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US troops in Colombia linked to rapes of underage girls
Wednesday May 6, 2015 9:00 AM, IANS

Bogota: At least 53 underage girls were raped by US military personnel and contractors based in Colombia, according to a report prepared as part of the ongoing peace process between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group.

The 800-page document was the work of 12 experts, six picked by the government and another six by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, reports Efe.

In a section prepared by Renan Vega Cantor, head of the Department of Social Sciences at the National Pedagogical University in the central Colombian towns of Melgar and Girardot, are compiled the cases of sexual abuse committed near the country's largest military base, Tolemaida.

The US personnel not only raped the adolescents, they videotaped the assaults and made copies to sell as pornography, according to Vega's report.

One of the rape victims was only 12.

Vega said there is "plenty of information about sexual violence committed with total impunity" by US personnel in Colombia.

This impunity was possible "thanks to bilateral accords and the diplomatic immunity of US officials," according to the university professor.

"Both for the duties they (the Americans) perform and for their status of immunity, they contribute to the insecurity of people in conflicted areas, but also in other areas where they are based and make contact with the civilian population," Vega said.

The professor also noted "rape and sexual aggression are also frequent in the Colombian army."

He added that "other serious cases that have involved soldiers and mercenaries" include "homicides, drug trafficking and selling arms to paramilitaries."

The United States, which has provided Colombia with roughly $9 billion in military aid over the past 15 years, also has troops and civilian defense contractors stationed in the Andean nation acting as trainers and advisers to the Colombian military.

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