On Tuesday night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Colombia; by today she’ll be in Barbados. During her 24 hours in Colombia, do you think she heard much about the rise in threats and attacks against Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia? Did President Uribe talk with her about the illegal wiretapping that part of his special intelligence service used to sabotage the work of human rights defenders, journalists, and Supreme Court judges? Or would you guess she talked with any of Colombia’s almost 5 million internally displaced people about how they have been robbed of their land and forced to live in misery?
We doubt it. But these issues are exactly what she must be thinking about as the State Department prepares to make its most important decision on U.S.-Colombia policy this year.
We need your help to flood her office with this key information because on her return, the State Department will decide whether or not to certify that the Colombian government is doing enough on human rights to meet the conditions tied to a portion of U.S. aid to Colombia. If they say no, then the Colombian government will not receive that funding until it cleans up its act on human rights—meaning taking steps to support human rights defenders, to protect indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and to bring the soldiers responsible for the killing of more than 2000 innocent civilians to justice.
Sounds simple, right? Here’s the catch: the U.S. government has never used this powerful tool. With the Bush Administration, it wasn’t surprising that they would throw human rights to the sidelines. But now that the Obama Administration has all its people in place at the State Department, there is no reason why they shouldn’t use this critical leverage. As we pointed out in a recent public statement, the need has never been more urgent. Still, it will take a strong push from us to make them use it.
Hundreds of human rights groups in Colombia have been threatened repeatedly in the last couple months. Seven human rights activists were assassinated in May alone. As Colombia moves towards electing a new President, it is more important than ever that the U.S. government send a strong message to the new administration that it must increase support for human rights.
So please join us in sending Secretary Clinton this important message today.