Authors: Antonio Saadipour Sellés, Lisa Haugaard
Colombians are still reeling from two months of protests, the longest in the nation’s history, during which Colombian police and the ESMAD anti-riot squad routinely fired live bullets and shot tear gas, rubber bullets, and other projectiles directly at protesters, first aid medics treating the wounded, human rights defenders accompanying young people, and journalists attempting to cover the protests.
By the end of it all, 44 people were killed by Colombian security forces, according to the NGO Temblores.
The U.S. government supplies Colombia with massive security aid, meaning our country is complicit in the repression of peaceful activists and protesters. In order to be champions of human rights at home and abroad, we must put a stop to this NOW.
What is Happening?
Representative Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is offering two amendments on Colombia to the National Defense Authorization Act. One bars U.S. support to Colombia’s brutal ESMAD anti-riot squad, which committed gross human rights violations against teenagers and young adults protesting across Colombia. The amendment bars training and commercial export licenses for crowd control items to ESMAD.
The second amendment bars funding for aerial spraying in Colombia unless used in accordance with national and local laws. Aerial spraying is an inhumane and ultimately costly and ineffective strategy. It kicks the can down the road by failing to address the underlying causes of coca production and is used instead of more productive strategies that work with small farmers to sustainably replace coca production with licit livelihoods. U.S. support for aerial spraying would also undermine Colombia’s historic 2016 peace accords which call for the government to work with farmers to eradicate and replace coca production.
How You Can Help
Time is of the essence, so we need you to CALL, not write, your representative in Congress now, as House votes could be happening as early as today or tomorrow. Here’s what you do:
- Call your representative’s office. If you don’t know who your representative is, find them here.
- Ask to speak to the office’s foreign policy or defense aide.
- Once connected, read the script below.
- You might be asked to just leave a message, either with the front desk or on voicemail. Should that happen, read the same script.
“My name is [First and Last Name] and I’m a constituent calling from [City, State, Zip Code]. Since April 28, there has been massive police brutality against protesters in Colombia, resulting in the deaths of at least 44 protesters and bystanders at the hands of Colombia’s security forces. The U.S. plays an active role in this violence as our government spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year in U.S. taxpayer aid for Colombia, including for the police and military.
I’m calling you to urge Rep. [YOUR REP’S LAST NAME] to vote YES on Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s Colombia amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act on the brutal anti-riot squad ESMAD and inhumane and ineffective aerial spraying. With the massive aid the United States provides to Colombia, our government bears responsibility for this police brutality. We cannot be complicit as security forces in Colombia rampantly commit human rights violations.
Is this something Representative [YOUR REP’S LAST NAME] can support? I hope you will consider my request, and thank you for your time.”
This is just a small action the U.S. can take, but its effects will ripple. We will not stop until that ripple becomes a wave. Peace in Colombia must be consolidated, and we must do our part.