen our distinctive CONAT capacities.”

At one year after the massacre, we understand that the investigations by civilian authorities have advanced very little. An activist in Puerto Leguizamo stated in a public hearing before the Colombian Congress on November 28 that he didn’t know of anything being done about the case by the Colombian Attorney General’s Office. In a private communication to Amazon Watch, he elaborated, “We demand that the Colombian Government and the Attorney General’s Office show us the results of the investigation of the massacre in the town Remanso, in the Leguizamo Municipality. Since the massacre we don’t know anything, we don’t know how the investigation is going, we don’t know who is responsible, they haven’t given any names. So we are demanding of the Colombian government, and of the international community, that they help us clarify these violent actions against the people of Leguizamo.”

An article in the Colombian media, El Espectador recently concluded that, “Up to now, neither the Attorney General’s Office nor the Ombudsman’s Office have announced any progress in their investigations.”

During a hearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives on April 28, 2022, you testified, “We take this (the massacre at Remanso) very seriously and of course we will investigate any allegation. We are very serious about the process of investigation because of the Leahy Amendment, and we have committed funds in our budget to make sure that we always have enough to go forward. If there are credible allegations, we will investigate. And if the allegations have substance, we will take action.”

Given that there are so many issues related to the massacre at Alto Remanso that remain unresolved, we ask that you answer the following questions:

What is the State Department’s evaluation of the current status of the investigations by civilian authorities of the massacre of March 28, 2022, in Alto Remanso?

What is the history of the relationship between the US military and the 3a Antinarcotics Battalion in particular, and the Command Against Narcotraffic and Transnational Threats (CONAT) in general?

What support have these military units received since March 28, 2022?

What is the State Department’s evaluation of whether these military units committed serious violations of human rights, such as extrajudicial executions, in Alto Remanso?

Has the government of Colombia taken effective measures to bring the responsible members of the Armed Forces to justice in the Alto Remanso case?

 Have you applied the Leahy Amendment in this case? If not, please provide details to demonstrate that this case does not meet Leahy Amendment criteria.

We deeply appreciate your answers to these questions, Thank you in advance for your attention to this urgent matter.

The following members of the United States Congress signed this letter on Remanso. They are all members of the US House of Representatives.

  • Rep. Mark Pocan (the leader of this process)—Democrat from the State of Wisconsin. He has visited Colombia on multiple occasions, even once (before he was a member of Congress) when he was kidnapped by the FARC in Los Katíos National Park and held for five days.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern—Democrat from the State of Massachusetts. Co-President of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. He has visited Colombia several times in the last 25 years.
  • Rep. Joaquin Castro—Democrat from the State of Texas. Highest ranking Democrat on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.
  • Rep. Barbara Lee—Democrat from the State of California. Highest ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on the Department of State and on the International Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.
  • Rep. Sydney Kamiager Dove –Democrat from the State of California. Member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva—Democrat from the State of Arizona. Highest ranking Democrat on the Committee on Natural Resources.
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar—Democrat from the State of Minnesota. Former Member of the Foreign Relations Committee (She was recently expelled by the Republicans.)
  • Rep. Juan Vargas—Democrat from the State of California. Former Member of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee.

[1] Semana Magazine, “Exclusivo: la version no contada de la operación militar en que murieron 11 presuntos dissidentes de las Farc” April 11, 2022

[2] Cook, Geraldine, “CPMAT, Elite Command in the Fight Against Narcotraffic”, September 14, 2021 ( -narcotrafficking/ffY9nyF-zMKrN)

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