Pubdate: Tue, 18 Mar 2003
Source: Chapel Hill News (NC)
Copyright: 2003 Chapel Hill News
Author: Noreen Ordronneau


As the U.S. Congress and public are focused on preparations for war with 
Iraq, the U.S. government deepens its involvement with the 40-year-old 
civil war in Colombia. The Associated Press reported that the United States 
dispatched 150 soldiers to search for the downed intelligence operatives in 
Colombia. This deployment brings the number of U.S. troops in Colombia to 
more than 400.

The United States continues to pursue a dangerously simplistic policy in 
Colombia instead of addressing the deep and complex causes of the conflict, 
revolving around economic issues.

Last year's focus was the "war on drugs," which has now morphed into the 
"war on terrorism." By all measures the anti-drug mission has failed. The 
price of cocaine and heroin on U.S. streets has remained constant and the 
amount of coca grown in South America has stayed the same at more than 
200,000 hectares.

As evidence of failure accumulates, one might expect Washington to 
reconsider its military-centric strategy. In the name of the drug war the 
United States has given $2.4 billion in aid to Colombia since 1996. Of this 
amount, 82 percent, or $1.96 billion, has gone for police and military 
expenditures. A very small percentage of the funds have been used for 
alternative crop programs, even though law requires these. Now the United 
States has sent Special Forces to fight in Colombia.

As our involvement increases, serious questions must be raised. Will the 
annual level of military aid continue to grow to $1 billion, $2 billion or 
more? Will we see an increased U.S. military presence in Colombia? How much 
U.S. military aid is enough to guarantee success? What is the definition of 
success in Colombia?

After 40 years of war, Colombia needs a negotiated peace to solve its 
complex problems, not more war. Support for alternative development 
programs to help poor Colombian farmers transition from growing drug crops 
is an essential step. In the United States, expanded availability drug 
treatment programs will do more to reduce the drug problem than any 
interdiction program we finance in Colombia.

- -- Noreen Ordronneau, Carrboro
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