Emergency supplemental/Colombia Update:
Senate may debate Emergency Supplemental starting Monday
Urge your senators to speak on the floor with their concerns!
In this alert: Emergency Supplemental hits the Senate soon; Language on Colombia much better than House version; Please ask senators to voice concerns on the floor; Brief talking points for your senators.
Update, May 31: The US Senate is set to begin debate on their version of a massive emergency spending bill early next week (June 3). This is the bill that passed the House last week, granting almost $30 billion in funds for global counter-terrorism efforts. The version passed by the House expands the US mission in Colombia from counter-drug efforts to counter-insurgency, and grants a $6 million downpayment for the creation of a brigade of the Colombian military to protect a pipeline in northern Colombia belonging to US oil company Occidental Petroleum.
What does the Senate bill look like? The version that the Senate will debate next week is different from the House version in a number of important ways. This version was drafted by the Senate Appropriations Committee; and thanks to your hard work, Senator Leahy (D-VT) and other Senate leaders added helpful language on Colombia into their version of the bill. The Senate version in its current form does the following:
-Keeps the human rights and fumigation restrictions on current aid in place, same as the House version (this was a direct result of your pressure-- thank you!)
-Cuts the $6 million requested by Bush for the pipeline brigade to $3.5 million, and, in an interesting twist, mandates that Occidental Oil REIMBURSE the US government for money spent on the brigade
-Allows US aid to be used for counter-insurgency, but adds language that says that before our mission can expand from counter-drug efforts, the Secretary of State has to certify that the Colombian government is working to support democracy and human rights, and that they are going after illegal paramilitary groups.
What should you tell your senators to do? Given the language that Senator Leahy and others added to the bill, it's unlikely that additional amendments will be offered-- so you don't need to tell your senators to support a specific amendment on Colombia. However, it's still important to tell your senators that they should SPEAK ON THE SENATE FLOOR and express their concerns. The Senate version still raises a lot of questions, and the underlying issues-- the impact of military aid on human rights, and the lack of alternative development funds or support for a negotiated peace process-- are unaddressed. While it's difficult to offer an amendment to address these problems in the context of THIS bill, speaking on the floor keeps concerns fresh in people's heads. Remember, there will be another debate on Colombia aid over the summer-- so we need senators to voice concerns now in preparation for that debate.
Please ask your senators to voice concerns on the floor next week. Also, please tell them that they'll be seeing these issues again soon, when they start debate on the foreign aid bill for 2003 (this debate will happen mid-summer). Tell them to keep your concerns in mind when they look at the foreign aid bill, and to support any amendments on that bill that limit US military assistance to Colombia.
Talking Points for Your Senators: While the Senate version of the supplemental is an improvement on the House version, it still represents a massive shift in policy toward Colombia. Getting into direct counter-insurgency, regardless of what conditions are attached, could mean the beginning of years of US involvement and could lead to an escalation in violence in Colombia. We should not forget the lessons of the past: US counter-insurgency in El Salvador in the 1980s cost $6 billion in US taxpayer dollars and 70,000 Salvadoran lives. Colombia is 53 times the size of El Salvador. Trying to find a solution to the conflict through military means is not just impractical, but extremely dangerous.
Furthermore, sending aid to a military that collaborates with the paramilitaries-- who are on the US terrorist list and commit some 70% of politically-motivated civilian killings each year-- rewards this relationship, and sends a terrible message that we'll look the other way even when human rights are being violated.
Thank you for all your hard work!