Members of US Congress called on the government of President Joe Biden to suspend all aid to Colombia’s police, which is being accused of gross human rights violations to quell anti-government protests.
In a letter, the 55 house representatives urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reject the violence and suspend all direct aid to the National Police, with the exception of human rights training.
Colombia’s security forces, especially its National Police, are more unleashed than we have seen in decades of strife – hundreds of citizen videos show aggressive, indiscriminate use of lethal and non-lethal weapons against citizens in ways that violate both Colombian law and international human rights standards.
The lawmakers explicitly urged Blinken to “ensure that the Colombian National Police Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) riot police unit is not receiving grant assistance from the United States, directly or indirectly.”
Student organizers who have been leading largely peaceful anti-government protests since April 28 want the dismantling of ESMAD.
The loathed riot police unit “has a training and culture that lead to disturbingly aggressive and abusive actions against the civilian population, including demonstrators who do not pose any threat,” according to the US Congressmen.
The result is many casualties—the ESMAD has carried out more than three-quarters of all killings attributed to security forces during the current protests—and unnecessary escalation of confrontations.
The lawmakers’ call to suspend aid came days after the US Ambassador to Bogota, Philip Goldberg, met with Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez to “resolve political differences” and discuss the “obligation to protect the right to the freedom to peaceful protests” of far-right President Ivan Duque‘s government.
US Congressmen previously warned that the ongoing police brutality could trigger the so-called Leahy Law, provisions that prohibit the US Government of sensing military aid to countries grossly violating human rights.
Colombia is historically one of the largest recipients of US military aid.