With nearly five million internally displaced people, Colombia is home to the Western Hemisphere’s greatest displacement crisis, and ongoing conflict has forced half a million people to flee to neighboring countries. As recent letters from many members of the House and Senate emphasize, we need a fresh approach to our policy towards Colombia. After giving more than $6 billion in aid over the past decade, we cannot waste any more time or taxpayer dollars on a strategy that not only does not work but also has contributed to the country’s growing displacement crisis.
Stand with the victims of violence and those working for peace and justice in Colombia by urging your members of Congress to:
- Co-sponsor House Resolution 1224, introduced by Representative Hank Johnson(D-GA), to support the Colombian Constitutional Court orders to protect indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, which have been disproportionately targeted by armed actors and constitute a majority of the displaced.
- Increase aid for Colombian refugees and displaced persons. This year, the Obama Administration’s budget request for refugee funding in the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) budget was millions of dollars less than the level it has been during the last couple years. This funding, which would go to humanitarian aid by NGOs and UNHCR programs serving Colombian refugees, must be increased by $11 million over the President’s request in order to get back to the previous year’s level. The aid for displaced persons must also be kept at least at the same $45 million as in last year’s budget.
- Support those working for peace and promote a negotiated end to the conflict. In a conflict that threatens to go on indefinitely, Colombians are daily taking risks to relieve the immense suffering of the civilian population and achieve peace. The United States should lend its weight in support of these efforts and join in the international campaign to support the work of human rights defenders.
- Increase funds and accountability for programs that promote sustainable alternative development. The United States should ensure that such programs are designed in consultation with Colombian small-scale farmers, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and that threatened land rights be protected. So as to not encumber development goals, such programs should not be carried out in partnership with the military. The United States should also guarantee that U.S.-funded aid projects are not carried out on land obtained by violence.
- End the inhumane and ineffective aerial spraying program. Instead, the United States should be investing in drug prevention and rehabilitation programs to reduce demand for drugs here at home. At a minimum, congress must keep the $44.9 million cut in counternarcotics funding for Colombia proposed by the President’s budget and make sure that the reduction comes from the spraying program, not from support for the judicial system.
- End all military aid to Colombia and push for an annulment of the agreement that gives the U.S. access to seven military bases in Colombia. The United States must stop investing our taxpayer dollars in the Colombian military, which operates under a system that fails to prosecute and even rewards those responsible for human rights abuses and the killing of innocent civilians.
- Support victims’ efforts to obtain truth, justice, and meaningful reparations. Armed actors from all sides have terrorized civilians with heinous acts. The U.S. must stand by the truly courageous individuals, especially victims, who are searching for truth, justice, and integral reparations in these cases.
- Require the Departments of Justice and State to give Colombian human rights lawyers, judges, and victims access to extradited paramilitary leaders who are responsible for massive human rights atrocities. Right now, paramilitary leaders who have murdered thousands of innocent Colombians are being held in U.S. prisons on drug trafficking charges, and the truth about their crimes is locked away with them.
- Forge economic ties that spur people-centered development, and abandon failed FTA policies. The U.S. should help create opportunities for small-scale farmers, the rural poor, and endangered workers, rather than passing a free trade agreement capable of displacing Colombia’s poor by pushing them further into poverty.