I am very concerned about the human rights situation in Colombia. Years of civil war, anti-drug efforts, and state sanctioned repression have resulted in more than 1.6 million displaced persons, many of them children. Paramilitary death squads and revolutionary guerrillas have led to an escalation of violence over the past decade. The unwillingness of the Colombian government to prevent a paramilitary campaign of violent repression has left the average Colombian with few options for security and a decent livelihood.
I traveled to Colombia in 1993 to see the situation first hand. It was clear that U.S. military aid and equipment that was intended to fight drug traffickers was being misused to suppress political opposition.
Colombia is the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel and Egypt. In spite of this aid, the Colombian government has made no serious efforts to disband right-wing paramilitary groups. Aid to Colombia must be directed to address the humanitarian crisis, the economic crisis, and to support democratic accountability. I believe that our military aid only results in more violence in Colombia.
Recently I joined several of my colleagues in Congress in writing a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting that the U.S. withhold military aid to Colombia unless the military officers responsible for killings in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó are replaced and the Colombian military makes a commitment to human rights.
I will continue to work closely with Colombian human rights activists, like the Madison-based Colombia Support Network, to develop a sensible U.S. policy in Colombia. We need a policy focused on helping the people, not escalating the violence. I will oppose additional military aid under the current circumstances.