Peace Teams News, PO Box 10372, San Antonio TX 78210-0372, Tel: 877 814 6972







FALL, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 3

U.S. Military Aid To The Andes Makes its Way Through U.S. Congress by Catherine Stratton Treadway, Friends Committee on National Legislation

U.S. military and security assistance to Colombia and the Andean region, intended to fight a war against illegal drugs, is instead adding more fuel to the fire of a decades-old civil war in Colombia. The violence in the region has escalated along with the increasing flow of weapons and military training to the region. Thousands of civilians are dying in the cross fire each year many of them community leaders and activists who are targeted for assassination. The U.S.-sponsored cocaine fumigation campaign has left people ill, food and alternative cash crops wilted, drinking water supplies contaminated, and aquatic life destroyed. Millions have been driven from their homes by the violence, fumigation campaign, and resulting poverty.

In late March, the Bush Administration announced an $800 million request for fiscal year (FY) 2002 for “Andean Regional Initiative” (ARI) to continue funding counter-drug efforts in Colombia (known in previous years as Plan Colombia) and to expand such aid to Colombia’s Andean neighbors. Much of this aid is in the form of military and security assistance. Colombia would receive the largest portion of the military aid—over half. Colombia’s neighbors—Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, and Panama—would receive significant increases in military aid over previous years. This package is being considered by the U.S. Congress as part of the regular FY2002 foreign operations appropriations bill. Additional aid to the region—about $200 million—would be delivered through defense department counter-narcotics accounts.

In late July, the House debated and voted on the foreign operations appropriations bill. Reps. McGovern (MA), Hoekstra (MI), Pelosi (CA), Morella (MD), and Jackson-Lee (TX) offered an amendment to cut $100 million in military aid to Colombia and transfer it to international programs to fight tuberculosis and support maternal and child health. Despite a good debate, the amendment was defeated 179-249. An amendment offered by Rep. Conyers (MI) to end funding for the fumigation campaign was eventually withdrawn without a vote. In spite of the failure of the U.S. House to pass these amendments, many representatives were openly critical of current U.S. drug policy and escalating U.S. military involvement in the Andean region. This was the first public debate in the U.S. Congress about the human and environmental impact of the U.S.-funded fumigation.

An amendment offered by Rep. Conyers to maintain the limit on U.S. troops and civilian contractors in Colombia to a total of 800 people, a cap the administration had sought to remove, was accepted on a voice vote.

That same week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved their version of the foreign operations appropriations bill. Their version currently provides only $567 million to Colombia and surrounding countries (a decrease from the administration’s original request), includes some human rights conditions, emphasizes the importance of alternative development funding, and encourages compensation for farmers whose legal crops are fumigated or who suffer health damages due to aerial fumigation. Nonetheless, the Senate Appropriations Committee bill maintains support for forced aerial fumigation of coca and poppy fields and includes large-scale funding of the Colombian military. The full Senate will debate and vote on the bill after they return from Labor Day recess in September.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby in the public interest, works in coalition with like-minded groups to oppose current U.S. policy towards Colombia. We believe that the emphasis of U.S. drug policy should be on reducing demand in the U.S. through expanded prevention and treatment programs and through programs that increase economic and educational opportunities in U.S. communities beset by drug addiction and drug-related violence and crimes. We urge members of Congress 1) to oppose continued military and security assistance to Colombia and the Andean region and for the fumigation campaign, and 2) to support increasing U.S. assistance to the region for sustainable, community-based, economic development and for the strengthening of democratic and civil society institutions.

We urge you to contact your senators with this message between now and the Senate vote in September. Also, please thank your representative if s/he voted in favor of the McGovern amendment to cut military aid to Colombia and transfer it to global health accounts.

Check here to see how your member voted:

See the FCNL website for more information:

Write a letter to your senator from the Legislative Action Center on the FCNL website:

An extensive list of peace team groups working in Colombia, information sources, and US and Colombian officials’ contact information is available at Resources/Contacts for Colombia or by mail if you send a SASE to FPT, PO Box 10372, San Antonio TX 78210-0372.

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