April 24: URGENT ACTION: Bush emergency spending bill to start debate in House THIS WEEK. Massive expansion of Colombia military aid if we don't act now! If you make one call on Colombia this year, PLEASE MAKE IT THIS ONE.
We have very little time, so please pass this along to your lists and start making calls ASAP!
In this alert: 1) Update on Bush's 'emergency supplemental' bill-- more military aid for Colombia, broader scope; 2) Action on the supplemental needed IMMEDIATELY; 3) Talking points on the supplemental for your calls or meetings with Congress; 4) How to stay involved.
Update on Emergency Supplemental
General info on the supplemental: President Bush is asking Congress for an additional $27.1 billion for this year (FY2002) to expand the ongoing war on terrorism in Afghanistan, the U.S., and elsewhere around the globe. Ninteen countries are listed as recipients of aid through this emergency supplemental, and one is Colombia. According to the State Department's most recent Human Rights Report, the security forces of fourteen of these nineteen countries have been guilty of serious human rights violations during the past year. The President did not request additional funds to address pressing human security concerns such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic or the suffering of civilian victims of U.S. bombing in Afghanistan and their families.
What does this bill do?
General: Besides giving a massive $27 billion more for the war on terrorism, this bill would change the laws currently governing U.S. foreign aid. The bill would channel millions of dollars in foreign aid through the Pentagon rather than the State Department. That means less congressional oversight of where the money goes and how it is spent. The bill would also remove or override current restrictions on military aid to countries with notoriously poor human rights records, such as Colombia and Indonesia.
Colombia: This bill has a large section on Colombia, which, if it passes, would:
-Lift the counter-drug restriction on all Colombia aid, past and present. Currently, aid to Colombia is only allowed to be used for the Colombian military's counter-drug work, but if the restriction is lifted, US money and equipment will be able to be used for Colombia's war against the FARC guerillas.
-Lift the current human rights and fumigation restrictions on Colombia aid. That means that the United States won't have to certify that the Colombian armed forces are cutting ties with brutal paramilitary groups before we can send the aid, and won't have to certify that the chemicals that are used in fumigation don't hurt human health or the environment. The US can just go ahead and send the aid-- and a terrible message that we don't care about human rights or the environment.
-Give $25 million more aid for the Colombian military and police's anti-kidnapping work;
-Give $4 million to reinforce police posts in Colombia;
-Give $6 million to start training a new military batallion in the north-eastern state of Arauca to guard an oil pipeline owned by the US oil company Oxidental Petroleum.
ACTION ON THE SUPPLEMENTAL: 1) Call your Members of Congress!
Make calls before May 10! The House Appropriations Committee and International Relations Committee will take up this bill by the end of April. The Senate Appropriations Committee may take up the bill as early as May 1. Then the bill will go to the full House and Senate-- the President would like the bill to be passed before Memorial Day.
Call your members of Congress tell them to oppose more military aid to Colombia and to oppose lifting restrictions on the aid (talking points are included below). Please call his or her office in Washington, ask to speak with the foreign policy aide, and voice your concerns to him or her. To reach the DC office, call the congressional switchboard at 202/224-3121. If you do not know who your senators are, please see http://www.senate.gov/senators/senator_by_state.cfm. If you do not know who your representative is, please see www.house.gov/writerep .
This bill is being pushed through Congress very quickly by the administration, leaving very little room for debate. We need debate on this massive shift in US military aid! We need to act now to stop this policy change!
2) Send a letter! You can also send a letter by fax or e-mail. To view a sample letter to Congress, click on the link below, which will take you to the website of the Friends Committee on National Legislation here in DC. Then enter your zip code and click <Go> in the <Take Action Now> box. Here is the
Talking Points For Your Call: Increased Military Aid is not the Solution
Broadening military aid in Colombia could have a drastic effect on the country's already dire humanitarian situation. The 40-year armed conflict in Colombia has left almost 400,000 civilians dead. Many members of Congress have good intentions, and want to support an end to violence in Colombia. But adding more military aid is not the way to do it.
Sending more military aid to Colombia is not going to help protect civilians. The Colombian military still works with paramilitary groups, who are on the US terrorist list and who commit some 70% of civilian killings in Colombia. Human Rights Watch and other organizations released a report in February showing that the human rights situation in Colombia is EVEN WORSE than a year ago, with a high level of cooperation between the military and the paramilitaries. Why should we reward them for this terrible record with more aid? Is it really anti-terrorist to send aid to a military that collaborates with a group on our terrorist list?
Sending military aid to Colombia will pull the US into another Vietnam quagmire. Colombias civil war with the FARC has been going on for 40 years and 400,000 civilians have died. When the US did counterinsurgency in El Salvador in the 1980s, it cost us $6 billion in taxpayer money and 70,000 Salvadoran civilians lost their lives. Colombia is 53 times the size of El Salvador, and the amount of money needed to defeat the FARC is incalculable. A political solution is the only way out.
Real Solutions. US support for a negotiated peace process with the FARC and the ELN, and real pressure on the Colombian government to break ties with the paramilitaries, will go much further at protecting civilians than increased military aid will. Violent actions on the part of the FARC have a tremendous human cost, but supporting a military that collaborates with brutal paramilitaries has a huge human cost as well.
And if we really want to fight drugs, we need more alternative development and less fumigation. The fumigation program has hurt farmers food crops, the Amazon environment, livestock, and human healthbut it hasnt hurt drug cultivation. Fumigation is inhumane AND its bad drug policy! The US government itself found that coca cultivation went up 25% last year, even though we fumigated almost 100,000 hectares of land. If were committed to helping reduce the supply of coca, we need to fund alternative development so that farmers have something else to grow.
But we're going to have to work hard to convince our members of Congress. Please call your member of Congress immediately. They care what constituents think, and they need to hear from you!
How to stay involved
If you are not already on the LAWG's listserv, join it! The Latin America Working Group is a national coalition of over 65 faith-based, human rights, grassroots, foreign policy and development organizations. Since 1983, the coalition has worked to promote US policies that support peace, justice, and sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the interest of promoting active and informed citizen participation in the formation of US policy toward Colombia and the Andes, the LAWG runs a grassroots listserv which sends out timely e-mail alerts on US policy toward the region. If you are not currently on the listserv and would like to be, please see http://www.lawg.org/colsignon.htm or send a message with your name and
address to firstname.lastname@example.org asking to be put on the Colombia grassroots list.
Thank you for all of your hard work. Those of us following these policies in Washington depend on you.