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US report criticizes corruption and abuse in Colombia

posted by Kirsten Begg
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The U.S. State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report found that despite progress, “significant” human rights abuses and “impunity” for corrupt officials still persist in Colombia.

The report notes that Andres Felipe Arias, former agricultural minister and current presidential hopeful, was “implicated” in the agricultural subsidies scandal.

The State Department acknowledges the Colombian government’s efforts to combat guerrillas, illegal armed groups and paramilitaries, but states that “officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”

The report criticizes “illegal and extrajudicial” murders, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and collaboration between the Colombian armed forces and illegal armed groups.

The report expresses concern over the state of Colombia’s judicial system, which is “subject to intimation,” and in which criminals often enjoy impunity. It notes the DAS wiretapping scandal, in which the government security agency undertook illegal surveillance of judges as well as journalists, trade unionists and politicians.

Overcrowding, torture and mistreatment of inmates in prisons are also issues raised in the report.

The report says that 39 trade unionists were assassinated in 2009, but recognizes improved government efforts to protect “thousands” of trade unionists and human rights activists.

The report’s release comes amid mounting pressure from Colombia for U.S. congress to approve a free trade agreement (FTA) signed in 2006 by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Current U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that his nation plans to “move forward” on the FTA with Colombia.

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