Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The US provides sanctuary for some


If you are an officer in your banana republics military and you made your bones torturing and killing your peasantry for fun and profit, you can probably find a comfortable place in the US when the government you kill for is overthrown. One such fallen angel is Colombian Gen. Jaime Lasprilla Villamizar.
A Colombian army chief relieved of duties following a scathing report on the summary killing of almost 3,000 peasants has spent the last 18 months working at his nation’s embassy in the United States, to the ire of human rights groups.

Army Commander Gen. Jaime Lasprilla Villamizar has been serving as Colombia’s defense attaché in Washington since soon after he and other top brass in the military command were removed from their posts after a damning report from Human Rights Watch in June 2015. The Colombian government at the time called it a reorganization of the armed forces.

The State Department was aware of his transfer to the embassy in November 2015, but made no mention that he was working in the U.S. capital when it referenced the killing allegations in an annual human rights certification letter sent to Congress last September.

Rights groups and their supporters in Congress said they were surprised to learn in mid-March that Lasprilla had been in Washington for months, though there appears to have been little effort to hide his whereabouts – his name, email and phone number are listed on the embassy’s website. Almost a year earlier, in April 2016, he joined his country’s ambassador at a ceremony at Washington’s St. Matthews Cathedral honoring the victims of the conflict.

“We were not aware that Gen. Lasprilla was posted here, but the real question is whether commanders like him, not just the low-ranking soldiers, will be punished for what by any objective measure were war crimes,” said a congressional aide who works on Latin American issues. The aide demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The State Department said it had been assured by Colombia that Lasprilla faced no criminal allegations at home.

That’s hardly surprising, said Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division; Colombia has prosecuted few high-ranking military officials for rights abuses in the decades-long civil war there.

The United States serving as a sanctuary for former Latin American military officials forced from their jobs at home because of human rights questions is hardly unprecedented.

Lasprilla’s case involves many of the same ambiguities as one in 2015 where the Pentagon admitted, after a McClatchy investigation, that an accused Chilean military torturer whose U.S. visa had been revoked still was allowed to teach at the National Defense University. The U.S. in recent years also has moved to revoke the residency permits of several former Salvadoran military figures over violations of human rights during that country’s civil war.

Lasprilla no doubt found the embassy to be familiar turf. Colombia’s ambassador to the United States is former Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, who assumed his current post May 20, 2015, six months before Lasprilla’s arrival. Pinzon had served as vice minister of defense under Colombia’s current president, Juan Manuel Santos, who was defense minister from 2006 to 2009, when the killings reached a peak. He’s considered a favorite to succeed Santos as president next year.
But at least they are not socialists and many of them probably have friends over in the Pentagon from their time at The School of the Americas, now renamed The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation a notorious training center of peasantry suppression and citizenry oppression for up and coming banana republic dictators.

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