challenge Bush drug war policy in Colombia
On October 24, the US Senate debated the foreign operations
appropriations bill, which contains military and economic funding
for Colombia and the Andean region.
In a renewed bid for colleagues' support for Alternative Development
aid, Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN)
offered an amendment to ensure that alternative development programs
are in place before fumigation resumes in coca-growing areas
of Colombia. This amendment addresses the lack of coordination
between fumigation-which began soon after the Colombia aid package
was passed last year- and alternative development programs, which
have yet to get off the ground.
If fully implemented, the amendment would shift the emphasis
of US policy from fumigation to alternative development, and
could help ensure that farming families receive assistance for
alternative crop development.
The bill now contains revision submitted by Senator Leahy (D-VT)
before the Senate Appropriations Committee debate on the bill.
Funds for aerial fumigation would be delayed until health impact
was determined, and until a system is in place to compensate
farmers whose legal crops are fumigated.
New debate involving more vocal senators may signal the beginning
of a shift in US policy toward a more sustainable, effective
means of combating coca cultivation: alternative development
and economic support that will aid families in coca-growing areas.
During the debate, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) offered an amendment
which would have restored the full amount of the Bush Administration's
aid request for Colombia and the Andes (the Administration requested
$731 million; the Senate version of the bill allotted $567 million).
In opposition to the amendment, both Senator Leahy and Senator
Wellstone spoke strongly against increased funding.
The senators outlined the history of human rights abuses by the
Colombian military and their pervasive ties to the right-wing
paramilitary groups responsible for 70% of extrajudicial killings
in Colombia. They also raised the question of effectiveness,
arguing the package had not led to a decline in drug use or addiction
in the United States, or to a substantial decline in drug cultivation
in Colombia. The senators called for increased funding for treatment
and prevention programs at home as a more effective method of
addressing drug abuse. The Graham amendment was soundly defeated
by a vote of 27-72, suggesting that the Senate, like the House,
is beginning to question the effectiveness of our current approach
to drug supply and demand.
The final package for Colombia and the Andes included the following
- · $567 million for Colombia and surrounding countries,
which is a large reduction from Bush's original request
- · Human rights conditions as a requisite for aid
- · More support for alternative development funding
- · Delay of fumigation until health studies are completed
- · Compensation system for farmers whose food crops
- · Alternative development programs in place before
While the shift in policy is good news, the fundamental problems
with the Colombia Aid package remain. It supports a militarized
approach to drug trafficking, including forced aerial fumigation
of coca and poppy fields and large-scale funding of the Colombian
military despite its ties to abusive paramilitary forces. These
issues must continue to be addressed as we gear up for the next
aid debate in 2002.
of Plan Colombia
In late March 2001, the Bush Administration announced its
plans to continue a military counterdrug strategy in the Andes
with its proposed "Andean Regional Initiative"(ARI).
This initiative requests military and social and economic aid
for Colombia and its neighbors: Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela,
Brazil, and Panama. Most of the money will come as part of the
foreign operations bill, with additional funds appropriated through
the defense bill.
Sold by the administration as a 'balanced' package with 50% of
the money going to regional security forces and 50% for social
and economic development, the aid totals about $1 billion for
the Andean region for 2002 (this is on top of the $1.3 billion
two-year package approved last year). However, the request for
Colombia is still 71% military. The package also includes sharp
increases in military aid for all of Colombia's neighbors.
The Conference Committee for the Foreign Operations Appropriations
Bill is made up of both House and Senate members, and it is they
who will decide what language from each version of the bill will
remain in the final version. The issue of crop-fumigation and
militarization of the Colombian war on drugs will be alive with
debate and political tradeoffs over the coming months. Following
are individual members of the Conference Committee:
House: Kolbe (R-AZ), Callahan (R-AL), Knollenberg (R-MI), Kingston(R-GA),
Lewis (R-CA), Wicker (R-MS), Bonilla (R-TX), Sununu (R-NH), Lowey
(D-NY), Pelosi (D-CA), Jackson (D-IL), Kilpatrick (D-MI), Rothman
Senate: McConnell (R-KY), Specter (R-PA), Gregg (R-NH), Shelby
(R-AL), Bennett (R-UT), Campbell (R-CO), Bond (R-MO), Leahy (D-VT),
Inouye (D-HI), Harkin (D-IA), Mikulski (D-MD), Durbin (D-IL),
Johnson (D-SD), Landrieu (D-LA).