by Megan Fountain, Unidad Latina en Acción
On May 10, the Colombian community and organizations Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), Colombian Action CT, and Black and Brown United in Action visited the offices of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro to deliver a letter asking her to stop military aid in the wake of 39 killings of civilians by Colombian forces.
Since April 28, Colombians have been on strike after the government announced tax reform that would raise the cost of living of the middle class and poorest sectors who were already devastated by the COVID crisis. Four days into the protests, the government withdrew the reform. However, the protests continued since the demands were much more: mass vaccination, economic aid to the poorest, demilitarization of the country, and dismantling of riot police forces.
In ten days of protest, human rights organizations have documented 49 protesters killed, 37 of them by state forces; 548 disappeared; 963 people arbitrarily detained; 12 victims of sexual violence by state forces; and 278 wounded, including 28 shot in the eyes, by Colombian forces.
The weapons, tanks, and training come from the United States, paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Colombia is one of the top 10 recipients of U.S. military aid, following countries including Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq.
Connecticut residents asked Rosa DeLauro to raise her voice and join with her colleague, James P. McGovern (MA-02), who said, “I am deeply disturbed by the brutal Colombian National Police (PNC) response to peaceful protests over the weekend. This is part of a disturbing pattern of excessive use of force, killings and human rights violations against protestors in Nov. 2019, Sept. 2020 and April-May 2021… Peaceful protest and freedom of expression must be respected everywhere. U.S. aid to the PNC needs strong human rights protections and conditions. We should apply Leahy Law. No U.S. aid to Colombian riot control police that engage in gross human rights violations.”
“We hope that our congresswoman will use her influence and help us recruit more colleagues here in the state of Connecticut,” said John Lugo of ULA Connecticut. “We also asked her for an urgent meeting with the recently formed Committee of Solidarity with the Strike in Colombia, so that she can hear directly from the Colombian community and understand the gravity of the moment. In the past we applauded her when she voted against military aid in the 2000s.”
Unidad Latina en Acción, 37 Howe St, New Haven, CT 06511, (203) 606-3484 or (203) 479-2959