US army investigates reports that soldiers raped dozens in Colombia
Three Colombian soldiers patrol a bridge near San Jose Del Guaviare in 2008. Photograph: Daniel Munoz/Reuters
The US army says it will look into claims that soldiers or civilian defence contractors sexually assaulted as many as 53 women and girls while stationed in Colombia between 2003 and 2007.
«After coordinating with Colombian authorities, we will initiate investigations into any credible allegations of sexual assault or any crime,» said Chris Grey, a spokesman for the US army criminal investigation command.
The allegations resurfaced recently after they were included in a chapter of an 800-page report about the historical reasons behind Colombia’s 50-year-old internal conflict, commissioned by the Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels who are engaged in peace talks.
The author of the chapter on the role in the conflict of the United States – which has provided more than $9bn in mostly military aid to Colombia since 2000 – wrote that there was «abundant information about the sexual violence» by US servicemen and civilian contractors in towns near the Tolemaida military base in Tolima province. The alleged crimes have gone unpunished «thanks to bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity granted to officials of the United States», wrote Renán Vega, a professor of history.
«In one of the most publicized cases … 53 minors were sexually abused by mercenaries who filmed them and sold the recordings as pornographic material,» Vega, of the National Pedagogical University in Bogotá, wrote.
At the time, the Bogotá daily El Tiempo said that it saw three of the videos, which portrayed men who looked like «foreigners» having sex with local women. In each, the women state their names and ages, ranging from 19 to 21, for the camera.
Grey said there was no previous record of allegations of the 53 cases but that the US army «takes the issue seriously».
He added that investigators did look into a case involving a 12-year-old girl who alleged that she had been abducted and raped by a US sergeant and a civilian contractor in 2007. After a preliminary inquiry during which US military investigators unsuccessfully tried to interview the girl, the allegations were determined to be «unfounded», Grey said in a phone interview.