Questions remain about the use of Canadian armoured vehicles and helicopters during the national strike in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On June 24, 2021, Radio Canada International reported:

“When asked about allegations regarding the use of Canadian military materiel in repressive acts against civilians in Colombia, Jason Jung told us that at the beginning of the unrest in that country, Canada’s Ministry of Global Affairs contacted the responsible Colombian authorities, who confirmed that Colombian law enforcement ‘is not using Canadian armored vehicles’ to intervene in that context.”

The Global Affairs spokesperson added: “Canada is monitoring developments in Colombia and will take appropriate action if credible evidence of the inappropriate use of any controlled Canadian product or technology is identified, including to perpetrate or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law.”

Armoured vehicles in Valle del Cauca

On July 17, 2021, less than a month after that RCI report, Alejandra Wilches tweeted: “This morning on some roads in the country, the police detained different delegations heading to the National People’s Assembly in Cali!”

Digital media Kienyke also reported: “Caravans of cars and buses with dozens of people were stopped on different roads in the country because the National Police prevented entry to the department of Valle del Cauca on Saturday.”

This tweet (with the armoured vehicle visible) further noted: “Several delegations from each city (Popayan, Bucaramanga, Bogota …) going to the Asemblea Nacional del Paro are detained by the police who prevent them from going there to Cali.”

And this 2-minute video (in Spanish) with a Canadian-made police vehicle visible in the background also helps to understand what happened.

In response, Clement Voule, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, tweeted: “I am concerned about the application of the decree adopted by the Govt of Valle del Cauca which, despite its exceptions, is currently limiting the arrival of human rights defenders in Cali, restricting their right to peaceful assembly in Cali.”

The armoured vehicle in the photos and video appear to be Huron tactical attack and defense vehicles. The Toronto-based company INKAS sold four Huron armoured vehicles to the Colombian police in 2014.

In April 2015, PLANT also reported: “The manufacturer is still building behemoth armoured personnel carriers (APCs). In fact, there’s a tendered order for 26 of its Huron vehicles, at about $450,000 a pop, for the National Police of Columbia.”

That article adds: “The Huron will be outfitted with a cannon to wrangle unruly rioters with foam, tear gas, dyes and water.”

Helicopters in Siloé

This media release has also previously explained: “An event reconstruction by SITU Research and Amnesty International details how Colombian security forces assaulted peaceful protesters in the Siloé neighbourhood of the city of Cali on 3 May.”

Notably, Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps has confirmed the presence of two helicopters in the area during Operation Siloé.

It is in this context that we note Canada has sold forty CH-135 (between September 1998 and February 2000), twelve 212 (between 1994 and 1996) and four 407 helicopters (in 2013-14) to the Colombian police and military.

In November 2019, when the national strike mobilizations first began, reported that the Colombian National Police would “deploy its entire fleet of Bell 407 Halcón surveillance helicopters in the main cities of the country, where the most important concentrations are expected to occur.”

Semana also noted: “The aircraft, normally, carries four policemen (two pilots) and sends the images it takes to the police command, in real time, so that they are implemented in chases, padlock operations and all kinds of operations.”

Monitoring of military equipment exports?

Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese has reported: “The Ottawa-based CCC [Canadian Commercial Corporation], which helps Canadian exporters get contracts with foreign governments acknowledges  it conducts no follow-up to ensure exported Canadian-built equipment isn’t being used to abuse human rights.”

Webinar on Canadian arms exports, May 31

The day prior to the start of CANSEC arms show in Ottawa, PBI-Canada will also be organizing a webinar on Arms exports and the militarization of territory.

Confirmed speakers include Quetzalli Villanueva Vergara (Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre, Mexico), Rachel Small (World Beyond War, Canada) and Ni Dene Uldai (Denesuline land defender, Tluo Chok Tue).

A speaker from Colombia will be confirmed soon. We hope it will be a representative from the Association for Social Research and Action (Nomadesc).

On December 1, 2021, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “The Canadian embassy @CanadayColombia visits the office of @Nomadesc in Cali. To talk about the causes of the protests and learn first-hand about cases of police violence. Nomadesc requested guarantees that Canada will not assist the Colombian police with equipment.”

The webinar will be moderated by Seb Bonet, a PBI-Canada Board member.

To register for this webinar, please click here.

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