The current U.S. Foreign Appropriations bill requires the State Department to “certify” Colombia’s human rights progress every six months before dispersing a large portion of U.S. military aid. Last year alone, that sum represented over 55 million dollars. Nonetheless, since Plan Colombia—a U.S. military aid package aimed at curbing drug production in Colombia—was launched seven years ago, the State Department has not exercised its influence over the Colombian military. Instead, the State Department has consistently certified the military’s human rights record, despite well-documented abuses, and provided them with nearly five billion dollars in aid.
Despite the increase in extrajudicial killings and forced displacement in indigenous communities during the tenure of Plan Colombia, it was not until mid-2007 that the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá agreed to include indigenous leaders in meetings to assess the impact of military aid on human rights. The State Department’s decision was apparently driven by a new condition, included by Congress, in the Foreign Appropriations bill that requires the Colombian military to respect the territory and rights of Colombia’s indigenous people. To date, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) has been invited to one such meeting.
Darío Mejía, member of the ONIC’s executive committee, recently railed against the government’s record in protecting indigenous communities: “Over 100 forced displacements of our people in four years, nearly 600 political assassinations of indigenous peoples in the same time period and 423 illegal detentions. In this war, we understand that the government has an anti-insurgency policy and we understand that the government has an anti-narcotics policy, but we must ask, what is its policy against indigenous peoples—a policy of extermination?”