BACKGROUND and TALKING POINTS:
Sorry about the length of this alert, but desperate times call for desperate measures! Please read on!
Things in Colombia were already bad enough (see www.witnessforpeace.org for fact sheets and reports detailing destructive US-funded fumigation, human rights violations and massive displacement, Colombian military-paramilitary links, and more). But just as the precarious Colombian peace talks became even more precarious last month, hawks in Washington started to unveil a massive campaign to expand and increase US involvement in Colombias civil war. (Apparently the billion+ dollar package for counter-narcotics in Colombia wasnt enough.) Please write a letter about the following four disturbing matters:
ð Military protection for Occidental Oil: Occidental Petroleum has spent years (and lots of money) lobbying to finally achieve a proposal for $98 million of taxpayer money to train and arm Colombian battalions to protect Oxys pipeline in Arauca from left-wing guerilla attacks. This $3 a barrel subsidy (!), which may also risk US and Colombian lives for corporate gain, is particularly shocking in the wake of the Enron scandal.
o Like Enron, Occidental Petroleum does not have a spotless record. OP has been widely criticized for their drilling in indigenous UWa lands in Arauca. They should not receive special favors just because they spent over $1,500,000 on federal election campaigns from 1995 to 2000.
o This policy will put more money in the hands of the Colombian military, with one of the worst human rights records in the hemisphere and with documented ties to the right-wing paramilitary groups that are labeled terrorist by the US state department.
o This policy signals a further militarization and expansion of US involvement in Colombias complicated civil war. Vietnam should have taught us to stay away from unwinnable guerilla wars and that counter-insurgency is not an appropriate or effective use of US military.
o We cannot equip army battalions to protect every US company located in a dangerous place. We can, however, support pro-peace policies that help bring stability and benefit all people. The UN-sponsored peace negotiations in Colombia right now need US support more than Oxy does.
ð More fumigation, less alternative development: State Department lobbyists have been trolling the halls of Congress to talk up fumigation and talk down alternative development. The new budget proposal includes funding a whole new battalion for fumigation and stated goals to spray about twice the area sprayed last year. A US Embassy official in Bogotá recently told a Witness for Peace delegation that of the $300 million earmarked for alternative development in Putumayo, $40 million was already committed to substitution projects. He went on to say that they would not be investing the other $260 million in alternative development or crop substitution because they believe that it is failing and will fail.
o Fumigation has never worked and never will work. When proposing Plan Colombia, officials argued that past fumigation never worked because it wasnt enough. Now, after a year of unprecedented, massive spraying campaigns, drugs are still being grown in Colombia and sold in the US without any noticeable drop in quantity or increase in price. Spraying more will not help!
o Sustainable, locally-designed alternative development and crop substitution are the only way to stop illegal crops from growing in Colombia (without stopping drug demand). Six governors in southern Colombia have joined with civil society and other local leaders to reject fumigation and propose an alternative plan. Lets try listening to them instead of continuing failed policies.
ð Drugs = Terror: You may have seen the $10 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign that draws a link between drug users and terrorists. It seems more likely these ads were intended to convince the American public that drug traffickers in Colombia are legitimate military targets for the US. If the ads were targeted at teens, why were they run in the New York Times and Washington Post? And most importantly- why isnt this money going for drug treatment, the most effective abuse reduction strategy according to a study by the conservative RAND Corp.?
o Drug demand is a serious issue in this country (although it is an issue of public health and local crime, not one of terrorism). But this ad campaign does not really address demand. It supports a drug policy that is 30% treatment and prevention and 70% international interdiction and eradication. In 1998, 43% of hardcore drug users who sought treatment in the US could not get it.
o If drug users are funding terror by purchasing drugs, then all US taxpayers are funding terror by paying taxes. The US government is indirectly aiding Colombian right-wing paramilitary groups that the State Department has labeled terrorist.
ð Colombia Fails Human Rights Conditions! The Andean Initiative, signed January 10th by Bush, included real, un-waive-able human rights conditions (thanks to work by you and other activists!). In other words: no military aid until HR conditions are met. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Washington Office on Latin America released a document earlier this month detailing the current human rights situation in Colombia in regards to those conditions. They found detailed, documented proof that not only has Colombia once again failed the conditions, but the human rights situation in Colombia has gotten even worse in the last year! See a new Witness for Peace fact sheet summarizing the report at www.witnessforpeace.org.
o We need an immediate cessation of military aid to Colombia.
o If the State Department certifies Colombia as having passed these conditions (the State Dept report is expected any day now) we must respond both to Washington and the media!
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT THIS!
Latin America has not seen such an onslaught of US militarization since the 1980s. We must address all of the above before it is too late! Please get together some like-minded friends and make sure that as many people as possible do the following:
1. Write a letter to your Representative and both Senators (same letter is fine). It should mention all of the points above. They are hearing from the State Department; They need to hear from you! You can find more information on the www.witnessforpeace.org website. Addresses:
US House of Represenatives US Senate Washington D.C. 20515 Washington, DC 20510
If youd rather fax the letters, call the offices via the switchboard: 202-224-3121.
Send a copy of your letter to Witness for Peace at 1229 15th St, NW Washington DC 20005.
2. Submit your letter as an open letter to Rep. X, Senator A, and Senator B to your local newspaper and ask them to print it in the op-ed section. If they do print it, send a second copy to your Representative, Senators, and us!
3. There are other sample letters to the editor and op-eds on the Witness for Peace webpage. You can use these as they are or change them to fit your needs. When you see an article about Colombia (or drug abuse, or Enron, or anything else related) in your local paper, send in a response letter. Follow up with a phone call to see if/when they will print your letter or op-ed. Always send copies of these publications to your Congressional offices (and us!).
4. Get organized to come to DC in April for the Colombia Mobilization . We must respond loudly to all of the actions above. Next weeks call-a-week will give you information about the mobilization and what you should be doing now to get ready.
Janet M. Hostetler
Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator
Witness for Peace
1229 15th St, NW
Washington, DC 20005
fax (202) 588-1472