Letter from Latin American Working Group:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to visit Washington April 30 as the push for STILL MORE military aid continues...


Time to target LOCAL MEDIA with letters to the editor-- let's get the word

out to Congress through their home papers!


ACTION NEEDED: Please send letters to the editor of your local papers ON

APRIL 29 or 30, OR MAY 1. President Uribe will be in Washington starting

April 30, and will likely stay through May 2 or 3. He will be discussing

trade issues and continued military aid. Because Congress almost voted to

cut the additional military aid to Colombia that was included in the Iraq

supplemental, Uribe will be trying to shore up congressional support for

continued military assistance. We need to tell Congress that we DON'T

believe continued military aid is the answer, and there's no better way to

do that than through local papers, which congressional staff read daily.




A sample letter to the editor is included below to start you off, and you're

welcome to use it, although your own words are always best. Here are some

tips on writing letters to the editor:


-Most LTEs are 200-300 words in length.

-Your newspaper's letters page should give you an e-mail or fax number to

use to submit the letter. You can also check your newspaper's website for

information on how to send a letter.

-If your paper has recently covered Colombia and you can cite the article in

your letter, do so. This increases the chances that your letter will be

published (since most LTEs are responses to articles).

-LTEs are very widely read, so be sure to make your point clear and keep

your language simple-- don't use jargon or complicated terms. They are

educational tools as well as spaces to convey an opinion.

-Be sure to include your name, address, and especially telephone number at

the end of the letter. Editors need to call you to verify authorship before

they print the letter; they won't publish your address or phone number.


And remember, be sure to send your congressional office a copy of the letter

so they know that you submitted it. Also, please send me a copy so I can

keep track of what districts are being covered-- estarmer@lawg.org. Thank



Here's a sample LTE. To see how your representative voted on the Colombia

amendment to the Iraq bill, please go to

http://www.lawg.org/colSUPvotes.htm. If you don't know who your

representative is, see www.house.gov/writerep.


To the Editor


Recently, Colombia appeared on the list of countries to receive extra

military aid from the US because of its support for the war with Iraq,

despite the opposition of 57% of its population to that war. Representative

[your rep's name] voted [for/against] an amendment to cut out that aid. [I

applaud this decision (if they voted in favor) OR This vote greatly concerns

me (if they voted against)-- see http://www.lawg.org/colSUPvotes.htm for

voting record]. The US has given Colombia more than two billion dollars

over the past three years to fight the drug war, and now to combat guerillas

forces as well. This week, President Alvaro Uribe is in Washington

requesting still more money. One wonders what principles guide such massive

US involvement.


Is our goal to stop the flow of drugs to the US? If so, we seem to be

failing, as drug availability on US streets remains stable, and drug

production burgeons in Peru following a fumigation program in Colombia that

has destroyed not only drug crops, but legal crops as well. Farmers in these

areas lose trust in the state as they see their food crops ruined by errant

spraying. They often re-plant their drug crops when alternative crop

assistance is not delivered.


Is our goal to support the Colombian government in their decades-long war

against guerilla groups, whose combined ranks number over 40,000? We have

already intervened in such wars, from Guatemala to Vietnam, with mixed

results at best.


Or perhaps we hope to protect US interests by stationing Special Forces

troops around a vulnerable oil pipeline. One wonders how many troops will

be needed to protect a pipeline hundreds of miles long against mobile and

virtually invisible attackers who can strike at any point.


Clearly our role in Colombia needs clarification and revision. We can ill

afford to continue policing the world, protecting oil and gas interests and

fighting endless wars with murky goals. I hope that Colombia does not become

a quagmire for the United States. If we are going to aid Colombia, we would

do better to focus on improving the lives of the thousands of displaced

civilians devastated by years of war, and providing alternatives for farmers

whose livelihoods have been destroyed by fumigation.


Sincerely yours,




Phone number


Thank you and good luck!