Students hosted U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith in the Lincoln conference room of Founders Hall on Aug. 26. The group shared experiences from meetings with governmental officials, representatives of humanitarian organizations and victims of violence by the Colombian military.
James Keating and Jed Dush stand in front of the US Embassy in Colombia. The group met with the human rights officer to discuss allegations raised by Colombians from a previous meeting.
The perspective that constituents gather from international travel is valuable, said U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith when he met with members of a summer political science field study course on Thursday.
The class shared their experiences from an eight-day trip to Bogota, Colombia.
Smith said he plans to take what he heard at UNK back to the U.S. capital.
“I will ask many of the same questions that I heard today when I am in Washington,” Smith said.
Smith said he was grateful for insights students observed.
“I really appreciate this. It’s not often that I get this kind of input from here in my own district,” Smith said. “I’m glad you have been able to go gather information for yourselves.”
Ten students and political science professor William Aviles received Smith, a supporter of a free trade agreement with Colombia, to discuss topics they studied and experienced first-hand.
In Aviles’ course, Human Rights and Democracy in Colombia, students met with officials from agencies of the Colombian government, the U.S. Embassy, humanitarian groups and victims of the violence committed by the Colombian military.
Colombia has received around $5 billion in U.S. aid since 2000, according to Amnesty International.
The country is the source of over 90 percent of cocaine that enters the U.S., according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, Colombia has between 3.3-4.9 billion internally displaced citizens.
The administration of President Uribe, whose term ended this summer, is credited with weakening the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (RAFC) that has been fighting the Colombian government since the 1960s; however, humanitarian groups including Amnesty International and the United Nations have issued reports which call attention to civilian human rights abuses by the Colombian military as well as collusion with paramilitaries.
“I think the greatest part of the class was that we got to hear two sides of the story. We tried to look at the nongovernmental organizations as well as the actual government,” said political science major and Colombian citizen Margareth Y. Rey Rosas.