InfoBrief - September 1, 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 indicating why you would be interested in this weekly news service.


U.S. Current Affairs & Media


·	Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Visits Colombia, Announces Resumption of Drug Interdiction Flights During an eight hour visit to Colombia on August 19, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced the resumption of the controversial U.S.-backed Airbridge Denial Program, which aims to force or shoot down aircraft suspected of carrying drugs in Colombian airspace. The program was suspended two years ago when a small plane transporting a U.S. missionary and her child was mistakenly shot down over Peru, killing both. In a memo released on August 19, however, President Bush assured Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Powell that Colombia "has appropriate procedures in place to protect against innocent loss of life in the air and on the ground." While both the program's revival and Rumsfeld's visit to Bogotá signal the Bush Administration's continued support of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, Human Rights Watch (HRW) questioned the legality of firing on private aircraft as if they were combatants in an armed conflict. More information is available online at: 2003/08/20/international/americas/20RUMS.html while the HRW critique can be found at:


·	Scientists Link Herbicide Used for Aerial Fumigation in Colombia to Toxic Fungus Recent scientific reports have linked glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup herbicide, to accelerated growth of the toxic fungus Fusarium. This chemical allegedly increases the size of colonies of Fusarium, toxic moulds that can invade crops if not kept in check by other microbes. In the last few years, the U.S. government has assisted Colombia with the aerial fumigation of hundreds of thousands of acres of coca crops using a glyphosate-based herbicide. More information is available online at:


·	U.S. Senate to Debate Foreign Aid Bill It is expected that the foreign aid bill will be debated in the Senate as early as next week. Although no amendments regarding aid to Colombia are anticipated, the current bill contains $34 million less in Colombia military aid and an additional $15 million in social aid, as compared to last year. LAWG has issued an action alert urging individuals to encourage their Senators to debate Colombia policy. It is available online at:


·	Tape of U.S. Hostages in Colombia Surfaces The FBI has recently acquired a videotape of the three Department of Defense contractors who were captured by FARC guerrillas when their plane crashed in February. The tape, turned over to the FBI by a television documentary maker, is the first proof of life for the three men since their capture and shows them in seemingly healthy condition. While Ambassador-at-large J. Cofer Black, the U.S. State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, maintains that the United States will not negotiate with the FARC, he vowed that, "as long as they are alive, we will never give up." More information is available online at: 20030828/ts_nm/ colombia_usa_dc_1.


·	U.N. Office Critiques Bill Granting Amnesty to Members of Illegal Armed Groups The Office in Colombia for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has issued a critique of a Colombian bill that would grant amnesties to illegal combatants, including those sentenced for crimes against humanity. The bill, which was introduced on August 21, would grant parole to jailed combatants who belong to groups that have declared a cease-fire or are involved in peace negotiations with the government. The UNHCHR fears that such a measure would only prolong the armed conflict because many of those who commit atrocities would not be sanctioned, opening the door to impunity. The Office's remarks are available online at: php3?cod=25&cat=16.


Upcoming Events and Seminars in the U.S.


·	 "Semana Por la Paz," an annual Colombian event organized by local human rights and faith-based organizations, will be held September 7-14. The event is a chance for people throughout the U.S. to organize coinciding activities to show support for Colombians affected by the conflict and to call upon Congress to change U.S. policy towards Colombia. More information can be found at: new%20pages/countries/Colombia/semanaintro.htm