Directors of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, Refugees International, Human Rights First and 18 other groups demanded in a public letter that Uribe do more to protect human rights advocates and trade union members following a wave of killings earlier this month.At least four people involved in a recent national march to protest paramilitary death squad violence were killed by the far-right groups, and dozens more threatened with death, the letter said.It also accused close Uribe adviser Jose Obdulio Gaviria of jeopardizing the lives of people who took part in the march by suggesting it was organized by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.”Baseless comments such as these are profoundly damaging to Colombian democracy and human rights, and place those against whom they are made in direct danger of violence,” the letter said. It urged Uribe to “publicly disavow statements by Gaviria and others that linked the protest organizers to guerrillas.”The presidency did not immediately respond to the allegations, and Gaviria did not return phone calls by The Associated Press seeking comment.Uribe’s administration has been criticized in the past for saying that human rights workers do the bidding of the FARC. Human rights groups say this amounts to a green light for the paramilitaries to target activists.While the number of trade unionists and human rights workers killed in Colombia has dropped over the past 5 years, the nation still has one of the world’s highest rates for such killings.
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