On May 14, U.S. Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Mark Pocan (WI-02), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) led 55 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the State Department to more forcefully denounce police brutality in Colombia, freeze police aid and sales of crowd control equipment, and promote dialogue.
See the full letter below:
May 14, 2021
Antony John Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 “C” Street NW Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Blinken,
We write to express our grave concern about the political and human rights situation in Colombia, which remains out of control as legitimate protest enters a third week. We urge the State Department and all other U.S. departments and agencies to clearly and unambiguously denounce the violence, call for immediate de-escalation, help calm tensions, and facilitate inclusive social and political solutions in Colombia. Strong public statements and actions by the United States can help Colombia restore calm and confidence and advance the 2016 peace accord’s promise of resolving challenges through broad-based participation in the political process.
Colombia’s security forces, especially its National Police, are more unleashed than we have seen in decades of strife – hundreds of citizen videos show aggressive, indiscriminate use of lethal and non- lethal weapons against citizens in ways that violate both Colombian law and international human rights standards. According to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman (Defensor), at least 42 people have been
killed, including one police officer, as of May 12, and hundreds more civilians and police injured. This past week, in Cali, we were shocked to learn that the national police fired on unarmed members of the Indigenous Guard. The brutal and excessive use of force from the Colombian National Police and the riot police have been denounced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter- American Commission for Human Rights, the OAS, the European Union, and hundreds of Colombian and international human rights organizations, monitors, and defenders.
A long list of grievances, exacerbated by the pandemic, has people protesting in large numbers in scores of cities and towns. Over the past two weeks, we witnessed significant escalation in the use of aggressive and excessive use of force by the public security and military forces against civilian demonstrators. The brutality of the response was frequently rationalized as responding to those elements on the margins of protest committing acts of vandalism, looting, assault, and other disorder.
After nearly two weeks of protest, we welcome the news that the Colombian government met on
Monday, May 10, with representatives of the nation-wide protests, accompanied by observers from the United Nations and the Colombian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Despite a disappointing first meeting, we hope that this might help de-escalate tensions, cease the brutal response by public security forces against demonstrators, and begin to address the many underlying concerns raised by the protest.
While the United States cannot resolve this crisis, it should be part of the solution, starting with immediate-term efforts to stop violence from spiraling. After decades of close partnership, what the U.S. government says carries weight in Colombia – as does what the U.S. government fails to say. Specifically, we ask that the Department of State and the U.S. interagency:
Further, Mr. Secretary, as tensions de-escalate, we urge the United States immediately make available to Colombia (and Latin America more broadly) tens of millions of the surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccine it has stockpiled. Colombia is undergoing its third and most deadly surge of COVID-19. We can make a genuine difference in restoring health, security, confidence, and hope among the Colombian people.
Mr. Secretary, Colombia could come out of this experience a stronger and more democratic partner to the United States. On its streets right now is a generation that is politically engaged and concerned about their country’s future. If able to participate in meaningful dialogue, this generation could help carry Colombia forward for years, increasing the quality of democracy and the likelihood of peace and prosperity.
Thank you for your immediate, serious attention and consideration of these requests.
The letter was also signed by U.S. Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-03), Maxine Waters (CA-43), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Jesús C. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16) , Karen Bass (CA-37), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Andy Levin (MI-09), Grace Meng (NY-06), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at large), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Susan Wild (PA-17), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Peter Welch (VT-at large), Cori Bush (MO-01), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09), André Carson (IN-07), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Norma Torres (CA-35), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Dina Titus (NV-01), Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), William R. Keating (MA09), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), and Lloyd Doggett (TX-35).