Pubdate: Thu, 24 Aug 2000
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2000 San Jose Mercury News
Contact:  750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA 95190
Fax: (408) 271-3792
Author: Kirsten Schwind


The shocking deaths of six Colombian schoolchildren shot by the Colombian military while on a field trip (Page 11A, Aug. 20) have focused media attention on the extreme violence in that region. However, the circumstances that lead to a group of professional soldiers opening fire on schoolchildren are unfortunately only indicative of the extensive targeting of civilians in Colombia's on-going civil war.

Neither the Colombian military, the paramilitary groups, nor the guerrillas has a human rights record worthy of receiving the bulk of the $1.3 billion aid package recently approved by Congress for Colombia. The aid is officially slated to fund drug eradication in areas that are strongholds for the guerrillas -- read: counterinsurgency warfare. Much of the aid is targeted to buy military helicopters made in the United States for use by the Colombian military. Further arming any side of this bloody conflict is likely to result in more violence.

Meanwhile, Colombian children not only die from gunfire from the military, paramilitaries, and guerrillas, but also from the less dramatic effects of war, such as poor conditions in refugee camps, and hunger when family food crops are destroyed by aerial spraying of toxic herbicides aimed at coca plants.

Our tax money would better serve children both at home and in Colombia by being spent on drug treatment and prevention programs in U.S. cities, and peace programs in Colombia.

Kirsten Schwind, San Jose
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