A Punch in the Gut: U.S. Officials praised National Police amid International Criticism for violations of Human Rights in Colombia

A Punch in the Gut: U.S. Officials praised National Police amid International Criticism for violations of Human Rights in Colombia

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland traveled February 7-8 to Bogotá, Colombia, with an interagency delegation to engage with senior Colombian government and law enforcement officials and members of civil society.  Under Secretary Nuland and the delegation participated in the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Strategic Security Dialogue and discussed cooperation to advance regional security, democratic institutions, and economic ties.  Other senior members of the interagency delegation include Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian A. Nichols, National Security Council Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere, Juan S. Gonzalez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere, Daniel Erikson, and National Intelligence Manager for the Western Hemisphere, Jon Stainbrook. News report link here

During the visit of Under Secretary Nuland  and other U.S. government officials to Colombia, the U.S. Embassy in the country tweeted the message:  “Nos complace felicitar a @PoliciaColombia por su trabajo en todo el país, por sus esfuerzos en extender la seguridad ciudadana  en todo el territorio y especialmente por investigar abusos y elevar sus estándares de Derechos Humanos.”  (“We congratulate @PoliciaColombia for its work throughout the country, for its efforts to extend safety for citizens in all the territory, especially for investigating abuses and elevate Human Right standards”).  Please, see the message here.  The message resulted in a vast disturbance by social movements, and Human Rights advocates in Colombia, mainly because international and national reports stated the contrary.  At least 78 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Agency said less than a month ago, adding that more cases were still being verified.  Violence against human rights defenders, environmentalists, and community activists – known collectively in Colombia as social leaders – has become a big challenge for President Ivan Duque’s government amid international criticism and demands that it do more to stop the killings.  Report link here.

Global Ministries signed a statement, along with other U.S. civil society organizations from different sectors, questioning the comment made by the U.S. Embassy in Colombia.  Here is the text of the statement:

“We are deeply disturbed that during the U.S. High-Level Dialogue with the Colombian government, Under Secretary Nuland and the U.S. Embassy through its twitter account celebrated the U.S. relationship with the Colombian National Police following a year in which the police committed massive repression of protests.  Dozens of people were killed; others were tortured; many were severely wounded, including losing their eyesight; others were sexually assaulted; and many protesters are facing serious charges in the justice system.  Most of the victims are teenagers and young adults.  There is little progress in achieving justice for these acts of police brutality.

These words are a punch in the gut for the Colombians protesting for justice and for all those working for human rights in Colombia.  We call on the U.S. government to stop issuing such shameful statements, to push hard for serious police reform, including external oversight and removal of the police from the Defense Ministry, and to withhold aid to the police until justice advances and police reform is achieved.”

Press release link here

Global Ministries´ Partners, JUSTAPAZ and the Evangelical Council of Colombia’s Peace and Justice Commission (ECC-PCC) continue working for peace, justice, and reconciliation in Colombia.  JUSTAPAZ has accompanied young protesters since May 2021 in Pasto, Cali, Ibagué, Quibdo, Usme, Bogotá and Sincelejo. Because of legal, humanitarian, psychosocial, and spiritual support, JUSTAPAZ promotes ecumenical human rights agendas and strategic alliances.  ECC-PCC has accompanied and supported families and young people affected by the national strike in Cali.  Mission Co-workers, Alex Maldonado-Lizardi and Xiomara Cintrón-García, document Human Rights violations in Colombia, develop workshops along with our Partners to educate communities, and protect displaced families that are victims of violence in the country.

To support our partners and our Mission-Coworkers in Colombia, you can contribute financially through Global Ministries.  Information on sending gifts to Global Ministries online, by check in the mail, or by phone can be found at www.globalministries.org/give.