• For every combatant killed in Colombia, six unarmed civilians die. More than 4,000 civilians were killed last year in politically related violence.
• More than 300 people have disappeared in 2002.
• More than 342,000 Colombians were internally displaced in 2001, bringing the country's total to 2.45 million — the second highest number of any nation in the world.
• Parties responsible for human rights violations include: Colombian armed forces, right-wing paramilitaries acting as death squads, and leftist guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army.
To counteract Colombia's violence and illegal drug production, the United States has taken policies of military assistance and indiscriminate aerial fumigation of coca crops, which affects other crops and people. Colombia is the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel and Egypt. At presstime, Congress was expected to vote after the November elections on a foreign aid bill that contains $731 million in mostly military aid for Colombia.
In August, Colombia's newly elected president, Alvaro Uribe, declared a state of emergency. Jorge Rojas, director of the Consultancy for Human Rights and the Displaced, warned that the president's emergency powers and U.S. military aid could result in a "semi-dictatorship."
The emergency powers include giving northern military commanders the right to search without warrants, restrict civilian travel, impose curfews and use networks of informants that could be misused for personal vendettas. Rojas said he doesn't believe the government or the guerrillas can win in a military struggle. In time, peace talks must begin again and, "as never before, the role of the church will be important in orienting this policy," he said.
Sources: Washington Office on Latin America, Amnesty International, Religion News Service and Lutheran World Relief.
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