Dear Senators Baucus, Tester, and Representative Rehberg,
As advocates for sensible, just and humane US foreign policies ,and residents of the great state of Montana, we would like to draw your attention to the issue of U.S. involvement in Colombia and ask that you consider the human rights impact of U.S. policy as you determine your position concerning upcoming funding requests.
Colombia is caught in a complex web of violence resulting in the most severe humanitarian crisis in the hemisphere. Approximately 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes in recent years, and human rights violations continue by all armed actors. (as documented by Human Rights Watch). Since the inception of Plan Colombia in 2000, the U.S. has supported a military solution to Colombia’s armed conflict and illegal drug trade, which are in many cases interrelated. Over 80 percent of nearly 5 billion in U.S. assistance has gone directly to Colombian military and police forces but the war continues unabated and there has been no reduction of the availability of Colombian drugs on U.S. streets. Despite the many destructive consequences of U.S. policy in Colombia and the drastic failure of the War on Drugs, Plan Colombia has not changed. Recently, members of the Colombian government and the Uribe administration’s cabinet have been implicated in secret support of death squads.
We urge you, as our representative in Congress, to shift the U.S. focus in Colombia from funding the military, which has been implicated in human rights abuses, to assisting in negotiations for a lasting peace. We would ask that you support all legislative efforts to direct funding toward increased alternative development programs, judicial reform and aid for internally displaced persons, including Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations. Rather than the ineffective, often indiscriminate and inhumane aerial herbicide spraying, we must work to reduce demand at home and support programs to move Colombian farmers away from illicit crop production.
We further believe that in light of the Colombian governments poor record regarding its close ties to those implicated in the persecution, harassment and even murder of union leaders, social justice activists, and community leaders, as well as their failure to improve investigations and prosecution of these crimes, the US must not sign the Colombia FTA. The US must demand accountability from its trading partners.
As your constituents, we encourage you to help seek a new direction for U.S. policy in Colombia, one which is based on respect for human rights and justice.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.