Saturday, October 11, 2008

Action Alert: No guns for army commander implicated in death squads

Send a fax to Congress to put a hold on military material

In my last post I described US funding of the Colombian military, and expressed frustration that the State Department had certified the next round of funding. It seems some in Congress may have a bit of sense, because it is considering withholding $72 million of the $180 million certified by the State Department, because of cases like the one below. Continue reading for more info, and take action!

A witness testified that Colombian Army commander General Mario Montoya delivered weapons to a paramilitary death squad when he was a commander in Medellín, and the Colombian attorney general has opened an investigation into the charges, the Washington Post revealed on September 17.

"Gen. Mario Montoya has for years been a trusted caretaker of the sizable aid package Washington provides Colombia's army," the Post noted. Yet US officials have brushed off this and previous reports of the general's collaboration with death squads, saying, "Our experience with Montoya is a good one. He is a great field commander." When similar reports, based on a CIA document, surfaced last year, the State Department simply said it couldn't verify them. But Colombian prosecutors said the witness in this case has "a high degree of credibility."

In response to reports of hundreds of extrajudicial killings by the army, Congressional appropriators have put a hold on $72 million in military hardware - out of more than $180 million the State Department released in July by certifying that the Colombian government and military is cutting ties to paramilitaries and addressing human rights abuses by the armed forces.

US policymakers continue to give the public excuses for funding and training the Colombian military. "There are many excuses for war, and thousands of reasons to resist it," as the Medellín Youth Network says. The Los Angeles Times also called for a change in Colombia policy this month, saying the army has "murderous thugs on the loose" and insisting that "the U.S. should not be the financial backer of army-sponsored domestic terrorism."

Please send a message to Congressional appropriators today. They have the power to keep a hold on funds for guns, training and hardware for the Colombian army. They should use it! With the recent evidence linking Montoya to the paramilitaries, insist that Congress keep a hold on US military aid to Colombia. To send a message, click here.

Read the full Washington Post report.

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