Floor Speech - Farr Amendment to the FOREIGN OPERATIONS, EXPORT FINANCING, AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005
Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Farr amendment.
I am concerned about the use of U.S. funds in Colombia.
In particular, I am deeply concerned about four public statements by the President of Colombia in which he accused domestic and international human rights organizations of supporting armed groups and of being allied with terrorists.
These statements are not only unhelpful but are also deeply disturbing. Human rights organizations are working to assist with humanitarian aid and building civil society in local communities in Colombia that have been torn apart by the terrible violence.
The President's verbal assaults on human rights organizations do absolutely nothing to help the Colombian people or to help bring an end to the violence-instead his comments may cause a reverse in a recent trend of a decrease in politically motivated violence.
Despite the fact that the above violence has decreased, there are some areas of Colombia in which local communities continue to be victims of terrible violence and suffering.
For example, security in the special security areas, such as Arauca, has deteriorated under the current President.
According to Evangelical and Catholic church leaders, there have been dozens of cases in which pastors, priests, and lay leaders have been targeted by armed actors of the left and the right for refusing to take up arms. According to these reports, 37 Protestant pastors were killed in the first 6 weeks of 2003 and four Catholic clerics were assassinated in 2003. Most of these cases were in the State of Arauca.
The numbers of politically motivated murders have not changed for the better-in 2003, over 3,000 civilians were killed for political motives and at least 600 "disappeared."
Around 2,200 people were kidnapped, more than half by armed opposition groups and army-backed paramilitaries. Armed opposition groups such as the FARC and ELN were responsible for repeated and serious breaches of international humanitarian law, including hostage taking and the abduction and massacres. They carried out attacks using disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons that resulted in the death of numerous civilians.
The government and security forces increased their attempts to undermine the legitimacy of human rights defenders, peace activists and trade unionists. This coincided with paramilitary threats and attacks against human rights organizations. The attacks on these groups made it nearly impossible for many to continue documenting and reporting on human rights abuses by all armed actors-if the human rights organizations cannot do their work, the violations are largely under-reported.
Despite the declared cease-fire, paramilitaries were still responsible for massacres, targeted killings, "disappearances" torture, kidnappings and threats. They were allegedly responsible for the killing or "disappearance" of at least 1,300 people in 2003, over 70 of all attributable, non-combat, politically related killings and "disappearances."
Even the United Nations has noted an increase in complaints of serious human rights violations which directly involve the security forces themselves.
I would urge President Uribe to cease his senseless attacks on human rights organizations that simply hurt those who are helping the people of Colombia-instead he should vigorously pursue those who commit horrifying atrocities and terrorize communities across the country.
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.