No Military Aid to Colombia - No Fumigation 

Following the unprecedented $1.3 billion aid package passed last year, President Bush is about to hand over more aid to Latin America’s most abusive military. Last year’s package was just the beginning of US involvement in Colombia.  President Bush has requested $730 million for counternarcotics aid for Colombia and the Andean region for FY02, and more aid is likely to be included in other parts of the budget.

 

BACKGROUND.  For the past forty years, conflict has smoldered between left-wing guerilla groups and the Colombian armed forces.  Increasingly, right-wing paramilitary groups-- often made up of retired armed forces personnel-- have entered the conflict.  35,000 civilians have lost their lives in the conflict since 1990, and thousands more have been displaced from their homes by violence.

US INVOLVEMENT. In the guise of a war on drugs, the United States has become partners with the Colombian armed forces in a counternarcotics campaign that is devastating the country and stepping up the levels of violence on all sides.  The two-year, $1.3 billion aid package goes almost entirely to the Colombian military.  It also includes money to fund fumigation efforts, in which spray planes drop herbicides on coca farms.  While the military and fumigation aid has been flowing since December, the funds for alternative development—which would provide farmers with an opportunity to grow crops other than coca—have yet to be delivered to Colombia.

SAY NO MILITARY AID. WHY?  The Colombian armed forces has a history of human rights violations and maintains close ties to paramilitary groups, who are responsible for 78% of political killings in Colombia. Rewarding the armed forces with aid discourages them from making reforms and backing the peace process.  It also escalates violence, as guerilla forces step up actions to combat a more powerful army, paramilitaries retaliate, and civilians are caught in the crossfire.

SAY NO TO FUMIGATION. WHY? Spray planes drop a substance containing the herbicide glyphosate on farms that cultivate coca, but the herbicide also kills their food crops.  Communities have complained that people, homes, schools, wells, and livestock are also being fumigated by the spray planes.  Some 12 alternative development projects were fumigated and destroyed by US-directed fumigation since December 2000.  Sicknesses are being reported in humans, especially children, and animals after the spraying. Without food, communities must move to new areas and plant coca to survive.

THE CURRENT US POLICY IS INEFFECTIVE.  Fumigation penalizes communities without solving the problem of coca cultivation or the poverty that motivates it.  The problem will not be solved simply by designating more money to fund alternative development; fumigation must be stopped.

In addition to ending fumigation, the United States must rethink its militarized counternarcotics strategy in Colombia.  Drugs abuse and related violence pose a terrible threat to our communities, and must be addressed.  However, a military solution does not and will not work.  Funding the Colombian armed forces only steps up the levels of violence, reversing the work of the negotiated peace process.

Furthermore, the aid package does not help resolve problems of drug abuse and drug violence in our own country.  While supply may be reduced in Colombia, as long as demand continues, coca cultivation will simply move to a new area. Meanwhile, addicts in the United States face long waiting lists for treatment. 

ACTION

Unlike last year’s aid package, which was a specific Colombia bill, this year’s aid to Colombia will be broken up in various appropriations bills, with the largest share included in the foreign operations bill. It is important that we write and call our members of Congress NOW to tell them to vote against any additional aid to the Colombian military or aid for fumigation activities.  There will NOT be a specific Colombia bill.

We must tell our members to send our entire drug policy back to the drawing board.  The current drug policy has caused numerous problems abroad, but also fails on its own terms.

·     The military aid package escalates violence in Colombia, including civilian deaths and displacement.  Since President Clinton’s package was implemented, paramilitary massacres have skyrocketed. It does not support the peace process.

·        Fumigation is not an effective way to eradicate coca.  Thousands of families have been left hungry by fumigation efforts that kill off their subsistence crops, and must move to other areas to grow coca in order to survive.

      Demand for drugs in the United States will not be decreased through source-country eradication.  As long as the demand exists, people will move to grow coca in order to meet that demand.

·        We must support initiatives that respect human rights and address social and economic problems in Colombia.  At the same time, we must improve drug treatment and prevention at home.

Our members of Congress will vote soon on whether to support President Bush’s budget request; we must demand now that our tax dollars not be spent violating human rights in Colombia. 

To contact your members of Congress, call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or write:

The Honorable [insert representative]     The Honorable [insert senator]

US House of Representatives                     US Senate

Washington, DC 20515                               Washington, DC 20510

You can look up your senators and representatives on the web at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov