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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Report: Waiting for Consolidation

During 2011, researchers from the Center for International Policy (CIP, Washington), Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA, Washington), Asociación MINGA (Bogotá), and the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ, Bogotá) carried out a joint project to monitor the Colombian Government's National Territorial Consolidation Plan (PNCT). Also known as "Consolidation" or "Integrated Action," this large-scale U.S. supported military and development aid program -- the successor to "Plan Colombia" -- purports to introduce a functioning government in long-neglected territories.

The Consolidation strategy begins with offensive military operations to establish "security conditions." Then, it aims quickly to bring in the rest of the government to provide basic services in a phased, coordinated way. The desired end state is the military's near-total pullout from the zone, leaving behind a functioning government, greatly reduced violence, the absence of armed groups, and the elimination of drug production.

Though its design indicates that learning has taken place since Plan Colombia's launch in 2000, we have concerns about Consolidation: the role of the military, coordination between government bodies, consultation with communities, effects on land tenure, and several others.

Over the course of 2011, we traveled to three of Colombia's Consolidation zones: the Pacific coast port of Tumaco, the La Macarena zone in south-central Colombia, and the Montes de María zone near the Caribbean. In each zone, we interviewed leaders, community members, military and civilian Consolidation officials, human rights defenders, analysts and others.

We found the desired end-state to be distant in all three zones. In some areas, the security situation was difficult. In all areas, the military's role remained predominant. Getting "buy-in" from the entire government was a frequent challenge, and local governments' performance varied very widely. In general, the pace of progress toward the declared end-state had slowed noticeably since the Consolidation program's initial phase (about 2007-2009).

CIP, WOLA, INDEPAZ and MINGA are proud to present "Waiting for Consolidation: Monitoring Colombia's U.S.-aided counterinsurgency and development program" (PDF). This new publication lays out our organizations' principal findings, concerns and recommendations following our research visits to the three zones.

Download "Waiting for Consolidation" as a printer-friendly PDF. We hope that you find it to be a useful overview of our work over the past year to monitor Colombia's U.S.-backed National Consolidation Plan strategy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Colombia Certification: Devil in the Details

The State Department on September 15, 2011, certified that Colombia had met the human rights conditions attached to U.S. assistance. No surprise there—the State Department always certifies Colombia meets the conditions, no matter what is happening on the ground.  To be fair, this time, with the year-old Santos Administration, there’s somewhat more reason to certify than during countless rounds of certification during the Uribe Administration.   The certification document cites the Santos Administration's successful passage of a victims' reparations and land restitution bill; a “disarming of words” initiative in which it abandoned the inflammatory anti-NGO language used by Uribe and his top officials, which had endangered human rights defenders and journalists; progress on some historic human rights cases; and a variety of directives and policy initiatives, at least on paper, to support human rights and labor rights.
But the 118- page document contains a wealth of information that shows why we should still be deeply concerned.

Lack of progress in achieving justice for human rights abuse.  

  • Snail's pace of progress on extrajudicial execution cases. These are the infamous cases of soldiers who killed civilians and then dressed them up in guerrilla uniforms and claimed them as guerrillas killed in battle.  In the Soacha cases, paramilitaries lured young men with promises of jobs, then turned them over to soldiers who killed them to up their body counts.  Of 1,572 cases involving 2,731 victims being pursued by the Attorney General's office, only 138 convictions involving 326 defendants have been obtained so far.  The State Department summarizes, “Though progress was made in several key cases, throughout the judicial system progress remained slow in investigations and prosecutions of human rights cases and cases of links between public forces and criminal groups.”  Military defense attorney's delaying tactics and judges not managing their cases effectively are two reasons for delays.  Human rights groups cite other reasons as well, including lack of cooperation from the military and the transition to a new accusatory justice system which limits victims’ participation in the judicial process.  The United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Colombia office reports that in addition to the cases in the civilian system, “more than 448 active cases still remain in the military justice system,” in contradiction to the Constitutional Court ruling that gross violations of human rights must be tried in civilian courts. The UNHCHR urges that these cases be transferred immediately.
  • Even when military officers or soldiers are convicted, they often do not serve their time in regular jails.  The State Department describes Semana’s article on the Tolemaida “prison-resort” which revealed that “many of the approximately 300 military officers and enlisted men detained (most who were convicted, some for serious crimes including torture and homicide) were living in privileged conditions…  Allegations included that convicted soldiers were still receiving salaries and retirement pensions; inmates were allowed to leave the facility at will, including on vacation; some ran businesses; and some lived in private 'cabanas' built with donations from retired officials, equipped with internet and satellite television.” While the State Department describes how the Ministry of Defense respond to this scandal, it notes that “NGOs and the press have reported that high-level military officers continue to enjoy privileged detention conditions. For example, according to these reports, Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega, General Jesus Armando Arias Cabrales, and General Jaime Humberto Uscategui, all convicted and sentenced for serious crimes, are held at a large military base (the Escuela de Infanteiía) in Bogota, where they live in apartments, enjoy freedom of movement within the base, eat in the officers' dining room, and interact with active duty officers.... In June, a magistrate granted Plazas Vega permission to leave the military base, with an armed escort, for eight hours to attend his son's wedding at an upscale Bogota country club.”
  • The State Department notes the significant decline in new cases of extrajudicial executions since 2008. However, it cites the nongovernmental group CINEP's reporting of an increase in cases from 2009 to 2010, with 12 cases involving 23 victims.
  • Backlash in reaction to advances. Convictions, including of high-level military officials, have been reached in some landmark cases in the past two years. But the backlash can be intense. For example, consider the circumstances surrounding the case of Colonel Alfonso Plazas Vega, sentenced to thirty years in jail for the disappearance of 11 cafeteria workers and one guerrilla following the army takeover of the Supreme Court after guerrillas had taken the judges hostage.  Following this verdict, 25 years in the making, the judge “temporarily fled Colombia because of death threats,” and the well-regarding prosecutor was fired “under questionable circumstances.”
  • The glacial progress in achieving convictions of gross human rights violators among the more than 30,000 paramilitaries who have been demobilized.  The Justice and Peace law governing demobilization permits maximum sentences of 5 to 8 years for even those responsible for multiple massacres and assassinations.  However, even these light sentences are not generally being applied; only 4 convictions have been achieved since 2005.

Human rights defenders and communities remain in peril.   

  • The State Department cites GOC efforts to protect human rights defenders and to expand and reorganize protective services in consultation with those protected. This part of the certification memo contrasts significantly from what we are hearing from defenders on the ground. We hear that the protection services are being privatized without sufficient input from human rights defenders; that some protection has been removed for defenders, particularly in the regions; and that the GOC's response to urgent calls for assistance have deteriorated.  Human defenders report continual threats which are rarely if ever successfully investigated and prosecuted.
  • There was a “spike in murders of IDP leaders” during the certification period.  In the first half of 2011, at least 12 leaders were murdered.   
  • Indigenous persons are at particular risk. The Colombian government reports 12 homicides of indigenous leaders and a total of 55 indigenous persons killed from August 2010-May 2011, while the ONIC indigenous federation reports 122 indigenous persons killed in 2010.
  • Although the State Department outlines Colombian government efforts aimed at paramilitary or BACRIM, it cites NGO and UN concerns regarding increasing violations by these groups. According to the UNHCHR, there was a 40 percent increase in number of massacres in 2010 (at least 179 people killed in 38 incidents in 2010).
  • This post was written by Lisa Haugaard of the Latin America Working Group. It was cross-posted with the LAWGblog.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A request for detailed accounting of U.S. assistance to Colombia's DAS

On Wednesday, September 7th, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) sent a letter to four Obama Administration officials requesting a "comprehensive accounting of U.S. assistance to the Colombia government's Department of Administrative Security (DAS) during the period of August 7, 2002 to August 7, 2010." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus were all addressed in the letter, which asks specifically for detailed information on all "funds, training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, intelligence- and information-sharing, technical assistance, facilities construction and any other aid provided to the DAS, its officials, its employees or any of its subcontractors during this period."

The letter comes after the Washington Post published an article asserting that U.S. aid may be implicated in the abuses of power by the DAS, currently under investigation and being prosecuted in Colombia. Representatives McGovern and Schakowsky also express concern that former President Álvaro Uribe has publicly called the reporters of these articles "terrorist sympathizers," and a "terrorist ally."

The full text of the letter is below. Or download it as a PDF.

For more information on Colombia's DAS scandal, read Lisa Haugaard's blog, "Colombia's DAS Intelligence Agency: A Case of U.S. Aid Gone Bad," and the 2010 report written by CIP, LAWGEF, USOC and WOLA, "Far Worse than Watergate."

Dear Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, Attorney General Holder and Director Petraeus,

We write to request a comprehensive accounting of U.S. assistance to the Colombian government's Department of Administrative Security (PAS) during the period of August 7, 2002 to August 7, 2010. Specifically, we request a full accounting of all funds, training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, intelligence- and information-sharing, technical assistance, facilities construction and any other aid provided to the DAS, its officials, its employees or any of its contractors during this period, whether in Colombia, the U.S., or at other facilities. We further request the information indicate any such aid or information provided to the National and International Observations Group of the DAS.

As you know, the Colombian Attorney General's Office is undertaking an aggressive investigation and series of prosecutions of illegal activities carried out by the DAS during these years. Six former high-ranking intelligence officials have confessed to crimes and more than a dozen other agency operatives are on trial, and several more are under investigation by the Attorney General or by a special legislative commission of the Colombian Congress.

These investigations have revealed a vast illegal network of surveillance of nearly all sectors of civil society, including human rights defenders, political party leaders, journalists and members of the Colombian Supreme Court engaged in investigations of elected officials with alleged ties to paramilitary groups or who engaged in corrupt practices. These illegal operations were also connected to threats received by many of the individuals under surveillance, and in some cases the DAS shared information with paramilitary and other violent actors that resulted in the assassinations of trade unionists and other rights defenders.

Recent articles in the Washington Post (8/21/11) assert that U.S. aid may be implicated in these abuses of power. We are concerned that former President Alvaro Uribe has made public statements claiming the reporters who wrote these articles are terrorist sympathizers (simpatizantes del terrorismo), going so far as to characterize one reporter as a terrorist ally (ocultador del terrorismo), language that increases the level of threat under which journalists work in Colombia. We strongly urge you to make clear to the former president that such statements are unacceptable and ask that he retract them.

We believe it is important to set the record straight in a clear and transparent manner by providing Congress with a comprehensive report on all forms of U.S. assistance to the DAS. We also believe it is important to provide Congress with this information in as rapid a manner as possible, but assuredly prior to when Congress begins debate on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

To the maximum extent possible, the information included in this comprehensive report should be provided in an unclassified format; if necessary, a classified annex should be made available for review by all Members of Congress. We further ask that you inquire and coordinate with your counterparts in other departments and agencies that might have been working with the DAS (e.g. Treasury/Internal Revenue Service) to ensure that the report is indeed comprehensive.

Thank you for your serious attention to this request. We look forward to your timely response
and the receipt of this comprehensive report regarding all forms of U.S. support for the DAS over the past decade.


James P. McGovern & Janice D. Schakowsky

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DoD to extend five-year global counternarcotics program

As revealed on the "U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor" website last week, the U.S. Department of Defense intends to extend a five-year $15 billion global counternarcotics program that is due to expire in 2012. The "Special Notice" released on August 2nd by the DoD Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO) advises potential contractors that the U.S. Government is seeking to issue a "follow-on procurement" to extend the program, and is seeking information regarding the "capabilities, capacity and qualifications of interested prime contractors."

In 2007, five prime contractors were awarded a multiple award, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (MAIDIQ) contract to "provide the necessary goods and services required by DoD CNTPO to support [counternarcotics & counter-narcoterrorism] missions of DoD, [other government agencies], partner nations and State and local authorities." The contractors are: Blackwater Lodge & Training Center, Inc.; Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems; ARINC Engineering Services, LLC; Raytheon Technical Service Company; and Northrop Grumman/TASC, Inc.

The extended program would again be granted for a five-year period, beginning on or about June 1, 2012, and would continue to support the CNTPO's mission to "disrupt, deter, and defeat the threat to national security posed by illicit trafficking in drugs, small arms and explosives, precursor chemicals, people, and illicitly-gained and laundered money. Support shall be provided in the following major functional areas: Training; Operations and Logistics; Program Support; and Command, Control, Communications, Information, Detection & Monitoring (C3IDM)."

Specific details about the extended program have not been released, but the announcement did include four attachments (attachments 2-5) detailing projects anticipated under the follow-on contract. While the current scope of work for the MAIDIQ contracts focuses on Colombia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the follow-on contracts also would also include Mexico, as outlined in the anticipated projects documents.

Though not specified, funding for these contracts is likely to flow out of DoD's Section 1004 Counter-Drug Assistance account. Some anticipated projects relevant to Latin America, divided by "major functional areas," are:


  • Conduct advance driver training for selected personnel within the Armed Forces of Mexico (CONUS).
  • Provide UH-60 and Schweizer 333 or OH-58 pilot training and UH-60 mechanics non-rated crewmembers (NRCM) training for crew members of the Mexican Secretariat of Public Security (SSP).
  • Train up to forty eight (48) personnel to command and pilot Bell 206 helicopters for Mexico.
  • Develop and deliver curriculum, provide all necessary personnel, equipment and materials, and conduct Night Vision Goggle (NVG) Helicopter Pilot/Crew Chief Flight Training for Mexico.


  • Provide a Contractor-Owned/Contractor-Operated airborne ISR platform based in Bogota, CO in support of USSOUTHCOM Counternarcotics missions.
  • Provide UH-1 and OH-58A maintenance, spare parts, maintenance support, maintenance training, and maintenance Quality Assurance (QA) for Colombian Military (COLMIL) personnel.
  • Operate and maintain a deployed squadron of MQ-9 unmanned air vehicles.


  • Produce a report on best practices (tactics, techniques and procedures) for finding, tracking and apprehending self-propelled, semi-submersible water craft.
  • Provide subject matter experts in counter-threat finance topics to assist in all-source / financial crimes analysis for Combatant Commands.
  • Perform an engineering assessment of the material condition of the airframes, avionics systems, power plants, and mission systems (EO/IR and Radar) of C-26 Fairchild Metroliner aircraft located in Mexico.
  • Provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Information Technology (OIT) with support required to field an array of detection and inspection technologies that support interdicting contraband by conducting demonstrations, evaluations and writing technical reports.
  • Perform an Electrical Load Analysis (ELA) and fuel systems analysis to evaluate the condition of all electrical circuits and electrical systems on four (4) Mexican Government-owned C-26 Fairchild Metroliner aircraft.
  • Provide counsel, training and media analysis to officials of the Colombian Government with counterdrug responsibilities.


  • Provide, deliver, assemble/install and provide training for a trans-border microwave communications system (voice, data, and video) for exchange of illicit drug trafficking activity information between U.S. and Mexico security agencies.
  • Provide support in procuring, assembling, integrating, deploying, installing, maintaining, and conducting operator training for Multi-Domain Awareness (MDA) System in support of Joint Task Force-North operations.
  • Select, install, test and operate a communications and signals intelligence system on an existing Beech King Air B-350 based out of Colombia, SA.
  • Procure and install radio encryption modules on fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft in Bogota, CO.
  • Provide a contractor-owned/contractor-operated aircraft with mission systems (COMINT/SIGINT/DF, EO/IR, and SATCOM) in support of USSOUTHCOM Counternarcotics missions.
  • Provide the Government with a Technology Demonstration of a field-proven MALE UAS that supports Detection and Monitoring involved with Counter Illicit Trafficking operations in the United States Southern Command Area of Focus.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2012 National Defense Authorization Act - Senate vs. House versions

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which establishes or renews legal authority for programs that provide about one-quarter of all U.S. assistance to the Western Hemisphere's security forces, is currently moving through Congress. In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version. The Senate's version has been approved by the Committee on Armed Services, but is awaiting approval by the full Senate.

The two versions of the 2012 NDAA have some significant differences in the programs they seek to establish or renew starting in Fiscal Year 2012, which are highlighted below. Once the full Senate approves its version of the 2012 NDAA, the two versions will have to be reconciled by a House-Senate Conference Committee and passed again by both the House and Senate.

Section 1004 Counter-Drug Assistance: By far the main Defense Department program for aid to Latin America, Section 1004 authorizes the U.S. military to provide counter-narcotics assistance and training for foreign security forces, including foreign police forces. The program is not part of permanent law: it was established by Section 1004 the 1991 NDAA, and set to expire in 1995. It has since been extended to 1999, 2002, 2006, and 2011.

  • House version: The House authorizes the extension of the program for one year, and adds the inclusion of "Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies" to the list of other government agencies who can receive Section 1004 aid and training.
  • Senate version: The Senate version also adds the inclusion of "Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies," but instead of extending the program for one year, it extends the program for five years, through September 20, 2016.

Section 1033: A related authority, Section 1033 was first intended to provide specific types of counter-narcotics assistance to Colombia and Peru between fiscal years 1998 - 2002. However, over the years, the program has been extended to include ten Latin American and Caribbean countries (Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic), as well as a number of Central Asian and African countries.

  • House version: Extends the program for one year.
  • Senate version: Again, the Senate version extends the program for five years, instead of one year. It also adds Jamaica and Nicaragua, in addition to eleven African countries, to the list of "certain foreign governments" authorized to receive support under this section. The Senate version also increases the maximum yearly worldwide expenditure to $100 million (up from $75 million).

Unified Counter-drug and Counterterrorism Campaign in Colombia: A 2002 supplemental appropriation first authorized the Secretary of Defense to "support a unified campaign by the Government of Colombia against narcotics trafficking and against activities by organizations designated as terrorist organizations, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)." This section also authorized the Defense Department "to take actions to protect human health and welfare in emergency circumstances, including the undertaking of rescue operations." This authority has been renewed in subsequent NDAAs.

  • House version: The House extends the authority for one year.
  • Senate version: The Senate also extends the authority for one year, but interestingly does not specifically extend the "troop cap," or the "limitation on assignments of U.S. personnel in connections with support of Plan Colombia," as has been extended by all Defense Authorization Acts since 2005.

Section 1206 Train & Equip Authority: Section 1206, begun in 2006, provides the authority to "train and equip" foreign military and police worldwide. It closely resembles the State Department's Foreign Military Financing program. Though it was initially supposed to expire at the end of 2007, it has since been extended through 2011.

  • House version: The House version "modifies and extends" the authorities of 1206 Train & Equip. It extends the program for one year, and increases both the maximum expenditure for the current fiscal year (2012) to $400 million, and the amount allowed to be allocated in the following fiscal year (2013) to $150 million. The House also adds a new report on Section 1206 assistance to be submitted by the President to certain congressional committees as part of the supporting materials of the annual congressional budget justification.
  • Senate version: The Senate version, on the other hand, does not extend the Section 1206 authority beyond what the 2011 NDAA already authorized. Instead, it adds a limitation on the availability of funds, in which "not more than $100,000,000 may be obligated and expended until the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State submit the report required by section 1237 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009." The report cited here is the "Report on Utilization of Certain Global Partnership Authorities," which is to include a detailed summary of the programs conducted under the Building Global Partnership authorities (Section 1206 Train & Equip, Section 1207 Security & Stabilization, and Civic Assistance Authorities under Combatant Commander Initiative Fund).

Military Construction:

  • Both versions of the 2012 NDAA authorize $20 million for "various" military construction projects in Honduras.

Reporting Requirements:

  • Both the House and the Senate repeal the requirement for an "Annual Report on United States Military Activities in Colombia," which details the number of U.S. Armed Forces deployed to duty in Colombia.
  • The Senate repeals the report on "Regional Centers for Security Studies," which includes the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies located at Fort McNair.
  • The House adds a new requirement for a "Biennial Review of Required Reports," in which the Secretary of Defense must "evaluate the content, quality, cost, and timeliness of the Department's compliance with the requirement to submit each report by the date required." In this report, the Secretary of Defense may also submit recommendations for repeal or modification of reports to Congress.

Additional Sections in House Version: The version of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House of Representatives includes a few sections that do not appear in the Senate's version. These sections would:

  • Require the Secretary of Defense to brief congressional defense committees on the effectiveness of U.S.-Mexico collaborative programs intended to mitigate national security threats along the border;
  • Allow for the National Guard to continue to be deployed on the U.S.-Mexico border through the end of fiscal year 2011;
  • Create an Interagency Working Group on Foreign Police Training that would "monitor the foreign police training programs, projects, and activities of the various Federal departments and agencies and coordinate and unify such programs, projects, and activities under a single strategic framework;" and
  • Close down the United States Institute of Peace.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Comparing U.S. aid to Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America

As Congress considers foreign aid appropriations for FY2012, it is important to maintain economic assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean. Particularly worthy are humanitarian aid for displaced persons and refugees; disaster relief and reconstruction, including to Haiti; alternative development programs to encourage farmers to turn away from illegal drug crops; programs to strengthen justice systems and support human rights; and public health programs such as those to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases. See this letter (PDF) from humanitarian agencies, faith-based and nongovernmental groups on aid priorities for Latin America.

Latin America currently receives an unusually hefty percentage of U.S. military and police assistance. Cutting economic assistance to Latin America while maintaining or increasing security assistance will magnify this unbalanced approach to the region.

To illustrate this issue, we took a look at the relative mix of U.S. aid to Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.1 While most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean do not have the degree of poverty and development challenges facing African nations, the region still experiences devastating poverty and is the most unequal region of the world. And yet aid to the region is far more security-focused while initiatives to reduce poverty, tackle public health problems and other development issues are underfunded.

The numbers used to calculate the total aid to the two regions do not include aid from the Department of Defense, due to a delay in carrying out reporting requirements. Yet still, even before Defense Department military aid is included, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) receive significantly more military and police aid from the United States.

As depicted in the above pie charts, only 6% of total U.S. aid to Sub-Saharan Africa in FY20092 was military and police aid, compared to Latin America’s 36%.3 In 2009, Africa received $495,087,366 in military and police aid from the United States – 50% of which was allocated to Somalia under the Peacekeeping Operations fund. LAC received $846,923,000 in military and police aid in 2009.

Not only is the distribution of the type of aid unbalanced between the two regions, but also there is a discrepancy in the allocation of aid. While LAC received 71% more military and police aid than Africa in 2009, it also received 82% less economic and social aid. As a result, the total U.S. foreign operations assistance to Africa in 2009 was over 277% higher than the total assistance to LAC – a difference of $5.4 billion.

As the nongovernmental letter urges, it is important "to preserve already very limited economic and institution-building programs for Latin America. These programs protect the most vulnerable; help farmers grow food, not coca; provide immunizations for deadly diseases; strengthen courts, and help those fleeing from wars and recovering from disasters. Their impact on the U.S. budget is minimal, but their return, measured in increased goodwill, citizen security, and protection for human rights, is substantial. These programs strongly benefit U.S. interests by building support from our neighbors in the hemisphere, showing that the United States can be a partner willing to lend a helping hand."

This post was written by Abigail Poe, from the Center for International Policy, and Lisa Haugaard, from the Latin America Working Group.

Data sources: FY2011 Congressional Budget Justification, FY2011 Executive Budget Summary, Foreign Military Training Report for 2009-2010, Millennium Challenge Annual Report for 2009 (PDF).

1Our calculation of aid follows USG classifications in its appropriations and reporting. The USG uses "Africa" to refer to Sub-Saharan Africa, and does not include Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, which are classified as "Near East." From this point forward, "Africa" refers to Sub-Saharan Africa.
2FY2009 is used for the comparison because it is the most recent year with complete data on actual U.S. foreign operations assistance to the two regions available.
3The total U.S. military and police assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa for 2009 could be less than $186 million. Africa received $26.6 million from the INCLE fund in 2009, which, for the purposes of this analysis, is classified as military and police aid. The INCLE program, however, also provides some economic and social aid, though the distinction does not appear in the 2011 Congressional Budget Guide. The data for LAC does make the distinction; therefore U.S. assistance to LAC through INCLE appears in both the military and economic aid totals.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Groups Call for Congress to Withhold Funds for Mexico Tied to Human Rights Performance

This is cross-posted from the Latin America Working Group's blog, the LAWG Blog. It was written by Jennifer Johnson.

They did it again. Despite the fact that not a single soldier responsible for human rights violations has been held accountable by civilian authorities in the years since the onset of the Merida Initiative, the State Department released its second report on September 2nd affirming that the Mexican government has met the Merida Initiative’s human rights requirements. This report not only recommends the release of roughly $36 million in Merida funds that had been previously withheld from the 2009 and 2010 budgets, but also sends the wrong message to Mexico on human rights.

For over a year, LAWG and its partner US and Mexican NGOs have been persistent in reminding Secretary of State Clinton and other officials that long-lasting improvements to public security in Mexico cannot be accomplished without ensuring advances in human rights. However, State’s latest assessment runs contrary to what our organizations, as well as the State Department’s own reports, have clearly demonstrated. In response, LAWG joined with Human Rights Watch, Washington Office on Latin America, Amnesty International and five Mexican human rights organizations to send the message to Congress that it is in the best interest of both countries to provide a candid assessment of Mexico’s progress towards improving accountability and transparency and withhold funds pending real progress.

While we underscore our grave concerns regarding ongoing human rights violations, particularly impunity for abuses committed by the military and use of torture, we do want to note one step—albeit small—in the right direction. In the September 2nd report, the State Department identified its intention to withhold a portion of FY10 supplemental funds (roughly $26 million) until two events took place, one of which is the introduction (but not the passage or implementation) of a proposal to reform the Military Code of Justice. The impact or effectiveness of such a proposal cannot be evaluated as it has yet to be made public, but the understanding is that this reform would limit the crimes that can be tried in military courts. The State Department’s effort to press for a reform to military jurisdiction is positive in that it points to the urgency of such a reform; however, mere legislation does not alone ensure fulfillment of the human rights requirements detailed in the Merida Initiative which “measure not only changes in law, but in practice”.

You can find below the full statement issued jointly by LAWGEF, Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Washington Office on Latin America, Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, Amnesty International USA, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos Human Rights Watch, Fundar, and the Monitor Civil de la Policía en Guerrero.

If you’d like to read the report in english click here o para leerlo en español, haga clic aquí.

Monday, September 20, 2010

State Department certifies Colombia

Last week, the Department of State certified that Colombia is meeting the human rights conditions required by law in order to release 30 percent of military aid in the foreign budget.

Here is an excerpt of the press release announcing the certification:

Though there continues to be a need for improvement, the Colombian government has taken positive steps to improve respect for human rights in the country. Firm direction by the government that extrajudicial killings will not be tolerated has led to a rapid reversal in this disturbing trend. The Santos Administration has taken significant steps to demonstrate that it takes human rights seriously, which includes establishing a roundtable on labor, meeting with NGOs and civil society groups and committing to increasing engagement with these groups, and reaching out to Colombia’s courts to repair relations with the judicial system.

The 242-page Memorandum of Justification, released by the State Department, details the reasons behind the State Department's decision to certify, and can be downloaded here as PDF.

The State Department's decision has been criticized by human rights organizations, and the Latin America Working Group, U.S. Office on Colombia, Center for International Policy, and Washington Office on Latin America issued a press release (PDF) last week arguing that this decision was made "despite abundant evidence that human rights violations by security forces remain unpunished." They write:

The Colombian government has dramatically failed to meet its obligations to protect human rights defenders. During this certification period, threats against human rights defenders, Afro- Colombian and community groups increased exponentially, while no investigation into these threats has yielded results. The Attorney General is investigating the widespread illegal surveillance by Colombia's intelligence agency, the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), against members of Colombia's Supreme Court, journalists, political opponents and human rights defenders. But these investigations have not concluded, and Colombia's legislature failed to enact legislation to disband and replace the DAS.

The four organizations are calling on the U.S. Congress to "use its authority to freeze the assistance attached to the conditions until greater human rights progress is achieved."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

State Department releases and withholds aid to Mexico

Just as the State Department is required to certify that Colombia's human rights performance is improving in order to free up a percentage of military aid in the foreign aid budget, the State Department must also report that Mexico's government has met certain human rights requirements in order to free up fifteen percent of military aid in the foreign aid budget for Mexico. As required by section 7045(e) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2009, the Secretary of State must report in writing that the Government of Mexico is continuing to:

(A) improve the transparency and accountability of Federal police forces and to work with State and municipal authorities to improve the transparency and accountability of State and municipal police forces through mechanisms including police complaints commissions with authority and independence to receive complaints and carry out effective investigations;

(B) conduct regular consultations with Mexican human rights organizations and other relevant Mexican civil society organizations on recommendations for the implementation of the Merida Initiative in accordance with Mexican and international law;

(C) ensure that civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities are investigating and prosecuting, in accordance with Mexican and international law, members of the Federal police and military forces who have been credibly alleged to have violated internationally recognized human rights, and the Federal police and military forces are fully cooperating with the investigations; and

(D) enforce the prohibition, in accordance with Mexican and international law, on the use of testimony obtained through torture or other ill-treatment.

Last Friday, the Department of State released the report saying that the Mexican government has met the human rights requirements necessary to release $36 million in previously withheld Merida Initiative funds. These funds were initially appropriated by the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-32) and by the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Relate Programs Appropriations Act of 2010 (Division F of P.L. 111-117).

At the same time it released $36 million in funds to Mexico, the Department of State also announced that $26 million in aid for Mexico appropriated in the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act would continue to be withheld until the Government of Mexico enhances the authority of the National Human Rights Commission, and limits the authority of military court cases involving abuse of civilians.

In the FY2010 Supplemental, Congress appropriated $175,000,000 in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) funds to Mexico for judicial reform, institution building, anti-corruption, and rule of law activities. It is unclear whether the State Department was legally required to withhold these funds, as section 7045(e) of the 2009 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act specifically says that the provision does not apply to assistance for judicial reform, institution building, anti-corruption and rule of law activities. However, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Mexico and Canada Roberta Jacobson made it clear that the State Department made "a policy decision - not a legal decision" to "wait on a portion of new funding because we think additional progress can be made."

As brought up in the Washington Post last week, the decision to put the funds on hold "will have little practical effect, because U.S. and Mexican officials have barely begun planning how to spend it." The 2010 Supplemental also stipulates that these INCLE funds for Mexico "may be made available only after the Secretary of State submits a report to the Committees on Appropriations detailing a coordinated, multi-year, interagency strategy to address the causes of drug-related violence and other organized criminal activity in Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean." This report has yet to be submitted, therefore, the funds were technically already "on hold."

The Mexican government responded to the State Department's decision by saying that it is working to improve human rights and that the U.S. government should work to speed up the implementation of the Merida Initiative. The Mexican Foreign Relations Department released a statement, which asserts that:

Cooperation with the United States against transnational organized crime through the framework of the Merida Initiative is based on shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect for the jurisdiction of each country, not on unilateral plans for evaluating and conditions unacceptable to the government of Mexico.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), however, issued a statement suggesting that the State Department report "falls short" of meeting the conditions required in the law.

While I am encouraged by the willingness of Mexican authorities to discuss ways to improve accountability for violations of human rights, we have not yet seen evidence that abuses, particularly arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings by the armed forces, are being effectively addressed. These are not the kind of results the conditions in the law require. A report like this that falls short doesn't help either country.

This is the first time the State Department has withheld Merida Initiative funds due to human rights concerns, and some human rights groups and non-profits view it as a positive step. However, many groups believe that all funds should have been withheld, including the $36 million from the 2009 Supplemental and 2010 Foreign Operations Acts. According to Nik Steinberg of Human Rights Watch, "Mexico is simply not meeting the human rights requirements. ... There are widespread and systematic abuses by the military, for which they have total impunity."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Joint statement on human rights certification

Every year, the U.S. State Department is required by law to certify that Colombia's human rights performance is improving in order to free up 30 percent of military aid in the foreign aid budget.

A coalition of Colombian and U.S. human rights groups recently issued a public statement (PDF) calling on the United States not to certify that Colombia is meeting the required human rights conditions. The statement explains that "not only has Colombia failed to meet the conditions, it has taken a significant step backward ... , particularly in failing to bring human rights crimes by security forces to justice." Over 20 human rights groups hold that certifying under these conditions would tell the new Colombian administration that the United States will not hold it accountable for abuses, while withholding certification would "would send a firm message that the U.S. government expects the new administration to distinguish itself from its predecessor by upholding human rights."

The statement lists several human rights violations that have been committed in Colombia since September 2009, when the last certification was issued, which include:

  • Failure to comply with the condition to investigate and prosecute violations committed by Colombian security forces;
  • Pronounced lack of compliance during this period with provisions requiring progress on dismantling paramilitary networks and new illegal armed groups. Far from being dismantled, paramilitaries and emerging criminal groups have expanded their presence in the last two years;
  • Lack of compliance with the requirement to respect the rights of human rights defenders, and trade unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.

The human rights conditions, as set forth in section 7046 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2009 (division H of Public Law 111-8) and as amended by the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act 2010 (division F of Public Law 111-117) are as follows:

  1. The Government of Colombia is suspending, and investigating and prosecuting in the civilian justice system, those members of the Colombian Armed Forces, of whatever rank, who have been credibly alleged to have committed violations of internationally recognized human rights, including extra-judicial killings, or to have aided, abetted or benefitted from paramilitary organizations or successor armed groups, and the Colombian Armed Forces are cooperating fully with civilian prosecutors and judicial authorities in such cases.
  2. The Government of Colombia has taken all necessary steps to sever links with paramilitary organizations or successor armed groups.
  3. The Government of Colombia is dismantling paramilitary networks, including by arresting and prosecuting under civilian criminal law individuals who have provided financial, planning, or logistical support, or have otherwise aided, abetted or benefitted from paramilitary organizations or successor armed groups, and by returning land and other assets illegally acquired by such organizations or their associates to their rightful occupants or owners.
  4. The Government of Colombia is respecting the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, political opposition and religious leaders, and indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and the Colombian Armed Forces are implementing procedures to distinguish between civilians, including displaced persons, and combatants in their operations.

You can download the public statement here.