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Last Updated:4/9/02
Colombia-related questions about the 2002 supplemental appropriations request, April 8, 2002

The administration's supplemental appropriations request raises the following questions about our policy toward Colombia and foreign military assistance in general. All page numbers and sections here refer to the OMB document found at http://w3.access.gpo.gov/usbudget/fy2003/pdf/5usattack.pdf.

I. Colombia

A. Changing the mission of our aid

The provisions on page 64 and the top of page 42 would allow all State Department and Defense Department counter-drug aid to Colombia - past, present and future - to be used for any threats to Colombia's security, whether or not drug-related. The language refers to Colombia's "unified campaign against narcotics trafficking, terrorist activities, and other threats to its national security."

The language specifies that two legal safeguards would remain in place: the Leahy Law (which prohibits aid to military units credibly alleged to include human rights abusers) and the Byrd Amendment (which sets a maximum presence in Colombia of 400 U.S. military and 400 U.S. civilian contractors). The language does not include the additional human rights conditions on U.S. aid to Colombia found in section 567 of the 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (H.R. 2506).

  • If we expand the criteria for use of our aid, we will greatly expand the number of potential targets for the units we support and the assets and intelligence we provide. The original plan was to use these assets - mainly, 75 helicopters and a 2,300-man army brigade - for anti-drug efforts in a small part of southern Colombia. With this expanded mission, will these assets be stretched too thin to make any real difference against Colombia's 40,000 insurgents and paramilitaries?
  • If we do find current levels of U.S. aid are barely making a dent - as is likely - will there be pressure in future years for substantial aid increases? How far are we willing to go?
  • Broadening the mission of U.S. assistance means allowing U.S. aid to be used all over the country, possibly including many areas where the military is frequently alleged to be colluding with paramilitaries. U.S. personnel are checking the names of recipient-unit members against a database of known violators, in an effort to comply with the "Leahy Law" human rights protections. Is this enough to guarantee that our aid will not inadvertently help the paramilitaries in these zones? What other safeguards are in place?
  • By most estimates, Colombia would have to increase the size and capabilities of its security forces dramatically in order to bring a significant weakening of insurgents and paramilitaries. However, Colombia's contributions to its own military are low even by Latin American standards, and recruits with high school graduates are legally exempted from serving in combat units. If Colombia does not substantially increase its contribution, can our aid make much difference? Are we prepared to go it alone if necessary?

B. Foreign Military Financing:

The provision on page 84 would provide Colombia with $6 million in FMF assistance to begin training military units to protect the Caño Limón - Coveñas pipeline in northeastern Colombia. FARC and ELN guerrillas attacked the pipeline -whose oil belongs to a joint venture involving U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum - 170 times in 2001.

The administration's 2003 Foreign Operations Appropriations request includes another $98 million in FMF for pipeline protection. This aid includes helicopters, training and equipment for Colombia's 18th Brigade, based in Arauca department on the Venezuelan border, and a new 5th Mobile Brigade. The $6 million in the supplemental merely seeks to "jump-start" this larger aid program.

  • The real debate about the pipeline proposal will take place during consideration of this supplemental, not the Foreign Operations bill, which will be considered later.
  • The proposal raises questions about whether the additional assistance, which will include $60 million for helicopters, will be able to bring an end to guerrilla attacks on the 400-mile-long pipeline. The guerrillas may adapt and begin to concentrate their attacks beyond the 18th Brigade's jurisdiction (about the first 75 miles of the pipeline). If this happens, will Congress be asked to provide still more FMF for pipeline protection?
  • U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson told Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper that "There are more than 300 infrastructure sites that are strategic for the United States in Colombia." What is the rationale for favoring Caño Limón?
  • The 18th Brigade does not have a record of collaborating with paramilitaries during the seven years it has existed, mainly because paramilitaries have not been present in Arauca until very recently. Beginning in December 2001, however, the AUC's "Eastern Plains Bloc" has moved north from Casanare department and begun systematically killing people in two towns about 100 miles to the southeast of the pipeline, Tame and Cravo Norte. It is worth keeping an eye on the 18th Brigade's response, if any, to the paramilitary offensive in Arauca.
  • The phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" would seem to lift all safeguards on this aid, including human rights protections like the Leahy Law (section 556 of the 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act and section 8093 of the 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations Act). Is this the case?

C. Anti-Terrorism Assistance:

The provision on page 86 would give $25 million in State Department Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) to Colombian military and police anti-kidnapping (GAULA) units. Colombia accounts for more than half of the world's kidnappings, with 3,041 in 2001 mostly by guerrilla groups.

  • Though many GAULA units perform admirably, we must ensure that this aid is not misused. The latest State Department human rights report notes, "In April then-Prosecutor General Alfonso Gomez Mendez announced a formal investigation of extensive illegal wiretapping by the Medellin GAULA (a combined police and army antikidnapping unit). Investigators working on the October 2000 disappearance of ASFADDES workers Angel Quintero and Claudia Patricia Monsalve uncovered evidence that the GAULA tapped 2,500 telephone lines without proper authorization, including those of ASFADDES and other human rights organizations. … Prosecutors are investigating the April 4 murder of police officer Carlos Ceballos Gomez, who testified in the case."
  • The phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" would seem to lift all safeguards on this aid, including human rights protections like the Leahy Law (section 556 of the 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act and section 8093 of the 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations Act). Is this the case?

D. International Narcotics and Law Enforcement:

The provision on page 63 would add $114 million to the 2002 budget of the State Department's International Narcotics Control aid program, which already totals about $840 million this year.

This includes $4 million in new funding for Colombia's police, to "harden" police stations in rural towns. The FARC guerrillas regularly attack police outposts by launching crude gas-canister bombs; the guerrillas' campaign to clear out the police has left about 200 of Colombia's 1,050 municipalities (counties) with no police presence.

  • "Hardening" the police stations may help maintain police presence, though surrounding homes and businesses in towns under attack would remain vulnerable to the guerrillas' inaccurate, indiscriminate weapons.

II. Military aid through the Pentagon budget:

As noted recently in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10900-2002Apr7.html), the provisions at the bottom of page 39 and the bottom of page 41 would allow the Defense Department to provide $130 million in defense articles, services and training "in furtherance of the global war on terrorism, on such terms and conditions as the Secretary of Defense may determine."

  • At least since passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (P.L. 87-195, beginning with 22 USC 2151), Congress has determined that military aid be managed by the State Department and funded through the Foreign Operations appropriation. (The main exception has been Section 1004 of the 1991 National Defense Authorization Act [P.L. 101-510], which allows the Pentagon to provide military aid for counter-narcotics.) Allowing the Defense Department to provide "defense articles, services and training" to other countries through its own budget would call into question this long-standing arrangement. Why does the terrorist threat require that aid be given outside the framework of the Foreign Assistance Act? Why do we have a Foreign Assistance Act if so much aid is being delivered under another authority?
  • Programs like Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) already exist to grant defense articles, services and training to other countries. These programs are directed by the State Department and overseen by both houses' Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittees. It is not clear why the administration's request excludes the State Department and the subcommittees. Is minimizing oversight a motive?
  • The phrase "notwithstanding any other provision of law" would seem to lift all safeguards on this aid, including human rights protections like the Leahy Law (section 8093 of the 2002 Department of Defense Appropriations Act). Is this the case?
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