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US Battleship Colombia - With and without U.S. aid, Colombia's training of other security forces increases

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  • Cort Greene
    Tuesday, February 12, 2013 With and without U.S. aid, Colombia s training of other security forces increases
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2013
      Tuesday, February 12, 2013
      With and without U.S. aid, Colombia's training of other security forces

      Chinese Army participants in a marksmanship course pose with their
      Colombian instructors last August

      In its public<http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-112hhrg70665/pdf/CHRG-112hhrg70665.pdf>
      about <http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116054>Colombia
      lately, the Obama administration has praised the South American country as
      a �security exporter.� As a June 2012 Defense Department
      release<http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116966> put
      it, �Colombia now serves as a regional training base to help other nations
      in their counterdrug efforts.�

      Colombia is now not only the Western Hemisphere�s largest
      recipient<http://justf.org/country?country=Colombia> of
      U.S. military and police assistance. Its security forces are also training,
      advising and otherwise assisting those of third countries. �Colombia, for
      example, offers capacity-building assistance in 16 countries inside and
      outside the region, including
      an April 2012 Defense Department news release. Colombian Defense Minister
      Juan Carlos Pinz�n
      the *Miami Herald* recently that his forces have trained more than 13,000
      individuals from 40 countries since 2005.

      This trend is accelerating. As part of an ongoing �High Level Strategic
      Security Dialogue,� in early 2012 the U.S. and Colombian governments
      developed an �Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation,� through which
      they intend to coordinate aid to third countries. According to a joint
      press release <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/04/187928.htm>:

      �Both countries will develop complementary security assistance programs and
      operational efforts to support hemispheric and international partner
      nations afflicted by effects of transnational organized crime. Increased
      coordination of U.S. and Colombia defense and security support activities,
      which are aligned with efforts by both countries to strengthen civilian law
      enforcement capacity and capabilities, will support whole-of-government
      strategies and produce a greater effect throughout the hemisphere and West

      We don�t know the extent of these �defense and security support
      activities,� or what portion of them are funded by the United States
      (probably the majority). However, a combination of primary and secondary
      sources yields the following examples of what has been happening.

      With funding from the State Department-managed Central America Regional
      Security Initiative (CARSI), Colombia�s National Police participate in
      a *Central
      America* Regional Police Reform Project. �[T]he Colombian National Police
      provides training and assistance in such topics as community policing,
      police academy instructor training, and curriculum development in
      Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama,� reads an April
      2012 joint press release<http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/04/187928.htm>.
      �To complement this police training by Colombia, the United States trains
      prosecutors in these countries.�

      �Colombia sends mobile training teams to *El Salvador, Panama and Costa
      Rica,*� the commander of U.S. Army South, a component of U.S. Southern
      Command, noted <http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116966> in
      June 2012. Colombia trains police in *Honduras and Guatemala*, a senior
      U.S. defense official
      said<http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116037> in
      April 2012.

      That month, members of the Colombian Navy�s new Coast Guard Mobile Training
      Group traveled to*Honduras* for its first foreign training mission, with 47
      Honduran military students. In July 2012, this unit gave an 11-day course
      to 37 members of *Panama�s* National Police, National Border Service, and
      Institutional Protection Service. According to a July 2012
      Colombia�s armed forces, the Navy Training Group planned to offer similar
      courses to *the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Guatemala*, and again *
      Honduras* during the second half of 2012.

      In November 2012, 12 enlisted men from *Panama�s* security forces were
      receiving training alongside fifty counterparts from Colombia�s army in
      Tolemaida, Tolima, the Bogot� daily *El Tiempo*
      The Panamanian government paid the training costs for some, while others
      received grants, *El Tiempo* indicated, without indicating these grants�
      origin. �The militaries of *Ecuador, Argentina*, and*Central American
      nations* have requested spaces [in this course],� the director of the
      Colombian Army�s Non-Commissioned Officers School (*Escuela Militar de
      Suboficiales*), Col. Juan Felipe Yepes, said. �We�ve now had more than 100
      [students] from other countries, and more requests keep coming.�

      In May 2012, the Tolemaida army base
      members of *Panama�s* National Border Service who took part in
      �International 81-Millimeter Mortars Course No. 02.�

      Colombia is also offering training to some neighbors in *South America*. In
      August 2012, *Peru* sent two naval officers to Cove�as, on Colombia�s
      Caribbean coast, for an explosives technician course. �The Navy of Colombia
      has invited the Navy of Peru to send Navy personnel to participate in
      several courses, among them the Marines course, during the 2012 academic
      year,� reads a Peruvian government resolution
      That month, seven Colombian Special Forces and Army helicopter pilots paid
      a visit<http://www.eluniversal.com.co/cartagena/nacional/en-peru-el-ejercito-colombiano-demostro-que-es-es-un-modelo-para-seguir-86330>
      Jun�n, Peru for a 15-day �exchange of experiences� with about 90
      representatives of that country�s security forces. In October 2012, the
      commander of Peru�s army paid a visit to the Colombian Army�s Tolemaida
      base, where he �highlighted the training, capacities and skills that his
      men acquire� there, according to a Colombian Army

      The U.S. government has encouraged Peru to work more closely with Colombia.
      �The United States stands ready to work with Peru on joint planning, on
      information sharing, trilateral cooperation with Colombia to address our
      shared security concerns,�
      Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during an October 2012 visit to Lima.

      In January 2013, the director of Ecuador�s military academy paid a
      the Colombian Army�s Tolemaida base �to learn about the academic procedures
      the Colombian Military uses to educate and train its own soldiers.� In
      October 2012, the commanding officers of the Marine Corps of*Ecuador* visited
      Colombia�s Marine Training Base, where they viewed a demonstration of some
      of the training that the facility offers. The
      Colombia�s Navy did not indicate whether Ecuadorian personnel have
      received, or will receive, training at this base.

      Training of forces from the *Caribbean* has included the Colombian Naval
      Academy�s December 2012
      two cadets from the *Dominican Republic*.

      Colombia�s training relationship with *Mexico* is quite extensive. It has
      included the instruction of �thousands of Mexican policemen,� as the
      Post* reported<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/21/AR2011012106325_pf.html>
      in January 2011.

      �Early one morning shortly before dawn, Colombian police commandos barked
      orders like drill sergeants at six Mexican policemen and two Mexican
      soldiers during a mock attack here outside Cajica, a town on a frigid
      mountain in central Colombia. The target in the training exercise: a
      heavily defended rebel camp.

      It was the tail end of four months of training that included lessons on how
      to carry out operations in the jungle, jump from helicopters, defuse bombs
      and conduct raids on urban strongholds.�

      �Colombian service members have trained more than two dozen Mexican
      helicopter pilots� as of April 2012, a U.S. Defense official said in a
      Pentagon news release<http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=116037>

      Sixteen <http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=283550> Mexican students � 15 federal
      police and one army soldier � participated in the grueling 19-week course
      given by the Colombian National Police�s (CNP) elite *Jungla* commando unit
      between July and December 2011. Also taking part in the course, at the
      Jungla base in Tolima department, were about 58 students from ten
      other<http://bogota.usembassy.gov/pr_deajungladec6_2011.html> Latin
      American countries: *Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican
      Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama*, and*Paraguay*.
      (Not all of them graduated.) �This Colombian initiative is supported by the
      U.S. Embassy through its Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) and the DEA,�
      reads a U.S. embassy press
      �Since 2007, the NAS-financed CNP National Training Center in Pijaos has
      trained nearly 300 international students. NAS has allotted nearly 8
      million dollars in the construction of the training center�s initial phase,
      inaugurated in 2008.�

      Sources reveal several other multi-country training events. The Colombian
      Army�s *Lancero* Special Forces unit, similar to the U.S. Army�s Rangers,
      now offers an international course at the Tolemaida base. Colombia�s armed
      forces report <http://www.cgfm.mil.co/CGFMPortal/faces/index.jsp?id=18428> that
      581 trainees from 18 countries have taken the *Lancero*course including, in
      December 2012, 15 graduates from *Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, El Salvador,
      France*, and *Peru*.

      The Colombian Armed Forces� Superior War College
      hosted<http://www.cgfm.mil.co/CGFMPortal/faces/index.jsp?id=13561> the
      April 2012 Inter-American Naval War Games, in which representatives
      from *Brazil,
      Chile, Ecuador, the United States, Mexico, Peru*, and *the Dominican
      Republic* participated in threat simulations to coordinate joint action.

      In June 2012, Colombia
      *Fuerzas Comando*, an annual competition between Latin America�s Special
      Forces sponsored by U.S. Southern Command. Those competing at the Colombian
      National Training Center in Tolemaida included *the Bahamas, Belize,
      Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El
      Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay,
      Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States*, and*Uruguay*.

      Another multi-nation event took place in Cartagena in June-August 2012,
      where Colombia�s Navy trained officers from *Argentina, Chile, the
      Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico,
      Panam�, Paraguay, Peru*, and *the United States*. They received coast guard
      instruction, according to a Notimex article: �maritime interdiction
      procedures, maneuvers, exercises with interceptor craft, defense and
      survival techniques.� Since this course�s inauguration in 2012, Notimex
      notes, Colombia has given it to 114 students from 24 Western Hemisphere
      countries. A new
      session<http://www.cgfm.mil.co/CGFMPortal/faces/index.jsp?id=16945> of
      this two-month Coast Guard course began in September 2012 with the
      participation of 14 trainees from *Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, the
      Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica,
      Mexico, Panama*, and *Peru*.

      In October 2012, Colombia�s Army
      hosted<http://www.cgfm.mil.co/CGFMPortal/faces/index.jsp?id=17630> a
      �First International Doctrine Symposium� in Bogot�, with the presence of
      representatives from *Brazil, Chile, China, Spain, the United Kingdom*, and
      *the United States*.

      Colombia is also training some personnel from outside Latin America. �*People�s
      Republic of China*Colonel Deng Yubo said that [Chinese personnel] have been
      in Tolemaida for a month receiving marksmanship training,�
      Colprensa wire service in August 2012. The ten-week course took
      place<http://www.cgfm.mil.co/CGFMPortal/faces/index.jsp?id=16813> at
      the Colombian Army�s Lancero School.

      Police from ten *African* countries were
      Marta, on Colombia�s Caribbean coast, in January 2013 to take part in a
      Colombian National Police-hosted port and airport security seminar.
      According to an April 2012 Pentagon news
      �[T]he Defense Department is looking to Colombia and Brazil, both of which
      already have deep ties to Africa and now provide assistance there, to help
      U.S. Africa Command with peacekeeping and other efforts there.�

      Even as they face their country�s own unresolved armed conflict and
      organized crime challenges, Colombia�s security forces will be increasing
      their training of other countries� militaries and police. This will often
      happen with U.S. support. This was a chief topic when top officials from
      both countries met in Bogot� last November to continue the U.S.-Colombia
      �High Level Strategic Security Dialogue.� An unnamed Defense Department
      official said <http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=118122> in
      October, �we�re building a detailed action plan where we and the Colombians
      will coordinate who does what � so we leverage � the resources and
      capabilities we have to effectively do capacity building and training and
      other things in Central America and in other places.�

      While Colombia has a lot of experience with the type of operations that
      police around Latin America must carry out today � organized crime
      investigations, drug interdiction, efforts to arrest kingpins � the
      expansion of its training raises concerns, especially when the U.S.
      government is paying the bill.


      What *human rights messages* are Colombian trainers conveying, both
      inside and outside the classroom? Colombia�s armed forces continue to
      confront allegations, including judicial cases, of thousands of abuses in
      the past 10-20 years. Some of the most prominent are a wave of
      extrajudicial executions during the mid-2000s and widespread collaboration
      with murderous paramilitary groups in the 1990s and early 2000s. Colombian
      military officials frequently express disdain for, or outright anger at,
      the country�s judicial system and non-governmental human rights defenders,
      and their institution recently pressed successfully to reduce civilian
      courts� jurisdiction over them in human rights cases.

      Especially when the U.S. government is paying, what assurances do we
      have about the*quality and rigor* of the training and education being
      provided? Colombian officers have long experience in combat and fighting
      organized crime, but their ability as trainers and the quality of their
      instructor courses is unknown.

      When the U.S. government is paying, how can citizens and congressional
      oversight personnel get information about courses given, recipient
      countries and units, the identities of trainers, the number of trainees,
      and the overall cost? Training by U.S. officials generally shows up in the
      State Department�s annual Foreign Military Training Reports, but the work
      of U.S.-funded Colombian trainers rarely, if ever, appears in these
      reports. This raises a critical *transparency* issue.

      When the U.S. government is paying, and information about training
      events is unavailable or difficult to obtain, how can we verify that *human
      rights conditions in foreign aid law* are being respected? How can we be
      sure that the units and individuals giving and receiving the training are
      clear of credible allegations of past abuse?

      (WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman contributed much research to this post.)


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