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Plan Colombia

October, 2004

Suzanne Wills, Drug Policy Chair

In 2000 the US Congress overwhelmingly passed a $1.3 billion bill, Plan Colombia, ostensibly to stop Colombian heroin and cocaine from reaching the US market. An amendment to divert $400 million to drug treatment was soundly defeated in spite of the fact that a recent Rand Corporation study had just found that dollar for dollar, drug treatment is 10 times more effective in stopping drug use than is interdiction. Plan Colombia provided $1.1 billion to buy helicopters and $200 million to spray crops with glyphosate (RoundUp Ultra). There had been no public outcry demanding that Congress involve us in Colombia’s 38 year old civil war. Support for Plan Colombia came from lobbyists working for the Colombian government, Bell Helicopter, Sikorsky Helicopter and Occidental Petroleum.

During 2000, 128,000 acres were fumigated in Columbia. The Colombian government halted the eradication program for about a year over our strong objection. According to them 12% of the acreage that we sprayed was coca, 88% was food crops. A resolution presented to the American Medical Association at its 2004 convention declared that the spraying is causing “widespread illnesses, destroying pastures, destroying food crops, poisoning livestock, displacing thousands of small farmers, and killing birds, mammals, aquatic life, and natural plants.”

$104 million was approved for the Colombian military in the 2002 budget and provisions requiring that our funds be limited to counter-narcotics activities were lifted. $98 million was specifically allocated for training and equipping a brigade of the Colombia military to guard Occidental Petroleum’s Caño-Limon pipeline from rebel attacks which occur daily.

Jan Egeland, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator, describes Colombia as "The biggest humanitarian problem, human rights problem, the biggest conflict in the Western hemisphere.”

In August, 2004, drug czar John Walters said, "Thus far, we have not seen a change of availability [of cocaine] in the United States." He then recommended that the United States continue Plan Colombia. If we continue doing what we are doing, we will almost certainly get the same results.

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