InfoBrief- July 14, 2003
InfoBrief is a weekly news summary of events in the U.S. and Colombia produced and distributed by the U.S. Office on Colombia. Colombia This Week is reproduced with the kind permission of the ABColombia Group in London. Other sources include U.S. and Latin American newspapers, and reports from non-profit and grassroots groups. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Office on Colombia. If you would like to receive InfoBrief please contact email@example.com indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.
U.S. Current Affairs & Media
· Vote on Military Aid to Colombia Expected Next Week The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate the foreign aid bill next week. Democrats are likely to offer an amendment to decrease military aid to Colombia. The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) has issued an action alert urging individuals and organizations to mobilize in support of the funding cut. More information is available at: http://www.lawg.org/colaction703.htm.
· Plan Colombia Criticized, Praised on Three-Year Anniversary July 13 marked the three-year anniversary of Plan Colombia, under which more than $2 billion in counternarcotics and military aid has been delivered to Colombia. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), in conjunction with a group of concerned NGOs, observed the occasion by holding a press conference to highlight Plan Colombias failure to meet its objectives. The NGOs, including the U.S. Office on Colombia, issued a report card for the policy and found that Plan Colombia has failed to reduce the availability of illegal drugs in the United States. They cited a Department of Justice report from January of 2003 that stated, cocaine availability appears to be stable overall. Furthermore, the groups argued that the policy has failed to make Colombia more secure, given that nearly one million people have been displaced in the last three years, and the illegal armed groups remain strong. An editorial in The Washington Post also took note of the three-year anniversary, but it voiced the opinion that Plan Colombia is making progress and should be continued. More information on the press conference is available online at: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/ news/world/americas/6277774. htm and the editorial can be found at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48894-2003Jul12.html?nav= hptoc_eo.
· State Department Certifies Colombia on Human Rights On July 7, Secretary of State Colin Powell certified to Congress that the Colombian government and armed forces are meeting human rights standards and severing ties with right-wing paramilitary groups, thereby releasing $31.6 million in aid to the countrys security forces. Under U.S. law, Colombia must comply with six statutory conditions in order to receive some of its aid, although 75% of the funds can be delivered without the State Department certification. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker stated that Colombia had met the legal criteria, but he admitted that, more needs to be done to improve the human rights performance of the armed forces. Human rights groups immediately criticized the decision to certify, citing compelling evidence of non-compliance with the conditions, particularly with regard to the Colombian armed forces failure to break links with paramilitary groups. The State Department memo can be found online at: http://usinfo.state.gov/cgibin/washfile/display. pl?p=/products/washfile/latest&f=03070801.llt&t =/products/ washfile/ newsitem.shtml while the Human Rights Watch response is available at: http://hrw.org/ backgrounder/ americas/colombia-certification5.htm.
· Recommendations Emerge from International Donors Conference on Colombia Representatives of more than 25 governments gathered in London on July 9-10 to discuss aid to Colombia. All governments expressed support for President Uribe and agreed that the two main problems that must be addressed within Colombia are terrorism and the drug trade. On July 9, a consultation meeting took place between the Colombian government and 50 NGO representatives from Colombia, from which one civil society representative was allowed to attend the July 10 donors meeting in order to stress the necessity of respecting human rights and the rule of humanitarian law in Colombia. The civil society groups highlighted the following recommendations: insistence upon a serious peace process to bring Colombias internal conflict to a close, support of the United Nations, prevention of impunity for members of paramilitary groups, support for democratic institutions and condemnation of all forms of violence against members of the civilian population. The United Nations has agreed to present a summary of the NGO consultation meeting to the diplomatic community in Colombia as soon as the report is produced. A joint statement from the Colombian NGOs is available online at: http://www.usoc.org/ngoletterlondon0703.doc.
Upcoming Events and Seminars in the U.S.
· Christian Peacemaker Teams Announces Colombia Delegation From September 27 to October 9, 2003, participants will meet with human rights workers and church leaders in Bogotá, travel to Barrancabermeja, and spend time in the countryside where illegal armed groups threaten the lives of the displaced. More information at: http://www.cpt.org.
*Note: There is no Colombia This Week for July 7-14; a longer CTW will go out July 21. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Peter Clark, Senior Associate
US Office on Colombia
1630 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 201
Washington DC 20009
Tel: 202-232-8090 Fax: 202-232-8092