US blocks aid to tainted Colombian army units: report

The US has halted aid to three Colombian army units after officers and soldiers were implicated in the killing of civilians, a senior US official told Reuters. “We have determined that three army units are no longer eligible to receive assistance, a step we took based on the government of Colombia’s information that these units were involved with gross violations of human rights,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The units were identified as the 2nd and 7th division commands and the 14th engineering battalion. US law requires army units to be reviewed before receiving aid. There is credible evidence of rights violations by about 15% of Colombia’s armed forces, making them ineligible for assistance, the official said.

President Alvaro Uribe is making a great show of a crackdown on rights abusers in the armed forces since the scandal that has led to the sacking of several army officers. “From today on, every battalion, every unit will have a division assigned to compile any accusations of misconduct on the part of any member of the armed forces,” Uribe announced on Thursday. (AlJazeera, Nov. 8; Reuters, Nov. 6)

A case has also been reopened into a string of murders and disappearances at the town of Trujillo, Valle del Cauca department. For months, bodies, sometimes decapitated for mutilated by chain-saws, washed up on the banks of the Rio Cauca. Authorities issued arrest warrants last month for 10 army and National Police officers in the killings following a report by the independent Historical Memory Group. “The reopening of the Trujillo case is a very hopeful sign that the veil of impunity is being lifted,” said Michael Evans, who examined the case for the National Security Archive in Washington. “But it’s still too early to tell if it’s a sign of real accountability with legal consequences.” (St. Petersburg Times, Nov. 6)

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