Do Not Resuscitate: Plan Colombia
In deciding how much and what kind of aid to give Colombia this next year, Congress will be starting with the Obama Administration's 2010 foreign aid budget request, released last month. While the request takes baby steps away from the military-heavy, fumigations-happy mentality dominating U.S. funding since 2000, it remains a far cry from the "change" mandate upon which the President and much of Congress were elected. To abandon our trajectory of failure, Congress will need to do much more. Here's the quick synopsis of the Administration's request:
The good: $19 million was cut from counternarcotics funding, which includes the coca fumigations program that has utterly failed to curtail coca production but succeeded in destroying farmers' livelihoods. While it is difficult to applaud a $19 million dent in a program that should be wholly scrapped, this cut at least provides a start.
The bad: the overall ratio of military to social aid remains untouched: about two military dollars for every one non-military dollar. Hundreds of millions more in military aid would continue to arm and train a military that continues to kill innocent civilians and collude with illegal armed groups. Also, the Administration's request would inexplicably diminish aid for Colombia's displaced, those most in need of urgent assistance. Please set up a meeting with your representative today to highlight these serious concerns.
Do Not Resuscitate:
A big thanks to the 3,091 of you who have asked Congress through our online action to halt the $470 million of additional Merida Initiative funding proposed for 2009. The good news is that $50 million worth of military financing for Mexico was just extracted from the House version of the bill. The bad news is that $420 million remains in the final bill, most of it for military aircraft to amplify Mexico's "war on drugs." That bill now will likely pass both the House and Senate to become law, bringing total U.S. spending on the Merida Initiative to an incredible $1.3 billion, all approved within one year's time. The new aid would actually cause Mexico to eclipse Colombia as 2009's number one recipient of military/police assistance in the Western Hemisphere, a position Colombia has continuously held since the early 90's.
What is the Obama Administration doing to prevent further embroilment in this failed counternarcotics strategy in Mexico and Central America? Nada. Instead, the Administration's foreign aid budget request to Congress includes yet another $550 million for Merida in 2010, much of which appears to simply fund more helicopters. Congress apparently needs to hear loud and clear that by failing to address the poverty and domestic demand fueling the drug trade, tossing millions more at military hardware will again prove tragically ineffective in stemming the flow of drugs or degree of drug-related violence. Please set up a meeting with your representative to ask that they steer us away from this futile path and definitively abandon the antiquated "war on drugs" model.