The Washington Post
Friday, October 5, 2001; Page A38

More Control Urged on U.S. Aid to Colombia

Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia, Oct. 4 -- A human rights group said today that the United States should tighten controls on military aid to Colombia because President
Andres Pastrana has made only token efforts to sever links between his armed forces and a brutal right-wing paramilitary group.

The report, by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, alleged collaboration between three Colombian army brigades and the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces
of Colombia, or AUC, which has been assassinating suspected rebel collaborators.

In southern Putumayo state, the main target for a U.S.-backed offensive against drug crops, Colombian counternarcotics troops trained and equipped by the United
States have been allowed to "freely mix" with the Colombian army's 24th Brigade. That division worked closely with and received money from the AUC, the report

Paramilitary units are infecting Colombia like "a cancer," said Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. U.S. military aid should be cut off if there is no certifiable
progress on human rights, he added.

Responding to the report, Interior Minister Armando Estrada condemned the paramilitary force and insisted that any reports of collaboration with the military would
be investigated.

But according to Vivanco, the government's words have not been met by its actions.

"Even as President Andres Pastrana publicly deplores successive atrocities, each seemingly more gruesome than the last, the high-ranking officers he commands fail
to take the critical steps necessary to prevent future killings," the report says.

                                               © 2001