A delegation of US congressmen met with Colombia’s defense minister and other officials Monday to strengthen defense and security cooperation.
The seven lawmakers, members of the House of Representatives, came as part of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and discussed Colombia’s advances in security in recent years and its “security through diplomacy” policy through which it has trained thousands of personnel in allied Latin American countries.
Between 2010 and 2014, Colombian troops trained 22,000 security forces in 65 countries, according to the communique released by the Ministry of Defense describing the meeting with the congressmen.
The meeting comes less than a week after eight US lawmakers sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry in which they conclude that Colombia is “not in full compliance” with US policies regarding human rights which are required to receive military aid.
The members of Congress urged Kerry in the letter to ensure that Colombia is in fact meeting the conditions necessary for the military aid, specifically in regards to the human rights situation of Afro-Colombian communities on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
“We are of the opinion that immediate action should be taken to stop the human rights crises in Tumaco and Buenaventura, including by taking all steps to stop the abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable,” the letter states.
The letter reminds the US Secretary of State that a “portion of US military aid to Colombia is conditioned on the government’s respect for Afro-Colombian communities’ rights.”
Based on what they say are “credible” reports from groups like Human Rights Watch and other organizations, the Colombian government is “failing to protect” those rights and thus “conclude that Colombia is not in full compliance with these policies.”
The United States government has provided billions of dollars in military aid over the last 15 years, most of it through a program known as Plan Colombia. This stated purpose of this aid was to support the Colombian government’s fight against drug trafficking and armed rebel groups like the FARC and ELN.
As the conflict has lowered in intensity, aid has slowly diminished, though hundreds of millions of dollars in military and police aid are still provided every year, according to Security Assistance Monitor.