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Commentary :: Human Rights
BTL:New U.S. Military Bases in Colombia Will Increase Regional Tensions
18 Sep 2009
BETWEEN THE LINES Syndicated Radio Newsmagazine
New U.S. Military Bases in Colombia Will Increase Regional Tensions

Interview with Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

For more than 40 years, political violence has been a fact of life in Colombia, as left-wing and right-wing guerrilla groups have fought the government and each other. The U.S. government, under President Bill Clinton, increased the U.S. role there with the inauguration of Plan Colombia in 2000, at the end of Clinton's second term. The stated goal was to help Colombia fight drug trafficking, which was, among other things, fueling the guerrilla movements.

Continued U.S. funding was supposedly contingent on improvements in Colombia's human rights record. That nation is currently the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the world. In August, the Obama administration brokered a deal with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to increase the U.S. military presence in his country, much to the dismay of many other Latin American nations. Then, on Sept. 11, the U.S. State Department certified enough improvement in Colombia's human rights record that it released $32 million to be used to fight gangs and drug smugglers. This, despite the fact that extra-judicial killings in Colombia are still common, including 49 labor rights activists murdered in 2008, up from 39 killed during 2007, but down from the 78 killed in 2006.

In June, the United Nations reported that Colombian soldiers had killed hundreds of civilians, falsely identifying them as leftist guerrillas in order to increase body counts. Between the Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Larry Birns, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. He describes some of the background to these two recent developments and what they portend for the region.
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"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
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©2009 Between The Lines. All Rights Reserved.
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