Senate debate on the 2004 foreign aid bill could take place within the next week.  Included in the bill is $500 million in aid - largely military and police aid - to Colombia.  However, the Senate appears set to approve the Colombia aid portion of the bill with no debate.  More than $2.5 billion in taxpayer dollars has gone to Colombia in the last three years, and there is no indication that the broad and vague goals of Plan Colombia have been met.  Drugs are just as available on U.S. streets.  Nineteen civilians are killed each day in the crossfire of violence between the paramilitaries, guerilla groups and the Colombian armed forces, up from 12 per day three years ago.  The fumigation policy aimed at destroying the coca fields has displaced farmers and left them with no economic alternative, while simply moving coca production to other countries in the region.

Action:      Contact your senators and ask them why they are not talking about Colombia policy.  Express your concerns about the policy of continued military funding for Colombia.

To send a letter to your senator log on to:

Background:      The Senate has not held debate on Colombia policy for two years, despite the fact that the stated goals for Colombia policy have not been met.  Clearly, there are serious questions and concerns to be addressed.

When the Senate passed Plan Colombia in 2000, the stated goal was to curb drug production.  Last year, the U.S. mission in Colombia was expanded to include counter-insurgency efforts.  Already, more than $2.5 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars has gone to Colombia, with few tangible results.  In fact, the situation in Colombia has in many cases gotten worse.  According to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, drugs are just as available on U.S. streets as they were three years ago.

Funding the Colombian armed forces, which have been linked to the actions of brutal paramilitary groups, has only accelerated the armed conflict in Colombia.  In 2000, 12 civilians a day died as a result of Colombia's internal conflict.  This year, the number has risen to 19 per day.  As paramilitaries, guerilla groups and the Colombian armed forces escalate the conflict, innocent civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire.  According to the U.S. State Department, the Colombian armed forces still collaborate with paramilitary groups who murder civilians, are involved in drug trafficking and are on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

Efforts to fumigate drug-producing crops have displaced small farmers and destroyed food crops as well.  There is no alternative development assistance to provide other means of survival.  Water sources are contaminated, and people go hungry.  The fumigation is causing widespread damage to the environment in the Colombian rainforest that will impact many generations to come. In addition, coca production has simply moved to other parts of the region, such as Bolivia and Peru.

Members of the United Church of Christ have participated in numerous delegations to Colombia, and have seen the devastation of the continuing violence firsthand.  Over and over again, they are told by civilians that U.S. military aid has not relieved their suffering - indeed, in many cases, it has contributed to the violence.  In 2001, the UCC General Synod 23 passed a resolution on Colombia, which calls members to urge policymakers to stop all further military aid to Colombia, and support a negotiated peace process which includes all sectors; to reallocate funds previously spent on military aid to be used strictly for humanitarian purposes; to stop any further aerial fumigation of coca crops and instead support manual eradication, along with subsidizing alternate crop production; and to provide adequate funding for drug consumption prevention and treatment on request for addicts in the U.S. to reduce overall demand...."

This summer, the 24th UCC General Synod raised renewed concern abut attacks on Colombian Church leaders, noting, "...during the first seven months of 2002 at least 20 Protestant pastors and church leaders were assassinated and more than 400 churches were closed."