Earlier this month the Obama Administration submitted its foreign aid budget request to Congress, giving us the first clear indication of where the administration intends to take Colombia policy. The administration has said many good (and needed) things since coming to office, but now that they're showing us the money—and repeating the Bush Administration's military aid request—it's clear that these positive words are not yet being backed up with positive deeds.
We need you to act today to put the brakes on the Obama Administration's Bush-lite approach to Colombia:
- Call your members of Congress. Encourage them to get in touch with the Foreign Operations Subcommittee chair (in the House or Senate, depending on who you're calling) to express their support for a new direction in U.S. policy towards Colombia. Click here to see a call script.
- Send President Obama an email. Tell him that his Colombia aid request does not reflect your values—and that you expect more from him.
So what's our take on Obama's Colombia aid request? On the positive side, the administration has signaled its desire to send more social and economic aid to Colombia, which would support the ever-growing population of displaced people and help strengthen a judicial system that's been making headway in investigating politicians' ties to paramilitary groups. We were also encouraged to see the administration make a $50 million cut to counternarcotics aid that has senselessly punished and displaced countless small farmers while failing to reduce coca cultivation by a single hectare.
The bad news is that the Obama budget would maintain the Bush Administration's funding for the still-abusive Colombian army and reduce much-needed aid for refugees who are fleeing violence. Also, like every administration before it, the Obama Administration would do away with the human rights conditions on military aid. We've used these conditions to demand an end to the army's killing of civilians and to successfully hold up $110 million in aid—we expect Congress to restore them, but they need to hear from you, their constituent.
For a more complete picture of Obama's aid request, please see a guest post on the LAWG Blog from CIP's Adam Isacson.
While we are extremely disappointed that President Obama passed on the opportunity to lead Congress toward a new direction in U.S. policy towards Colombia, we are not disheartened. We know that part of the problem now is simply that no one is yet "home" in the administration, so Latin America and human rights policy are adrift.
What's needed now is to send President Obama a reminder that we are here and to make calls to Congress so that it can step up and make positive changes where the administration fell short. We cannot let up. After acting today, we need you to continue the pressuring and cajoling of your reps., and the educating and organizing of your communities, that will ultimately achieve real change for Colombia. Adelante!
I'm a constituent calling to share some thoughts with you on the Obama Administration's aid request for Colombia—and to ask for your help in improving it. While I support the administration's request to cut funding for a failed drug policy and to continue sending aid for important rule of law programs, I'm strongly opposed to its desire to maintain military aid at Bush Administration levels and to jettison human rights conditions, even as the Colombian Army continues to commit abuses like extrajudicial executions. I call on you to get in touch with the chair of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee to encourage them to substantially reduce military aid to the still-abusive Colombian Army, restore vital human rights conditions that fight impunity and provide accountability, and to increase aid for victims like refugees who are fleeing violence. Thank you and please let me know what actions you take regarding this matter.