Actions speak louder than words.
This seems like a simple concept. But lately, the Obama Administration and the State Department seem to have forgotten it when dealing with Latin America. Despite serious human rights abuses by Colombian and Mexican security forces alike, the State Department just went ahead and declared that both countries were meeting the human rights requirements needed in order to receive more U.S. military aid.
The Mexican army has used torture and forced disappearances in the "war on drugs," and human rights complaints have escalated, as was documented in an alarming Washington Post exposé. This summer, Senator Patrick Leahy warned the State Department to take these brutal tactics seriously. But on a Friday afternoon in August, when no one was watching, the State Department released the funds anyway.
On Colombia, the State Department itself recognized major problems, condemning extrajudicial executions –the killing of innocent civilians by soldiers in order to inflate their body counts–and the government's illegal wiretapping of human rights defenders, Supreme Court judges, trade unionists, and any political opposition. But it certified the human rights conditions anyway, despite the fact that saying "no" would only hold up 30 percent of Colombia's military aid, and send a much-needed message.
By giving its seal of approval, our government is saying: We don't care about human rights.
This is unacceptable. Our government needs to stand by victims of violence and human rights defenders seeking to build more just societies. It must hold U.S.-funded militaries accountable when they kill, disappear, and torture civilians-not just keep the military aid flowing.
Through our failure to effectively address illegal drug use, our country contributes to the terrible violence in Mexico and Colombia. That's why we support some U.S. aid, but we ask for our taxpayer dollars to be well spent. Instead of subsidizing ineffective military solutions, our government needs to do its part, investing in drug treatment and prevention programs here at home and halting the flow of assault weapons into Mexico. In Latin America, it must increase support to small farmers to grow food crops, not illegal drugs, and to the work of courts, investigators, and human rights defenders.
The Obama Administration has promised us a change from past policies that blindly funded militaries with no accountability, and we can tell from the apologetic statements they release that they want to do the right thing. But the truth is: they haven't yet.
So join us today in demanding that they match their words with action.