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05-18-2005, 03:04 PM
Colombia: Treaty with U.S. invalid


By Kim Housego
Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — A treaty with the United States granting diplomatic immunity to American soldiers stationed in Colombia apparently violates Colombia’s constitution, a top official said.

Inspector General Edgardo Maya said he will formally ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the 1974 agreement is invalid. He said a study recently carried out by his office concluded the treaty was superseded by Colombia’s 1991 Constitution.

Maya’s comments to a gathering of prosecutors in Bogota late Monday came after seven American servicemen were arrested in separate drug- and arms-smuggling plots in the past three months.

All the suspects have been flown to the United States under the immunity deal, drawing widespread anger and resentment in Colombia.

“We are going to submit a request for the Constitutional Court to rule definitively on the constitutionality of this treaty,” Maya said. The court is duty bound to consider the request but it could take months for it to issue a ruling, an official at the Inspector General’s office said.

Hundreds of American troops are based in Colombia as part of a $3.3 billion five-year military aid program to provide training and logistical support to local forces battling a 40-year-old leftist insurgency fueled by drug trafficking.

Despite intense pressure, U.S. Ambassador William Wood has refused to lift the soldiers’ immunity, insisting they will face justice in U.S. military courts. However, he indicated Washington was open to reviewing the treaty at Colombia’s request.

Earlier this month, two U.S. soldiers — a warrant officer and a sergeant — were arrested in a plot to funnel more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition to a far-right death squad considered a terrorist organization by the United States. In March, five U.S. military personnel were detained for allegedly smuggling cocaine to the United States

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