from four U.S. Non-Governmental Organizations, July 23, 2003
Release: July 23, 2003
Sees Colombian Military as Weak Link in Fight Against Terrorism
Divided over Aid to Colombia, Citing Links Between Colombian Military
July 23 Military aid to Colombia continued to be one of the most
controversial issues on the foreign aid bill, as a sharply divided Congress
today debated the human rights record of Colombias military and
the efficacy of US anti-drug policy. Deriding US policy toward Colombia
as immoral and inexcusable, House Democrats led a charge
to reduce Colombias military and police assistance for next year,
an effort that garnered bipartisan support despite a last-minute push
by Secretary Powell and House Speaker Dennis Hastert to derail the vote.
17th, the Senate Appropriations Committee reduced the amount of funding
for the Andean Counternarcotics Initiative, which includes aid to Colombia,
by over $30 million. Senate report language accompanying the bill noted
that "The Committee views the Colombian military as a particularly
weak link in the fight against terrorism and narcotics."
amendment to the foreign operations appropriations bill would have cut
$75 million of the over $430 million in military and police assistance
for Colombia in the bill and transferred the money to global HIV/AIDS
programs. In 2001, Congress voted on a similar measure which gained
the support of 179 members. Despite the absence of many members of Congress
at the 1 am vote today, 195 members supported a cut to Colombias
military and police aid. 226 voted against.
Colombia has received over $2.5 billion dollars from the United States,
most of it military and police assistance for anti-drug and anti-terrorism
activities. Among the 9 representatives who spoke on the floor in favor
of reducing the aid were the amendments co-sponsors, Reps. McGovern
(D-MA) and Skelton (D-MO). Both questioned continued funding for a policy
they say has failed to reach its stated goals.
of Congress sharply criticized the Colombian governments failure
to break ties between its armed forces and right-wing paramilitary groups
on the State Departments list of foreign terrorist organizations.
House Democratic Whip Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) condemned the policy as
giving more money to a military known to collaborate with a group
the Bush Administration says are terrorists and then asked, Why
would any member of this body want to make the mission of terrorists
and criminals easier?
supporters also argued that US anti-drug policy in Colombia has failed
to stem net drug production in the Andes, instead moving coca cultivation
back into Bolivia, Peru, and other areas once lauded as drug eradication
successes. Citing a study by the ONDCP of US high school students, Representative
McGovern noted that the availability of cocaine in the United
States actually increased in 2002.
reflected growing unease over escalating US involvement in Colombia's
armed conflict, despite efforts by the Colombian government to extend
US military aid beyond the five years envisioned in Plan Colombia. Members
made it clear they did support US aid to Colombia, but wanted to see
a serious rethinking of the current policy. They echoed concerns raised
in a recent report by the US governments General Accounting Office,
which found that the State and Defense Departments have still
identified a proposed end state [to involvement in Colombia],
or determined how they plan to achieve it.
also reflected congressional conviction that President Bush should live
up to his State of the Union promises to provide $15 billion over 5
years for the AIDS pandemic.
analysts are available for comment on todays Colombia vote:
Jeffery, Executive Director, U.S. Office on Colombia (202-232-8090;
email@example.com): This vote is a clear indication
of the widespread and growing concern in Congress about continuing
links between the Colombian military and right-wing paramilitary death
squads. For three years now Congress has been asking the Colombian
authorities to break ties between the armed forces and known terrorist
paramilitaries, and there has been no progress. Congress has shown
that it is still not convinced of Colombias will to reform,
and is demanding concrete progress.
Isacson, Senior Associate, Center for International Policy (202-232-3317;
firstname.lastname@example.org): "Every year since Plan Colombia was passed,
we've seen military aid levels increase, the presence of U.S. soldiers
and contractors in Colombia increase, and the scope of our mission
increase. Both Congress and the administration need to be clear about
where we are headed in Colombia. We can't afford to sleepwalk into
a major new military commitment."
Haugaard, Executive Director, Latin America Working Group (cell 301-537-3387;
office 202-546-7010; email@example.com): This close vote reflects
growing public alarm about the direction of US involvement in Colombia.
The Bush Administration has painted Mr. Uribe and Plan Colombia in
glowing terms, but many concerned citizens, unions, and churches have
refused to buy into this particular foreign adventure. The policy
is supposed to be about security, but it has done nothing to stop
the tide of violence in Colombia or the flow of drugs into the United
States. When rhetoric doesnt match reality, members of Congress
will hear from their constituents.
Stanton, Deputy Director, Washington Office on Latin America (202-797-2171,
firstname.lastname@example.org): US policy in Colombia claims to support
the rule of law, but there has been only backsliding on this issue
since Plan Colombia began. Violence and forced displacement have increased.
Human rights violations attributed to the military have increased.
The government insists that security forces be allowed to carry out
searches, wiretaps and detentions without warrants and seeks to weaken
judicial oversight of states of emergency. And now, under the guise
of peace negotiations, the government wants to grant immunity to paramilitary
leaders responsible for atrocious crimes. Democracy cannot exist without
accountability. The debate today sends that message.