Pubdate: Thu, 28 Feb 2002
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2002 The Washington Post Company
Authors: Mary Diaz, Eric Jacobstein, And William H. Fisher


The Feb. 22 front-page article "Colombian Military Hits Rebel Haven" 
focused on the violence and failed peace process but paid little attention 
to the crisis of internal displacement in Colombia.

This conflict has forced more than 2 million people from their homes. They 
are not considered refugees, because they have not crossed an international 
border, so they have little access to humanitarian assistance. Most are 
women and children.

These displaced people have little or no access to health care and 
education. Adolescent boys are recruited into armed groups, gangs and the 
drug trade. Girls are also recruited by armed factions, but are more often 
forced to work as servants or prostitutes.

The Colombian government provides only short-term help to the internally 
displaced, and the United Nations' approach has been scattershot. 
Meanwhile, the United States pours more money into weapons for the 
Colombian military.

Where is the support for development programs, including provision of 
health, education and employment, to address the crisis facing millions of 
Colombia's children?


Executive Director

Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children

New York


The Post uses U.S. involvement in El Salvador during the 1980s as a 
positive example to follow in assisting Colombia in its struggle against 
insurgent groups [editorial, Feb. 24].

If anything, the El Salvador case should prove how hazardous U.S. military 
assistance can be. Thousands of civilian deaths occurred as a direct result 
of U.S. aid to an army that had the same lack of respect for human rights 
that the Colombian army has.

The massacre at El Mozote in 1981, in which an American-trained battalion 
of Salvadoran soldiers tortured and killed hundreds of innocent people 
demonstrates the absurdity of the notion that military assistance should be 
provided to Colombia in the same way that it was poured into El Salvador.


Haverford, Pa.


The idea that El Salvador is a good precedent for the United States to 
follow in Colombia makes me cringe. Since the end of the war in El 
Salvador, promises of development have proven hollow, unimaginable misery 
continues unabated and the country has disappeared from the pages of the 
U.S. press.

The real import of the editorial is clear: Colombia will have our attention 
while it is in turmoil, and the United States will support even savage 
elements of the army and paramilitaries to repress revolt. Afterward, 
Colombians may go about silently starving and dying, sight unseen, while 
our press is busy covering the next crisis.


Williamsburg, Va.
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