Research: Publications

CIP Memo to Senate Staff

June 20, 2000 | Policy Brief

By Adam Isacson, Ingrid Vaicius

The 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (S. 2522) is to come to the floor very soon, possibly later today or tomorrow. Chapter 1 of Title VI of this bill contains most of the administration's requested $1 billion aid package for Colombia.

While we agree that Colombia needs urgent assistance, we oppose this aid package. Despite improvements in the Senate version, the planned assistance remains unbalanced toward military aid and will fund a policy that runs the following serious risks:

1. For this first time, the United States will be funding offensive military operations against Colombian guerrillas. By blurring distinctions between counter narcotics and counterinsurgency, the package greatly deepens Washington's involvement in Colombia's intractable, decades-old war.

2. A U.S. fueled escalation would be a severe blow to an ongoing peace process, escalating the fighting and strengthening hard-liners on both sides.

3. The aid could worsen a human rights disaster in a country where civilians make up about 70 percent of casualties, and where paramilitary groups - which maintain extensive local-level links to the armed forces - commit over 75 percent of abuses.

4. The paramilitaries, which are rapidly increasing their involvement in the drug trade, are entirely absent from this aid package.

5. Even if the package meets its goal of clearing coca production from two provinces the size of Pennsylvania, there is no guarantee that coca will not simply move elsewhere in Colombia's California-sized Amazon basin jungle. While U.S. demand remains unchanged, the supply will seek to meet it.

If the United States really has a billion dollars to spend on anti-drug efforts in Colombia, these resources would be much more effective if channeled into alternative development, rural infrastructure, aid for the displaced, judicial system reform, human rights and strengthening the peace process. A negotiated peace will be a much cheaper, faster and longer-lasting way to make rural Colombia secure enough for counter-drug efforts.

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