I would like to invite you to join me in signing this letter to the President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe. While there are diverse perspectives on the extensive U.S. assistance program to Colombia, which are not the subject of this letter, the Congress and successive U.S. administrations have been united in asserting that a guiding purpose of U.S. assistance to Colombia is to strengthen that country’s democracy and respect for human rights. The attached letter expresses appreciation for the difficult security situation in Colombia and suggests some specific recommendations for strengthening democratic institutions and respect for human rights.
Recent reports by the State Department and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights identify persistent, serious human rights issues. The State Department’s report for 2002 asserts that the Colombian government’s “human rights record remained poor.” The UN High Commissioner in his February 2003 report on the human rights situation in Colombia found an increase in direct human rights violations by government security forces. Both reports singled out ongoing army collaboration with illegal paramilitary forces, such as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), as a primary area of concern. As you know, the AUC is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the State Department. The principal intent of this letter is to urge President Uribe to sever all links, including at the tactical field level, with the paramilitaries.