#190 Even Supporters See Disaster In Plan Colombia

Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000
Subject: #190 Even Supporters See Disaster In Plan Colombia

NYT: Even Supporters See Disaster in Plan Colombia


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #190 Saturday November 18, 2000

The plan to send $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Colombia,
allegedly to assist the war on drugs, can only make the violence in
Colombia worse. Now, even a legislator who pushed to advance Plan
Colombia has realized that it is a disaster in the making.

As the New York Times reported this week, U.S. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman
has flip-flopped on his enthusiasm for Plan Colombia. Gilman still
doesn’t seem to understand that the problems aren’t just in the
details, but in the overall concept of fighting the war on drugs.
However, it is important to recognize another voice speaking out
against the military aid.

Please write a letter to the New York Times or other newspapers where
the story has appeared to note that even fervent drug warriors know
Plan Colombia will create more problems while solving nothing.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Phone, Fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent
letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by
E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org Your letter will then
be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts
and be motivated to follow suit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is one important way we have of gauging
our impact and effectiveness.



Source: New York Times (NY)
Contact: letters@nytimes.com


The Miami Herald also ran a story on this subject. Please send your
letter to the Herald also.

Title: US: Key Lawmaker Drops Support For Aid To Colombian Armed
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1716/a04.html
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Contact: heralded@herald.com


The Chicago Tribune also had a good editorial about this subject,
noting “It’s time to think not just about switching this money from
one Colombian pocket to another. It’s time to rethink the whole
thing.” Please check out the whole editorial and send a letter to the
Tribune too.

Title: US IL: OPED: Second Thoughts On Colombia
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1718/a03.html
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Contact: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com



US: Key House Leader Withdraws Support For Colombia Aid Plan
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1714/a07.html
Newshawk: Amanda
Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2000
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2000 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Address: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 556-3622
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Forum: http://forums.nytimes.com/comment/
Author: Christopher Marquis with Juan Forero
Bookmark: Reports from Colombia: http://www.mapinc.org/area/Colombia

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 — Representative Benjamin A. Gilman, chairman of
the House International Relations Committee, has abruptly withdrawn
his support from the decision to funnel $1.3 billion in mostly
military aid to Colombia, arguing that the United States is on the
brink of a “major mistake.”

Mr. Gilman, Republican of New York, sent a letter this week to the
White House drug policy coordinator, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey,
contending that the American plan to increase the role of the
Colombian military in the drug fight will end disastrously, because
the military has undermined its political support after a history of
corruption and human rights abuses. That position echoes other critics
of the plan.

Mr. Gilman called on the Clinton administration to redirect its
assistance, including at least 40 Black Hawk helicopters, from the
military to the national police in Colombia. Mr. Gilman has long
admired the police, which he views as more effective and less tainted
by human rights violations.

“If we fail early on with Plan Colombia, as I fear, we could lose the
support of the American people for our efforts to fight illicit
narcotics abroad,” Mr. Gilman said. “If we lose public support, we
will regret we did not make the mid-course corrections for Colombia
that I have outlined here.”

Last summer, Mr. Gilman voted to support Plan Colombia, a $7.5 billion
strategy drafted jointly by American and Colombian officials and
passed by Congress. In addition to the military spending, the program
allocates money to promote alternative crops, economic renewal and
human rights. The plan seeks to halve drug production over five years
in Colombia, reportedly the source of most of the cocaine and heroin
that enters the United States.

Congressional sources said Mr. Gilman was troubled by recent military
failures in rural areas where rebel forces operate.

It is unclear what effects, if any, Mr. Gilman’s shift will have. A
Senate Republican aide who follows Colombia closely said it was “far
too early” to criticize the plan. Mr. Gilman is expected to relinquish
his chairmanship next year because of term limits.

Critics of the plan have argued that the military aid would merely
intensify the conflict in which two rebel groups have joined forces
with narcotics traffickers against the government, a conflict that
could eventually draw the United States directly into fighting the

Leaders of Colombia’s neighbors also have expressed fears that the
fighting will spill into their countries.

Washington counters that Colombia’s increasingly jumbled battle lines
make it necessary to equip and deploy the military in the fight
against drugs. The American plan calls for training three
counternarcotics battalions, with a total of up to 3,000 troops.

The administration also has promised to watch over the military’s
record on human rights. A spokesman for General McCaffrey, Robert
Weiner, said today that denying aid to the military on the basis of
its past performance would ensure defeat.

“Granted they’re not a superpower,” Mr. Weiner said. “One of the major
purposes of the Plan Colombia is to provide the military with the
resources they need. This actually scares the cartels to death.”

In southern Putumayo Province, where half of the coca in Colombia is
grown, rebels have sealed off roads, arguing that the military has to
rein in right-wing gunmen who are associated with the armed forces.

A botched operation in a northern town, Dabeiba, resulted last month
in the downing of one of the army’s seven American-made Black Hawks
and the deaths of 22 troops.

The helicopter had been carrying reinforcements to assist soldiers
locked in a firefight with rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia. But sloppy communications led the pilot to land in a
rebel-controlled area, an American official said.

The rebels “were waiting for them,” the official said. “What kind of
intelligence is that? They were dug in like the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”

A high-ranking official in President Andres Pastrana’s government
defended the military involvement on the grounds that the drug war has
fundamentally changed in the last five years.

“It used to be an urban drug war, which the police were very capable
of handling,” the official said. “It has now become a drug war fought
in the jungles, and you can’t do that without military support.”

Another official said, “The fact that there are voices that are
against these tactics doesn’t mean that the strategy is going to change.”



To the editor:

It has long been clear that Plan Colombia will neither stop drugs from
reaching Americans nor stabilize Colombia. But, new objections from
Rep. Ben Gilman, formerly one of the plan’s strongest supporters, show
how awful the plan truly is.

Gilman may only have problems with the details, but as history shows,
the whole concept of fighting drugs with force is always a failure.
The outcome of Plan Colombia can only be more violence and increasing
involvement by the U.S. in the affairs of South America.

Stephen Young

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://home.att.net/~theyoungfamily Focus
Alert Specialist