Friday, May 08, 2015

Update on US Military Rape Case in Colombia

The Colombia rape case has taken a new and unfortunate turn. Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports writes that he was duped about the claims of abuse in 2004. He's the one responsible for helping spread news of the case, which had appeared in Colombia's truth commission report (a report that has no fact checking).

His account gets a bit confusing (and he's obviously really angry--you can read the whole thing to see why), but I take it as follows. He believes the 2004 allegations are bogus, and the person who wrote about them in the official report actually says he heard about them on TV once but can't remember where. Journalist Manuel Rueda recently wrote about this in Fusion.

Vega said that he got the number from local media reports from 2004. He said the information was also included in a 2008 thesis paper on U.S. military contractors written by Anna Kucia, a political science masters student at the University of Berlin. 
But the “sources” cited in Kucia’s thesis are the same references to Colombian media reports from 2004. She characterized it differently. She wrote that in August of that year, Colombian media blamed U.S. contractors for “producing twelve pornographic floppy discs and 53 videos” with local women in Melgar, but does not specify how many girls were in the videos. Kucia says some of the women who participated in the videos were promised money, but were never paid. 
“Many of the women were forced to leave their hometowns due to humiliations they and their families have suffered,” wrote Kucia, who now uses the married name Barrera. She did not respond to Fusion requests for comment. 
Vega, for his part, said he didn’t have time to dig any deeper into the sexual abuse claims before publishing his report. 
“I didn’t have an opportunity to do fieldwork,” Vega told Fusion. “I’m not a journalist or a sociologist…and I was asked to limit the number of pages. So I relied on the sources that I just told you about.”

What Anselma notes, however, and what I think is important, is that media attention on this one particular (and seemingly false) case has distracted everyone from other cases. As I had written not long ago, the U.S. Army started an investigation, but only for that case. It can then report this one is false, leaving the others uninvestigated. So:

You can pretty much figure out what’s next. Colombia’s Foreign Ministry is likely going to receive an update from the US Army saying they have concluded the investigation of Vega’s accusation and that this accusation proves to be false, as the embassy allegedly already found out in 2004 and had been reported by Fusion and Colombia Reports on Friday and Saturday. 
The remaining credible allegations of misconduct or even abuse will remain in impunity as nobody seems to want to take up the responsibility of going through the diffuse claims carefully.

What's next? For the U.S. and Colombian governments, probably nothing. Anselma concludes:

The only way this can be turned around is by Colombian authorities like the Ombudsman’s Office and the Family Welfare Institute assuming their responsibility and carry out their own investigations, parallel to the one the American army says to be carrying out. Or by American and Colombian mainstream media doing their fucking job. 
Until then, alleged child molesters are back in their American neighborhoods, making them a potential domestic threat.

So we'll see. On a side note, it's a reminder that someone may well read your Political Science Master's thesis!


Jan-Albert Hootsen 4:56 PM  

Thanks for sharing this! Just one note: Adriaan's last name is Alsema, not Anselma ;-)

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