Tony Newman at 510-208-7711 or Shayna Samuels at 212-547-6916
Days before the Summit of the Americas began in Quebec City, a formidable cross-section of Latin American leadership called on President Bush to go back to the drawing board with “Plan Colombia,” charging that the U.S.-backed anti drug campaign is fueling a bloody war, poisoning food crops and the environment, and forcing tens of thousands of poor farmers off their land.
The remarkable group – composed of former heads of state, cabinet ministers and legislators, as well as prominent authors, intellectuals, and civic leaders – sent an open letter to President George W. Bush, asking him to rethink the US aid package. The list of prominent signatories includes Guatemalan Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, Former President of Bolivia Lydia Gueiler Tejada, Former Colombian Foreign Minister Rodrigo Pardo, and Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano.
The Latin American signatories said that aid to Colombia should address the root causes of warfare and drug-related violence by increasing support for peace efforts and economic development. They urged President Bush to use the Summit as an opportunity to begin a discussion about international support for an alternative approach.
The letter reads in part: “We…;understand, that there are no easy answers or quick fixes to Colombia’s tragic dilemma of warfare and drug related violence. And we believe the United States has a legitimate interest in reducing the damage done by illegal drug use. But we are gravely concerned that current policy will cause more harm than good in Colombia and the region at large – while having little or no effect on the drug problems of the consumer countries.”
Last year, the US Congress approved a $1.3 billion aid package to support Plan Colombia and combat drugs “at the source.” The goal is to reduce cocaine production in that country by destroying its coca crops, and forcefully reclaiming land controlled by the guerillas. This year, the Bush Administration has requested that the Congress consider providing an additional $700 million dollars for counternarcotics programs in the Andes region in addition to an expected $200 million for Pentagon programs in the Andes.
“Colombians need and deserve the support of the international community as they struggle against enormous obstacles to peace,” said Daniel Garc