Human Rights & Faith-Based Organizations Call on President Obama: End “Plan Colombia” and Change U.S. Drug Policy

February 26, 2009

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) and more than 45 other national and regional human rights organizations and faith-based institutions today released a letter to President Barack Obama calling for a major change in U.S. policy toward Colombia. Responding to the President’s first address to a joint session of Congress – in which he stated the need to “go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs” and to “act boldly and wisely” – the groups urged the President to end a failed drug policy in Colombia and to invest in drug treatment for U.S. citizens and aid for the millions of Colombians displaced by war.

“For the past nine years, our nation has wasted more than $6 billion on ‘Plan Colombia’ under the guise of the so-called war on drugs,” said Mark C. Johnson, executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. “Yet rather than ending the drug trade, the problem has increased – with more coca plants grown in Colombia, and cocaine as easily available in the United States. On Tuesday night, President Obama challenged our nation to address our problems with ‘bold action and big ideas’ – there is no better time than now to end Plan Colombia.”

The letter encourages the White House to make three major changes to current U.S. policy. First, it presses the Obama administration to end military aid to the South American nation, which is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the Western Hemisphere. Second, it calls for renewed diplomatic efforts to support a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict in Colombia. And third, it challenges the U.S. to increase development aid to the nation, as well as to dramatically redirect funds to domestic drug treatment programs.

“Both sides in Colombia’s armed conflict have committed terrible atrocities,” and civilian killings by the Colombian army have increased in the last two years, the groups wrote. Research by FOR and Amnesty International last year showed that nearly half of these killings were reportedly committed by U.S.-supported units. “For us, and we think for you, it does matter whether people are threatened by corrupt and brutal armed forces that our tax dollars have trained and equipped. We want that to stop,” the groups said to the President.

“Our nation’s drug policies have failed doubly,” said John Lindsay-Poland, co-director of FOR’s Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean. "First, by funding to a Colombian state deeply compromised by violence against its citizens. And second, as President Obama said on Tuesday night, here at home we lack the resources to address pressing social needs – that includes millions of people in our communities struggling to overcome drug addiction.”

FOR, churches, and other national groups are organizing Days of Prayer and Action on April 19 and 20, in which they will deliver thousands of paper dolls, representing four million internally-displaced Colombians, to U.S. officials in six cities, and appeal to President Obama to stop military aid to Colombia and support the war’s victims.

The letter to President Obama with names of signatories can be downloaded here.
Carta al Presidente Obama en español aquí.

For information on the Days of Prayer and Action, go to www.peaceincolombia.org.