Washington Freezes Military Aid To Colombia
The US government wants Bogota to exempt American soldiers from possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court. The decision impacts 50 other countries
Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe won't receive the outstanding $5 million military aid from the annually scheduled $ 100 million agreed by the US Congress. The reason: Bogota has not yet agreed to secure immunity for the 400 US troopers stationed in Colombia from possible prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Colombia has been included in the list of 50 countries declared ineligible for military aid due to this reason, according to US State Department spokesman Richard Bouer's in a statement released in Tuesday. However, Washington issued waivers for 22 countries, in order to put pressure over them to pass the exemption resolutions. Countries like Egypt, Israel, Argentina and Brazil (non-NATO allies) were given deadlines to comply with US requirements.
Colombia is one of the largest recipients of US military aid, as both governments have signed cooperation agreements to fight leftist guerillas and drug trafficking in country's rainforests. To reinstate aid, Washington wants Colombia to sign a bilateral agreement to secure immunity for American military personnel. Colombia, in turn, replied that has already signed in 1962 a similar deal with Washington, but the State Department says it is not enough and Colombia should sign a new one before it receives any addition funds.
According to a number of sources, US it is also putting pressure on Brazil's and Argentina's governments to approve the exemptions. However, both Mercosur countries look reluctant to comply with US demands and could even issue a joint declaration stating their position in this regard.
The suspension covers international military education and training funds and foreign military funding, which pays for US weapons and other aid. The US Congress passed the law in reaction to the International Criminal Court, set up to try war crimes and acts of genocide. The United States says it feared politically motivated prosecutions of its civilian or military leaders.
Over 50 countries signed the ICC declaration, which has found strong support in both the European Union and some Latin American countries. These nations believe that the American strategy against the Court is a serious threat to tribunal's success.