Pubdate: Wed, 19 Sep 2001
Source: Methow Valley News (WA)
Copyright: 2001 Methow Valley News
Author: Ann George


Dear Editor:

This is a call to action for anyone who cares about human rights, the 
people of Latin America or the environment. The Senate will soon vote 
on the Andean Regional Initiative-continued funding for military and 
fumigation aid to Colombia.

I recently returned from a delegation to Colombia where our group 
heard several times how U.S. military aid is increasing the number of 
civilians displaced and killed for political reasons. We heard about 
the strong ties between the U.S.-funded military and the 
paramilitaries that commit 80 percent of the human rights violations 
in Colombia. Our delegation met human rights workers and labor union 
activists who have been declared military targets because of their 
activism, and heard the stories of some of the 80 Colombian labor 
union leaders already assassinated this year.

We stood on a school playground in the tiny village of La Concordia, 
while parents showed us their children's rashes caused by the U.S.- 
funded spraying of an herbicide called Roundup Ultra. We toured a 
yucca processing plant that now stands idle because the spraying 
wiped out the entire crop.

Some say that the purpose of U.S. aid to Colombia is to protect kids 
in the U.S. from illegal drugs, but if that is true, it is a horribly 
misguided effort. Studies have shown that decreasing the demand for 
drugs in the U.S. would be far less expensive than trying to stem the 
supply. By cutting the supply, U.S. policy is increasing the price 
paid in Colombia, giving poor farmers, whose small plots are being 
sprayed, incentive to move further into the jungle to plant more.

I believe that we can make a difference by voicing our opposition to 
senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Analysts say that senators 
consider constituents that take the time to send them handwritten 
letters to be expressing the concerns of 500 constituents. Phone 
calls are thought to speak for 200 constituents and e-mails, two. The 
number for the Washington, D.C. switchboard is (202) 224-3121.

If you express concerns about U.S. policy in Colombia, you won't be 
alone. The AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers labor unions have come 
out against U.S. military aid to Colombia. "We are strongly opposed 
to the amount of military aid being sent to the Colombian army," said 
the president of the steelworkers union, "when trade unionists and 
innocent people are being killed by the very military forces we are 

Ann George
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