Did you have a restful holiday? We hope you did because now that the new year is here we're going to be putting you back to work in pushing for real change in U.S. policies towards Colombia.
As we pointed out in a recent blog post reflecting on "Obama's First Year," although the administration promised us a foreign policy that would bring us hope and change, Colombia policy is still falling far short. Giving Colombia a free pass on the human rights conditions, signing military base agreements, continuing high levels of military aid—these actions are a bitter disappointment. Yet we have seen some good signs, especially when President Obama raised real concerns about human rights and democracy when Colombian President Uribe came to visit the White House. This year, no excuses: We want our government to use both words and deeds to say that respect for human rights does matter.
We'll only know if that is possible if we come at them with the same energy that we had last year at this time.
Will you send an email to your family and friends inviting them to join us in advocating for real change in U.S. policy towards Colombia? Simply click here to open our sample email invite!
The good news is that we have momentum coming from the work we did together last year.
First, we took the rather disappointing foreign aid budget that the Obama Administration proposed, and through educating our members of Congress and keeping the pressure on, we encouraged real improvements in the final bill. This included:
• $8 million more in nongovernmental aid to Colombian refugees, along with $45
million for aid to internally displaced persons;
• A ban on funding to the DAS, the Colombian intelligence agency that has been
embroiled in an illegal wiretapping scandal;
• And a new human rights condition that calls for the Colombian government to
respect the rights of human rights defenders, journalists, political opposition,
religious leaders, and trade unionists, as well as indigenous and Afro-Colombian
Then, we joined up with some of our congressional allies to support this strong letter to the State Department, making it clear that this year we expect the administration to fulfill its promise of change by taking a fresh, sensible approach towards Colombia, one that puts support for victims and respect for human rights at the top of the agenda. During November, we made thousands of calls into congressional offices and grew the list of signers on this letter from 4 to 53 members of Congress when it was finally sent to Secretary of State Clinton! Take a look at the final version of the letter here.
There will be a lot more exciting opportunities for action in the year to come. We feel so lucky to be able to count on you.
We're looking forward to a year and decade of making real change hand-in-hand with you!