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The Mirage of Conditioning Aid to the Colombian Police

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

05 July 2021

Photo (G.O.L) Riot Police

The House of Representatives of the US Congress has for the first time ever placed conditions on the aid that country gives to the Colombian police, obliging them to investigate and punish those police officers involved in human rights violations in Colombia, particularly in the context of the current protests.

Of course, there are political implications for Duque's government, but it doesn't give rise to any problems for the police.  Despite what the twitter warriors have announced, it is a mirage.  First of all, this year the amount is only $13 million dollars and it will not affect the acquisition of weaponry, training and the operational capacity of the police forces of the country.

It is forgotten that the Colombian army has always had conditions imposed on it and they have not affected its operational ability.  Conditions are imposed on units, such as battalion or brigade etc. and not on the army as such.  Not even the False Positives lead to useful conditions and it should be recalled that the conditions imposed did not prevent a single False Positive.  As part of Plan Colombia, the US demanded the dismantling of 20th Brigade, in charge of intelligence and counter intelligence and still we had scandal after scandal of wiretapping, monitoring and other activities by various formal and ad-hoc intelligence agencies.

Any condition imposed will only affect direct aid to Colombia, but the Democrats have always been more intelligent in that sense than the Republicans.  Their charismatic, eloquent, good looking leaders know that it is all a question of public relations and the police have the right of free enterprise to buy any amount of arms.  For example, one of the most controversial weapons used in the protests is the Venom grenade launcher.  It is sold by a company called Combined Systems, which not only sells its weapons to the Colombian police force but also to the Israeli state in order to attack Palestinians.  Of course, they could restrict sales by private companies, but they won't, Colombia is not seen as an enemy regime.

Private arms sales, since Obama came to power and also under Trump, have always been significant.  Between 2011 and 2015 Colombia received $480 million dollars in arms purchased from companies.(1)  Under Trump the commercial sales fell quite a bit to just $64 million and in 2016 and 2017 there were $130 million dollars in military government to government sales.  In 2018 and 2019, there were no sales of this nature.  Between 2011 and 2015, Obama and Biden sold $574 million dollars in weapons compared to the commercial sales $480 million dollars, previously mentioned i.e. that both the commercial sales and the government to government sales were higher under the Obama and Biden governments than under Trump.

Between 2011 and 2015 Colombia received security assistance to the tune of $1,324, 400 million dollars compared to $944.6 million dollars between 2016 and 2019.  Between 2011 and 2015 20,655 Colombians received training in the US and between 2016 and 2019 another 11,215.  Everything points to Biden being very dangerous to the health of the Colombian people and those who place their faith in the conditions he might impose are fooling themselves.

House Representative Jim McGovern said he wanted to be sure that the US was part of the solution and not the problem.  It is laughable.  The US is always part of the problem and never part of the solution.  They are not even part of the solution in their own country.  Every year the US police kill with impunity more than 1,100 people.  If the public funds for the US police forces were conditioned with the investigation and punishment of those responsible for these murders all of the police forces in the country would go bankrupt.

Photo (G.O.L) Army on the streets in Bogotá 2006

This year the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States was published.  The report, as its name indicates analyses the police violence in the USA against the black population, who suffer disproportionately at the hands of the police.  The report states:

7. ... The Commissioners find that U.S. laws and police practices do not comply with the international standards on the use of force, which require legal basis, legitimate objective, necessity, precautions, proportionality, protection of life, non-discrimination, and accountability.
379.  The Commission finds that neither domestic law nor police practices comply with the obligations of the U.S. under International Human Rights Law and standards governing the use of force...
383.  U.S. Law and Police Practices also violate International Human Rights Laws and standards on the pro¬hibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment enshrined in the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
387.  U.S. law and police use of force standards allow the use of lethal force for reasons other than necessity to prevent imminent death or serious injury. None of the cases heard by the Commissioners presented a scenario in which lethal force was deployed to prevent a reasonably perceived threat of imminent death or serious injury. Indeed, none of the cases presented involved a threat to the life of an officer or another by the victim...(2)
Could it be any clearer?  Do I have to spell it out?

That the US police violates human rights, murders and tortures is hardly surprising as nowadays it is almost a branch of the army.  Since 1997 the police forces in that country have received $7.4 billion dollars in arms from the Pentagon.  They have everything, armoured vehicles, grenade launchers, they have what it takes to fight and external enemy, but they use it against the civilian population and McGovern wants to make sure that the US is not part of the problem.  Well he can start with Programme 1033 which doles out surplus military hardware to about 8,000 police forces in his own country.(3)

Any condemnation of the Duque government is welcome, but lets not fool ourselves, the US Congress is not going to save us.  It doesn't even save its own people.


(1) Data taken from

(2) See

(3) Brian Barrett (02/06/2020) The Pentagon's Hand-Me-Downs Helped Militarize Police.  Here's How

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