Senate votes for military intervention in Colombia

The US Senate voted June 21st for a massive escalation in US military intervention in Colombia. Senators voted overwhelmingly for the legislative package after turning back two amendments supported by Latin American, human rights and drug policy reform groups, including DRCNet and the November Coalition.

The Wellstone amendment, which would have diverted $225 million from the Colombian military to domestic treatment programs, lost 89-11. The Gorton amendment, which would have cut the assistance down to $200 million, was defeated 79-19. While some differences with the House version of the bill remain, massive US involvement in Colombia is now virtually a done deal.

The vote results sparked harsh criticism from some senators, as well as from human rights and drug policy organizations. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) told his colleagues, "The capacity of this body for self-delusion seems to this senator to be unlimited. Mark my words, we are on the verge... of involvement in a civil war in Latin America, without the slightest promise that our intervention will be a success... This is a down payment and a down payment only. Next year we are likely to hear we need more money and more men."

Sanho Tree, Drug Policy Director at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) told DRCNet, "In Colombia, the roots of conflict are social, political and economic. Guns and helicopters won't remedy the problems of poverty in the Andes or addiction in America. The region needs a mini-Marshall Plan, and we're sending them Desert Storm."

Training and hardware shipment will get underway quickly once the bill gets out of conference committee and is signed by President Clinton. The bill should go to conference committee next week. Marginal improvements in both Senate and House Bills could still happen but is unlikely.

Concerned citizens should contact their senators, asking them if and why they voted on military intervention in Colombia. Visit to find their contact information, or call (202) 224-3121.

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