State Department rights report reveals double standard on Venezuela, Colombia

On Feb. 28, the US State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, covering 2004. The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) finds that some of the findings have been shaped by "political considerations":

One glaring discrepancy is found in the treatment of Venezuela [and] Colombia. According to the State Department, Venezuela’s human rights record remained “poor;” due to unlawful killings by security forces, police links to death squads, threats and intimidation of non-governmental organizations, and politicization of the judiciary. Colombia benefits from a much more positive reading, in spite of an increase in extrajudicial killings committed by state security forces, continuing collaboration between security forces and illegal paramilitary organizations, the killing of at least 19 human rights defenders, and paramilitary penetration of the national Attorney General’s office…

In another example, the report notes that Colombian paramilitaries commited “numerous political killings,” while the FARC insurgent group “committed hundreds of intentional illegal killings.” According to the statistics the report cites, paramilitary killings exceeded those of the FARC. Language that downplays the atrocities committed by Colombia’s paramilitaries is consistent with the State Department’s support for the ongoing paramilitary demobilization process, which is proceeding without a legal framework that would ensure accountability for human rights and drug trafficking crimes — even though, according to the report, impunity remains at the core of Colombia’s human rights problems.