Many of the changes in aid to Colombia that you contacted your members of Congress about in 2007 became law when the president signed the all-rolled-into-one spending bill on December 26. While still very far from the perfect world we dream about, the law makes some positive changes in U.S. aid and policy towards Colombia.
The Colombia package in the foreign aid bill includes:
- cuts military and police aid in the foreign operations bill by $141.5 million below what the President asked for, a 31 percent cut.
- increases economic and social aid by $97.4 million, a 70 percent increase.
- aid that we called for to strengthen human rights and protect victims of violence, including funding for investigation and prosecution of human rights abuses; witness protection for victims; investigation of mass graves; funding for legal representation of victims; and contributions to the UN Human Rights office in Colombia.
- cuts aid for the inhumane and environmentally damaging aerial spraying program, and increases aid for alternative development programs.
- ties the human rights conditions to 30%, not just 25%, of military aid in the foreign operations bill.
- $15 million for development aid for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communitie
- in the human rights conditions that the Army must respect the rights and territories of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities
- restrictions on investment in oil palm development if it causes people to be displaced or environmental damage.
What wasn't achieved? Among other things, we were not able to affect funding in the less transparent and less accountable defense bill, which also includes funding for counternarcotics programs, and we would have liked the human rights conditions to apply to all military aid—and for more military and aerial spraying funding to be cut.
But this is a real step forward! It would not have been possible without all of your actions in support of peace and human rights in Colombia.