Have Canadian-made LAVs been deployed on the streets of Colombia during the National Strike?
Canada exported 24 LAV III vehicles to Colombia in 2014 despite concerns being raised about the false positives scandal at that time.
Daily national strike/paro nacional protests have gripped Colombia for the past eight days. The Bogota-based organization Tremblores has documented 239 violent interventions by the public forces (the military and national police) within this time frame.
Agence France-Presse now reports: “Cali, Colombia’s third-biggest city and the worst affected by the ongoing unrest, has had soldiers patrolling its streets since last Friday [April 30] on government orders. In Cali alone, 700 soldiers, 500 riot police officers, 1,800 other police and two helicopters have been put into operation.”
The Associated Press also reports that soldiers and army tanks have been seen on the outskirts of Bogota.
Concerned by this escalating situation, Clement Voule, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, has tweeted: “As a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies see UNG37.”
Voule adds: “I urge Colombian authorities to ensure that only adequately trained security forces be deployed to facilitate peaceful assembly in Colombia.”
It is in this context that we recall that Canada exported 24 Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Colombian Ministry of Defence in 2014.
This media release notes that the Colombian Ministry of Defence awarded a USD$65.3 million contract to the London, Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada for LAV III vehicles for the Colombian Army.
It has also been reported that these LAVs would be armed with the Samson RWS with M2 Browning machine guns or 25 or 30 mm cannons.
The contract was signed through the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown Agency of the Government of Canada.
In July 2015, the Ottawa Citizen reported: “New questions are being raised over the Conservative government’s push to sell arms to developing countries following explosive allegations linking Colombian military officers to the killing of hundreds of civilians during the country’s bloody civil war.”
That article quoted the Colombian ambassador to Canada at that time who stated: “We expect them to be useful for their purpose, which is to protect lives.”
And yet, even at the time of the sale, there were concerns being expressed about the “falsos positivos” controversy in Colombia.
“False positives” refers to innocent people extrajudicially killed by members of the Colombian army, and then falsely labelled as enemy combatants. It is now believed that 6,402 people were murdered by the army in this way between 2002 and 2008.
At the time of the sale to Colombia, Alex Neve, who was then the Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, commented: “In this deeply troubling context, before approving any sale of military equipment to Colombia, or any country in which we have evidence of serious human rights violations, it is vital the government demonstrate how and why it is confident the weapons transferred will not be used to violate human rights.”
PBI continues to monitor this situation closely.
We echo the statement from PBI-Colombia that: “Social and peaceful protest is a human right, above all, disproportionate repressions cannot be justified against the civilian population, we ask for guarantees and respect for life.”
GDLS file photo of LAV III vehicles in Colombia.