Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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U.S. funding in Colombia fights real democracy

Colombia is a mess. It has suffered decades of civil war, with 35,000 deaths in the last 10 years alone. More than a million people have been displaced by the war, which neither side has a hope of winning. The economy is crumbling and human rights abuses, crime, kidnapping and the production of illegal drugs are all rife.

And how does our government propose to help? By using taxpayer money to fund an increase in the violence.

Of course that’s not how Clinton and Congress present the massive $1.6 billion aid bill that is close to being enacted. Nor, for that matter, how the mainstream media frame the subject. According to them, the aid will support Colombia’s fragile democracy and fight drugs. These are fairly transparent lies, and if our media weren’t so biased in favor of U.S. foreign policy we could see them as such.

Although the formal trappings of democracy — elections, political parties, a free press — exist in Colombia, alternatives to the elite-oriented two-party monopoly are not allowed. Union leaders, human rights activists, and left-wing politicians have been systematically intimidated and murdered by forces associated with the government. This system is about as democratic as the Jim Crow South was — but much bloodier. Such facts are almost never mentioned by government officials or reporters.

America is not interested in fighting drugs either. Three-quarters of the money will help the military attack guerrillas in southern Colombia. Although the guerrillas protect and tax the region’s impoverished peasants, for whom there is no alternative to coca or opium, the United States is completely ignoring the government and paramilitaries, which are deeply involved in drugs themselves. This is a counterinsurgency package disguised under drug war rhetoric.

The United States wishes to strengthen the military and the closely allied paramilitary death squads against the guerrillas to eliminate the possibility of a negotiated peace on the rebels’ terms. Unfortunately for Colombians, this means pouring millions of dollars into the forces responsible for 80 percent of Colombia’s atrocities.

Why does our government support a radically undemocratic system and subsidize mass murder? Foreign policymakers are secretive and unaccountable, so it’s difficult to tell. But most likely the United States wants to keep in power the elites, who agree to Colombia’s role as a permanently subordinate producer of commodities for American consumers and cheap labor for U.S. companies. Colombia also might serve as a future military base so the United States can continue to dominate Latin America.

The government pursues these policies in our name, so we must act to stop them. Call, write or e-mail your senator (the House has already passed the bill) requesting an end to military aid for Colombia. But even if we win this battle, the system that produces U.S. imperialism will remain.

Ultimately we have to fight American global power by reducing our massive military and radically redesigning our economic and political systems so that both are truly democratic. Colombia might seem a long way from your life, but America’s actions there are literally a matter of life and death. Educate yourself and resist.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
U.S. funding in Colombia fights real democracy