Feb 15, Day for Colombia

Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 02:16:53 -0500 (EST)

Dear All,

Today, February 15, is National Call-in Day on Colombia. Over the next 2 years, the U.S. is scheduled to give $1.6 billion in aid to Colombia -- a country emeshed in armed conflict involving paramilitary groups, guerillas and the miltary (see forwarded e-mail below); most of this money (about 80%) is earmarked for Colombia's military.
During this conflict, Colombia has often witnessed its civilians massacred and the rule of terror replacing the rule of law. Colombia's military -- the military that will be receiving over $1 billion in U.S. -- bears much of the responsibility for these atrocities. A Colombian human rights organization found that in 1999, the military was linked to 2 percent of the human rights violations associated with the armed conflict in Colombia, but "the percentage does not reflect state forces that routinely assisted paramilitary atrocities" -- so the military's involvement in the human rights abuses is far more serious than the 2 percent figure would indicate. (See http://www.hrw.org/hrw/wr2k/americas-03.htm. See also http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aipub/1999/AMR/22304899.htm; http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aipub/1999/AMR/22303699.htm.)
Colombia is a focal point of drug trafficking, it is for the Colombian military's anti-narcotic efforts that the US is keen on supporting Colombia's military: conflict are tightly linked. However, much as the punishment-centered, fight fire with fire approach to the "war on drugs" in the U.S. has had tremendous, deleterious repercussions, more arms for the military is not the answer to Colombia's strife. As Colombia's President Andres Pastrana said recently, "There's a very grave social problem and for that reason we've said we can't look at the problem only as one of fumigation and eradication... We've got to give these people [the farmers who are dependent on illicit drug crops] a hand."
Some of the American aid to Colombia will go to help give these farmers alternatives to growing drug crops (see forwarded e-mail below). However, echoing a sad societal trend, most of the money is being spent on destruction rather than construction, on trying merely to destroy what is wrong without seeking to build up what is right. The wrong will not go away if there is nothing positive to take its place. The U.S. would be doing right both by way of the people of this country and of Colombia if it gives generous non-military aid to Colombia, rather than giving aid to an abusive military. On this National Call-in Day on Colombia, you can encourage your representatives in Washington to do just that.
I apologize for the relatively high volume of e-mails from me via this list of late, and thank you for your time. See e-mail below for details on the National Call-in Day on Colombia.



PS The forwarded e-mail below mentions calling your Senators and Representatives. If you'd like to e-mail them instead, you can find e-mail addresses and other info at http://lcweb.loc.gov/global/legislative/email.html.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Sent: Monday, February 14, 2000 5:10 PM
Subject: [colombia] Tomorrow: National Call-in Day on Colombia

February 15, 2000

Eyes Wide Shut: U.S. Aid Package to Abusive Army

Despite President Clinton's claims that ". . . we're going into this with our eyes wide open," the Administration's $1.3 billion aid package to Colombia is a disastrous approach to stemming the drug trade and ending the South American nation's brutal armed conflict. This new aid, combined with funds already directed toward Colombia, will amount to $1.6 billion over the next two years. About 80% of this package is assistance to the Colombian army, widely-recognized as the most abusive military in the Western hemisphere.

Even though at least 250 U.S. military personnel and advisors counsel, train, and share intelligence with Colombia's security forces everyday, the Clinton Administration aims to expand this relationship by:

  • helping the Colombian government push into the coca-growing regions of southern Colombia, the areas where the Colombian army is waging a counter-insurgency war;
  • training additional special counter-narcotics battalions in the troubled Southern region;
  • purchasing 30 Blackhawk and 33 Huey helicopters;
  • supporting radar, aircraft and airfield upgrades, and improved anti-narcotics intelligence gathering;
  • increasing coca crop eradication through aerial fumigation that has proven toxic and ineffective;
  • providing other questionable aid.

Only a small portion of Clinton's aid package calls for important non-military aid, including: $145 million over the next two years to provide economic alternatives for Colombian farmers who now grow coca and poppy plants and $93 million to cover judicial reform, anti-corruption, human rights porotection, rule of law, and the peace process. Your call to encourage policy makers to increase these positive alternatives and oppose military assistance may tip the balance between war and peace in Colombia.


Call your representative and Senators ask them to oppose military aid to Colombia and to support positive alternatives for peace in that country. U.S. Capitol switchboard 202-224-3121


  • This aid package will not only pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the most abusive military in the Western Hemisphere, but it will almost certainly destabilize fragile peace negotiations and undermine support of a negotiated settlement.
  • To avoid getting the United States more deeply involved with Colombia's infamous armed forces, I ask you to oppose aid to the Colombian army due to human rights concerns, especially army links at a regional and local level to brutal paramilitary forces.
  • Instead, I urge you to support a substantial positive aid package for Colombia, including: humanitarian relief for people displaced by violence; crop substitution programs for small farmers to switch from coca to legal crops; economic assistance; programs to strengthen Colombian government investigations into human rights violations and drug trafficking; aid for civil society efforts for human rights and peace.
  • Finally, because the United States's "war on Drugs" is one that must be fought at home, I ask you to increase funding for drug treatment and prevention programs here in our own country.

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