Despite presidential apologies and lip service to human rights, the Clinton administration continues to offer aid to the Guatemalan and Colombian militaries despite their records of abuse and support of paramilitary death squads.
Congressional concern over human rights blocked the Clinton administration's attempt last July to restore U.S. military training for Guatemala. But according to Alice Zachmann of the Guatemalan Human Rights Commission USA, the United States still needs to press for implementation of human rights guarantees in the 1996 peace accords that ended the country's armed conflict nearly four years ago.
"The situation is rather critical right now," says Zachmann. "Anyone who's doing anything to bring the military to justice is being attacked and threatened."
In 1999 President Clinton apologized for past U.S. support of repressive Guatemalan regimes, but many activists fear that the same pattern of abuse is being replayed in Colombia. As in Guatemala, the vast majority of the atrocities in Colombia are committed by right-wing paramilitaries with tacit support from the military. In spite of this, the Clinton administration waived human rights conditions on Colombia's $1.3 billion package of mostly military aid.
"This is the wrong policy and the wrong time," José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Americas Division told Mother Jones magazine. "The message is that the bad apples in the armed forces shouldn't be worried. Ultimately, the waiver defeats the purpose of any policy meant to improve human rights." For more information, visit www.wola.org.