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| 9/14/2009 12:00:00 AM

U.S. Upgrades Colombia’s Human Rights Score

Sept 14--The United States said Friday that it had legally certified an improvement in Colombia’s human rights record, allowing the use of $32 million in withheld money from Washington for fighting gangs and drug smugglers.

A State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, said Colombia must still make progress on human rights, and he described in a statement “several disquieting challenges,” including allegations of killings of civilians by soldiers and illegal surveillance.

But, he said, the country has “made significant efforts to increase the security of its people,” justifying the certification to Congress that Colombia is meeting legal criteria on human rights and paramilitary groups and that the money can be released.

Colombian officials insist that they are trying to end human rights abuses, but critics say abuses remain widespread. The government has been battling a leftist insurgency for years.

The International Trade Union Confederation says Colombia is the deadliest country for labor rights advocates, with 49 killed last year, up from 39 in 2007, but fewer than the 78 killed in 2006.
 
Read more here.
 
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