News Release

War in Colombia

A fierce assault by thousands of U.S.-backed Colombian government troops — launched on Friday to retake a large safe-haven region controlled by rebels for three years — has already resulted in confirmed reports of civilian deaths. The Bush administration is now seeking more than $500 million in additional aid to the Bogota regime, which would supplement a previous $1.3 billion U.S. aid package.

As the New York Times reported over the weekend, some members of Congress “express doubts about aiding a military with a poor human rights record and alliances to right-wing paramilitary forces.” The following critics of U.S. government policy are available for interviews:

SANDRA ALVAREZ
Alvarez, who heads the Colombia Human Rights Program at Global Exchange, returned from Colombia earlier this month. She said today: “In modern wars, most casualties are civilians and the situation in Colombia is no exception. With the breakdown of peace talks, it is the people of Colombia who are in the greatest jeopardy, and especially those who are consistently and tirelessly working for peace and social justice. Recent U.S. actions have added fuel to the flames of this half-century-old conflict. Increases in U.S. military aid have emboldened the most hawkish voices within the Colombian military. The abrupt shift in rhetoric by Bush administration officials from support for counter-narcotics operations to discussing counter-insurgency efforts and urging protection of the Colombia assets of U.S. oil companies has, in effect, given the Colombian military the green light to attack the rebel zone. It is clear that all sides of the armed conflict of Colombia have been preparing for more war, and not for peace. It is more important than ever to restart a peace dialogue that includes representatives of civil society….”
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SANHO TREE
A fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is specializing in U.S.-Colombian relations, Tree said today: “The civil war in Colombia has been raging for so long that even Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous 1967 speech against the Vietnam War mentioned this Andean conflict: ‘…American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia…’ A negotiated solution coupled with social reforms is the only viable way to end the longest-running civil war in this hemisphere… Oil interests are illustrative but not determinative — for example, Occidental Petroleum clearly wants military intervention for its pipeline. The rhetoric of drug war politics is what was used to escalate U.S. intervention in Colombia and those in Congress who pushed that now seem wary of crossing the line from the drug war into the civil war. But the Bush administration has been up-front about this naked interest in oil and using ‘counterterrorism’ as an excuse to fight the FARC guerrillas.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167