Last Updated:4/18/02
Letter to Congress from 38 U.S. non-governmental organizations regarding 2002 supplemental appropriations request, April 16, 2002
April 16, 2002

Dear Member of Congress,

We urge you to reject the far-reaching changes in US policy toward Colombia contained in the emergency supplemental appropriations bill. We believe the change in mission proposed by the supplemental takes the United States well down the road to deeper involvement in Colombia's complex, four-decades-old conflict. There is no rapid military solution to Colombia's crisis. Moreover, the Colombian armed forces' refusal to take steps to break pervasive links between its members and brutal paramilitary forces, the AUC, makes it an unsuitable partner for the United States. The United States must not through its aid become implicated in the massacres and assassinations of innocent civilians that are the hallmark of the AUC.

Congress has placed carefully considered safeguards on the controversial Colombia program; the supplemental treats these like a hindrance. The main Colombia provision in the supplemental removes safeguards retroactively as well as in FY2002-2003. It strips out any requirement that past aid to Colombia be limited to counternarcotics operations, as Congress had specified in previous legislation. The Clinton and Bush administrations repeatedly promised the Congress and the American public that the intention of Plan Colombia was to control drug production and would not involve the United States in a wider war.

Moreover, the provision removes the Colombia-specific human rights conditions placed on the aid by Congress. These conditions require progress in breaking ties between the Colombian armed forces and paramilitary forces. During the past year, the Colombian government has moved backwards, not forwards, in complying with the human rights conditions, as carefully documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Washington Office on Latin America, as well as by major Colombian human rights groups. Colombia's new attorney general has shelved prosecutions and investigations of army officials linked to paramilitary violence. Army tolerance of and collusion with paramilitary violence continues, and paramilitary activity has increased.

In addition, the provision removes the fumigation conditions, sensible precautions that Congress designed to encourage a balanced aid package and to ensure that the aerial spraying program did not violate fundamental rights to health. The conditions relate to the health and environmental consequences of fumigation, the existence of an effective mechanism for compensation for farmers whose food crops are destroyed by fumigation, and the adequate provision of alternative development assistance. The administration has not taken the necessary steps to meet the fumigation conditions, such as providing a thorough study of the health impact of spraying, while the Colombian government has no effective mechanism for compensation, and alternative development programs lag woefully behind accelerated fumigation.

The emergency supplemental also contains funding for a new program that could escalate US involvement. Six million dollars would provide advance funding for the $98 million in training and equipment in the administration's FY2003 proposal to train the Colombian army guarding the Cano-Limon oil pipeline. Once the United States becomes committed to guarding Colombian infrastructure, it will be difficult to know where to draw the line. The Cano-Limon pipeline crosses a geographic area where indigenous groups, including the U'wa, are engaged in a bitter dispute over oil exploration and indigenous rights.

The administration and the Colombian government have suggested that increased US military support makes sense in the post-September 11th anti-terrorism context. It is important to recognize that the paramilitaries, the AUC, are on the US terrorist list, along with the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups. While guerrilla violence has escalated intolerably, the majority of the extrajudicial killings of civilians today continue to be committed by the AUC. As long as the Colombian armed forces remain linked to the AUC, there can be no anti-terrorist rationale for aid to the Colombian army.

We do, however, support substantial assistance to Colombia. In particular, we support aid for alternative development, to help farmers switch to legal crops; aid to strengthen Colombian law enforcement, directed at investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking, money laundering, crime and human rights abuses, and the interception of precursor chemicals; and humanitarian assistance for Colombia's displaced, totaling 342,000 people in 2001 alone. Moreover, we believe the United States can play a constructive role by more vigorously advocating a negotiated settlement that addresses the root causes of Colombia's conflict.

We urge you to retain all existing safeguards on US aid to Colombia, to reject proposals to expand the US mission at this time, and to renew US commitment to humanitarian, judicial and alternative development assistance to Colombia. The Colombian conflict is very complex, and US assistance should be measured and balanced. Congress should take the time necessary, through the normal appropriations process, to decide how it can best help Colombia while ensuring that the United States does not find itself in a long-term military entanglement from which it cannot retreat.

Rev. Bob Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Washington Office
Presbyterian Church, USA

Kimberly Stanton, Ph.D.
Program Director for Latin America and Africa
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Bill Spencer
Executive Director
Washington Office on Latin America

Adam Isacson
Senior Associate
Center for International Policy

Patricia Forner
Public Policy Advisor
Latin America and the Caribbean
World Vision US

Kathryn Wolford
Lutheran World Relief

Peter J. Davies
UN Representative

Kathy Thornton
NETWORK National Coordinator
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Robert K. Musil, Ph.D.
Executive Director and CEO
Physicians for Social Research

Tamar Gabelnick
Arms Sales Monitoring Project
Federation of American Scientists

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Terry Collingsworth
Executive Director
International Labor Rights Fund

Bob Schwartz
Executive Director
Disarm Education Fund

Rev. Ron Stief
Director, Washington Office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

J. Daryl Byler
Mennonite Central Committee US, Washington Office

Darryl Fagin
Legislative Director
Americans for Democratic Action

Fred Rosen
North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)

Barbara Gerlach and Cristina Espinel
Colombia Human Rights Committee

Greg Davidson Laszakovits
Church of the Brethren Washington Office

Martha Honey
Foreign Policy In Focus
Institute for Policy Studies

Cathy Crumbley
Colombia Vive, Boston

Debra Preusch
Executive Director
Interhemispheric Resource Center

Gail Taylor
Legislative Director
SOA Watch

Margaret Swedish
Religious Task Force on Central America and Mexico

Neil Jeffery
US Office on Colombia

Nora Callahan
Executive Director
The November Coalition

Kevin Zeese
Executive Director
Common Sense for Drug Policy

Sandra Alvarez
Colombia Program Coordinator
Global Exchange

Brian Keane
Land is Life

Kathy Ogle
EPICA coordinator
Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean (EPICA)

Patrick Bonner
Colombia Peace Project

Steve Coats
U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project

Mary Lord
Interim Director, Peace Building Unit
American Friends Service Committee

Rita A. Clark
Nicaragua-US Friendship Office

Gary L. Cozette
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

Dan Kovalik
Assistant General Council
United Steelworkers of America

Jena Matzen, J.D.
Board Member
Institute for Regional Conservation, Inc.

J.E. McNeil
Executive Director
Center of Conscience and War (NISBCO)

Chris Peters
7th Generation Fund for Indian Development

Kevin Koenig
Amazon Watch

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