Colombia is safer than it has been in a quarter century. But the nation continues to face serious human rights challenges as left-wing guerrilla groups and the heirs to right-wing paramilitary bands slaughter thousands and keep millions on the run, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Monday.
Since taking office in August, President Manuel Santos has made human rights a priority. He's pushed legislation that would return land to some of the more than three million Colombians forced off their property by violence and he has pressed the government to compensate victims of state abuse.
Unlike his predecessor, who had testy relations with human rights groups, Santos has become their vocal defender.
``However, it remains to be seen whether this approach translates into concrete results in light of serious ongoing abuses,'' Human Rights Watch said in its annual World Report.
The influential survey comes as Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón is in Washington this week lobbying for the passage of a free trade agreement. That deal has been stalled in the U.S. Congress for four years, amid worries about Colombia's human rights record.
In particular, the nation remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for union leaders. According to the report, more than 2,800 labor organizers have been killed since 1986.
From January to October last year, the government reported 25 union leaders were killed.
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