Pubdate: Mon, 04 Sep 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Contact:  2000 The Washington Post Company
Author: Hiram A. Ruiz
Note: The writer is a senior policy analyst for the U.S. Committee for


During his all-too-brief recent visit to Cartagena, President Clinton
probably saw only the elegantly preserved colonial city [front page, Aug.
31]. He did not see the other Cartagena: the slums and shantytowns that are
home not only to thousands of poor local people but to tens of thousands of
internally displaced persons who have fled there to escape the violence and
human rights abuses that are rampant in much of Colombia.

In one Cartagena slum, displaced persons live atop a muddy,
mosquito-infested swamp awash in refuse and sewage. They walk on wooden
planks to avoid sinking into the muck. Few have jobs; fewer still are able
to send their children to school.

During his visit, the president touted the non-military aspects of the
recently approved U.S. aid package to Colombia, including aid for the
displaced. While displaced Colombians urgently need that aid, in the long
run what they most need are actions that will contribute to peace.
Unfortunately, the U.S. aid package does just the opposite.

By heavily arming and training the military at a time when the Colombian
government is engaged in peace talks with the guerrillas, the United States
undoubtedly is strengthening the hand of those who prefer to pursue a
military rather than political solution to the conflict. The ensuing
escalation of the conflict will lead to further forced displacement of
civilians. That is the last thing that country needs. Colombia already has
1.8 million displaced citizens, which makes it the country with the second
largest internally displaced population in the world.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck