US Congressmen urge Clinton to step up humanitarian and decrease military aid

U.S. military funding to Colombia should be decreased and the 2011 budget should instead focus on humanitarian aid, U.S. Congressmen urged in a letter to the country’s Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

The Congressmen stated that cases of extrajudicial executions by members of the army, the resurgence of paramilitaries, the illegal wire tappings of government opponents and other human rights abuses were “trends that require a strong and focused diplomatic response.”  In regards to extrajudicial killings of civilians carried out by Colombian armed forces they said they were “disturbed that many of these units were recipients of U.S. military and defense assistance”

The letter calls for Clinton “to scale down assistance for Colombia’s military and more systematically “Colombianize” such programs”.

The Congressmen outlined where they believe U.S. funding to Colombia should be focused.

“We believe strongly that the United States should continue to provide substantial assistance to Colombia’s judicial system, focused upon the goal of reducing impunity, with special attention to extrajudicial executions, attacks and threats against human rights defenders and trade unionists, and violence by illegal armed groups,” the letter reads.

The letter also suggests a shift in the approach of Plan Colombia:

“For sustained gains, investment must be shifted from aerial spraying to farmer-led programs with voluntary, phased-in eradication coupled with effective community-based alternative development and rural development programs, including a special focus on food security.”

The U.S. Senate extended Plan Colombia for another year in October, guaranteeing its help in combatting leftist guerrillas and the production and trafficking of cocaine in Colombia.

Since 2000, the U.S. spent US$6 billion in Plan Colombia. U.S. former officials like President Bill Clinton and the current administration of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have called the plan a success. Colombia has lobbied a continuation of the plan.

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