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Report: US Soldiers Sexually Abused Underage Girls in Colombia, Beyond

By: Rebeca Morla - @RebecaMorla - Mar 31, 2015, 8:28 am
Between 2003 and 2007, US military officers in Melgar, Colombia allegedly sexually abused over 50 children. Diplomatic immunity allowed the soldiers to leave the country without being prosecuted.
Between 2003 and 2007, US military officers in Melgar, Colombia allegedly sexually abused over 50 children. Diplomatic immunity allowed the soldiers to leave the country without being prosecuted. (Flickr)

EspañolBetween 2003 and 2007, US soldiers and military contractors sexually abused at least 54 underage Colombian girls, according to a report released by Colombia’s Historical Commission for the Conflict and its Victims (CHCV). The document claims that the perpetrators of the sex crimes have not been prosecuted due to the diplomatic immunity granted to US forces under bilateral agreements.

The CHCV was established by the national government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group in August 2014, during peace talks held by both parties in Havana since 2012. The Commission’s goal is to determine the causes, factors, and consequences of the 50-year-long conflict, which both parties hope to resolve in the near future.

Colombian university professor Renan Vega is one of the scholars who contributed to the 800-page report in his essay Interference by the United States, Counterinsurgency and State Terrorism.” Vega argues that US mercenaries, who entered the country as part of Plan Colombia, sexually assaulted the minors.

“There exists abundant information about sexual violence, in absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials,” Vega emphasizes, suggesting that the sexist and discriminatory behavior of US personnel amounted to “sexual imperialism.”

Vega reports that in 2004, military contractors stationed near the Colombian town of Melgar, Tolima Department, sexually abused 53 underage girls. Moreover, he suggests that the perpetrators recorded the abuses “and sold the films as pornographic material.”

“Also in Melgar, a US contractor and a sergeant raped a 12-year-old girl in 2007,” Vega writes, referring to the case of Olga Lucía Castillo and her daughter. Two soldiers — Sergeant Michael Coen and retired US military officer turned defense contractor Cesar Ruiz — reportedly drugged Castillo’s daughter, led her to the local base of the Colombian Air Force, and raped her.

Immunity or Impunity?

Castillo told local newspaper El Tiempo that late on August 27, 2007, her two daughters (10 and 12 years old at the time) went out to buy food in Melgar.

A couple of hours later, the younger girl returned alone, and confessed that her sister had disappeared after entering the bathroom of a nightclub. The next morning, Castillo explained, her daughter was found, and Colombian prosecutors were unable to clarify what happened.

“I went to look for them [the perpetrators] at the base and confronted them. Their response was, ‘Your daughter is a little slut; nothing has happened here,'” she said.

Despite Castillo filing a judicial complaint against them, Coen and Ruiz returned to the United States unpunished due to their diplomatic immunity.

Castillo moreover reported that soon after she filed the legal claim against the US officials, her family began to be persecuted and threatened. As a result, the woman and her daughters had to flee Melgar, and have been forcibly displaced to other parts of the country on four separate occasions.

Abuses: Not Only in Colombia

According to Renan Vega, the “sexual imperialism” of US officers has not only manifested itself in the South American nation.

In his report, he further mentions that the abuses in Colombia are “similar to the effects that occur in all places where the US military are, such as the Philippines, Japan and South Korea.”

US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton allegedly killed the 26-year-old Filipino trans woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo, Philippines. (Facebook)
US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton allegedly killed Filipino national Jennifer Laude in Olongapo, Philippines. (Facebook)

The most recent case is that of US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, charged with murdering Jennifer Laude, a Filipino woman, in October 2014, allegedly after discovering that she was transgender.

However, Pemberton’s trial did not start until March 23, 2015, after the United States agreed to cooperate with the Philippines for the investigation, thus making an exception to Washington’s rules on denying foreign officials the right to investigate US personnel.

The revelations about the alleged abuses of US soldiers in Colombia come as a report released by the US Department of Justice indicates that Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents participated in sex parties paid for by Colombian drug cartels.

The officials reportedly received money and weapons from the drug traffickers, and minors were also exposed to sexual abuse.

Edited by Laurie Blair and Guillermo Jimenez.

Rebeca Morla Rebeca Morla

Based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Rebeca Morla works as an editorial assistant with the PanAm Post. She is a political scientist and an Executive Board member of EsLibertad. Follow @RebecaMorla.