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Clegg criticised as he wines and dines Colombian regime

Nick Clegg turns a blind eye to rampant human rights abuses

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will turn a blind eye to rampant human rights abuses today when he touches down in Colombia on a mission to sell British goods to its blood-drenched regime.

The Lib Dem leader is to schmooze President Juan Manuel Santos - but has snubbed calls to visit members of the civil society groups on the receiving end of a brutal state crackdown.

Thousands of trade unionists and activists remain jailed by the Santos government on what campaigners say are trumped-up charges. Dozens more have been killed.

Among the latest senior opposition figures to be locked up accused of "aggravated rebellion" is peace activist Francisco Toloza, an academic at the National University in Bogota who was arrested in early January.

But a "pleased" Mr Clegg glibly skated over the facts to promote Britain's flourishing business relationship with the right-wing regime.

"We've seen a 126 per cent increase in the export relationship with Colombia between 2009-12," he boasted.

"Despite all that progress, the commercial and trading relationship between our nations is still a fraction of what it could be."

He will land in Bogota accompanied by a "major delegation" of over 40 businesses including bank HSBC, engine firm Rolls-Royce and energy firm Shell, alongside "senior representatives" from Dundee, Edinburgh and Warwick universities.

But Labour MP Rob Flello said he was "horrified" that Mr Clegg has ignored Colombia's human rights situation.

The Deputy Prime Minister touches down in a country where "political prisoners are locked up simply because the regime doesn't like their political views," he added.

"Would he have been so keen to take such a business visit to Burma when Suu Kyi was locked up?

"The way Colombia behaves towards people is every bit as oppressive as the Burmese government."

Mr Flello added that President Santos himself was defence minister when hundreds of young men were massacred by the armed forces.

The victims' families were "still waiting for justice," the MP said.

Justice for Colombia's Mariela Kohon accused the British government of "paying lip service to the human rights situation."


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