What the media deems “unworthy”

By Charissa Zehr

In our 24-7 media saturated society, it can be hard to keep up with all that is going on around the world. Harder yet when certain stories are deemed unworthy of media attention.

A recent report on Colombia’s enduring conflict has revealed a staggering number of US military personnel and contractors had sexually abused more than 54 children between 2003 and 2007. Other alleged abuse cases would indicate the actual number is much higher. Exacerbating an already tragic situation is the fact that the rapists were not punished in Colombia or the US because of immunity that American military personnel enjoy under diplomatic agreements between both countries.

As one article from Colombia Reports puts it “The case has caused major indignation among Colombians for years.” So why has it not caused similar indignation in the US? In fact, why is it so difficult to find this reported in any U.S. news sources?

The U.S. military industrial complex has supported the Colombian government with hefty financial contributions for more than a decade. In addition to money, weapons and training for the internal conflict with the FARC rebel group and counter-narcotics activity, the U.S. also sends a lot of troops and contractors to manage their interests.

Photo credit: Anna Vogt/MCC

Sadly, Colombia is not the only place in the world that has dealt with abuse of this nature. In many cases the very people that are tasked with “keeping peace” or to bring stability cause more pain and instability in communities than there may have been previously. It is difficult to get accurate reports on the exact number of cases, as many women and children never feel safe enough to report on the incident.

The lack of interest in these types of reports coupled with absolute impunity for military personnel indicates a broader issue of accountability for foreign actors that carry out operations in other countries. Not only should we call our governments to account for the violence they perpetrate on civilians, but we should also be concerned when no one wants to talk about it. We must demand recourse for the victims of abuse and these victims must continue to be included in the on-going peace negotiations. Even if the United States is not sitting in the hot seat at the negotiating table, all parties in Colombia’s conflict must own up to their actions and answer the calls for truth with reconciliation and reparations.

For more information on how you can advocate to your representatives on these important issues in U.S.-Colombia relations, check out the Advocacy toolkit for Days of Prayer & Action for Colombia!

Update: The US army claims they will investigate child rape allegations in Colombia. Read the full article from Colombia Reports.

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