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Colombia Drug War Is a Losing Battle for U.S.

Re “U.S. Deficit Follows Bush on Trip” and “Bush’s Colombian Connection,” editorial, Nov. 23: Writer Peter Wallsten fails to mention an aggravating factor in President Bush’s call for continued multibillion-dollar funding for Colombia as he commits to cut the budget deficit; this U.S. investment has produced little of its promised return, despite The Times editorial’s claims to the contrary.

Nearly 4,000 civilians were murdered last year, down slightly from 2002 but up a dramatic 34% since 1999, despite U.S. security assistance. The central policy goal in the region, stemming the availability of drugs on U.S. streets, has been a complete failure. Although figures indicate a modest 7% reduction in coca production since 1999, according to U.S. drug czar John Walters, “We have not yet seen in all these efforts what we’re hoping for on the supply side, which is a reduction in availability.”

The Department of Justice reported that cocaine availability actually increased last year. This situation has alarmed taxpayer watchdog groups such as the National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense Action, as well as some members of Congress, who have joined human rights advocates in calling for policy change.

Congress must come to its senses and shift money from the drug war in Colombia to domestic initiatives.

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Jess Hunter

Senior Associate

U.S. Office on Colombia, Washington

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Since 2000, U.S. assistance to Colombia has been $3.9 billion, of which $3.14 billion has been used to fund Colombia’s military, police and drug-crop eradication by aerial fumigation. Bush wants to reauthorize this aid for another five years.

The purpose of this program is to decrease the amount and increase the price of cocaine in the United States.

The Times calls the program “a remarkable success,” citing a 30% decrease in coca production. Not mentioned is the fact that coca production in neighboring Bolivia has meanwhile increased. Furthermore, both the availability and the price of cocaine on U.S. streets have remained the same since 1995.

So, what has been accomplished for our $3.14 billion? The Colombian military, the chief beneficiary of U.S. aid, continues to be a perpetrator of human rights abuses. Rural populations caught in the crossfire between armed groups flee to population centers, where they live in poverty. Suppression of voices of descent makes it dangerous to work for change.

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Colombia holds the world’s record for assassinations of labor union leaders. Church leaders working to empower the poor are threatened and killed. Is this how we want our tax dollars spent?

Merilie Robertson

Canoga Park


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