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U.S. Civil Society Organizations Support Aid for Peace in Colombia
Wednesday, July 26, 2023. U.S. civil society organizations–Colombian-American, human rights, faith, and environmental groups–express their strong support for U.S. assistance to support peace in Colombia and encourage the Biden Administration to strengthen its support and diplomacy for peace, including for the ELN negotiations, which are moving ahead with an agreement to start a bilateral ceasefire in August 2023.
Our organizations call for the continuation of U.S. aid to advance peace accord implementation and support Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and other vulnerable groups in Colombia. We do so at a moment when the House and Senate are divided on U.S. aid to Colombia, with the House chair of the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee announcing he is “deferring” all aid to Colombia while the Senate subcommittee marked up on July 20th, 2023 a robust package for peace accord implementation, human rights, counternarcotics, and aid for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities and organizations. On Thursday, July 27th, the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is hosting a contentious hearing on Colombia.
Please contact any of the people quoted below directly for further comments.
“The U.S. government has a historic opportunity to work with the Petro Administration to advance and consolidate peace in Colombia,” said Lisa Haugaard, senior associate at the Latin America Working Group. “The Biden Administration also has an ally in Colombia to check off many of the goals it has set for itself in its foreign policy: addressing climate change, protecting the environment, fighting racial discrimination, supporting labor rights, aiding Venezuelan migrants and refugees, building a sustainable and humane counternarcotics policy, and supporting LGBTQ and women’s rights. It’s frankly self-defeating and senseless for members of the House to block assistance and collaboration with Colombia.” (Contact: Lisa Haugaard, firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Effective conservation of the Colombian Amazon is contingent on a successful peace process and protection of human rights – especially the territorial and collective rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities,” said Andrew Miller, advocacy director at Amazon Watch. “As elsewhere around the Amazon region, the U.S. government should expand both financial and political support for community land titling, grassroots economic alternatives and protection mechanisms for local environmental defenders at risk. Recent downward trends in killings of social leaders and deforestation in Colombia are encouraging but will only be sustained with ongoing international support for the Petro Administration’s Total Peace initiative.” (Contact: Andrew Miller email@example.com)
“Deferring aid to Colombia is counterproductive to U.S. interests and it would reverse the U.S. funded successes in the country backwards generating unnecessary harm to many,” said Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli, director for the Andes at the Washington Office on Latin America: “It would break the strong bipartisan support that Colombia as the U.S.’s main ally in the region has sustained for decades. The democratically elected Petro government is advancing structural and other reforms required to address the deep-seated issues that fuel the illicit drug trade and violence and destabilize the region. This includes formalizing land titles and expanding access to land through land purchases. It is applying lessons learned from past failed peace and demobilization of illegal armed groups processes to attempt to dismantle illegal armed groups, minimize humanitarian crises, prevent displacement and protect civilians. Colombia continues to be the country with the most progressive and rights-based approach to addressing the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis despite having its own internal displacement. The U.S. government officially accompanies the Ethnic Chapter which integrally addresses the most vulnerable populations and prevents their integration into further conflict and illicit activities. It is irresponsible to withdraw aid that goes to strengthen democracy, peace, human rights, ethnic minorities and effective institutions like the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Office that helps consolidate the rule of law and rights at this time.” (Contact: Gimena Sanchez firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Gustavo Petro has his flaws, but he hasn’t harmed Colombia’s democracy at all,” said Adam Isacson, director for defense oversight of the Washington Office on Latin America. “He has done nothing to alter separation of powers. Despite some unfortunate comments, he has not cracked down on the free press. He hasn’t politicized the armed forces. He’s not tampering with this September’s local elections. And his government is committed to implementing the landmark 2016 peace accord. Meanwhile, several Latin American leaders are rapidly eroding democracy right now: the Foreign Affairs Committee’s relative silence about what’s happening in El Salvador and Guatemala, for example, is inconsistent and harmful. The Committee is sending the message that the United States should actively oppose governments that Latin American people choose through free and fair elections, whenever those governments fail to follow conservative orthodoxy. That message is toxic and should have gone away with the Cold War.” (Contact: Adam Isacson email@example.com)
“We’re concerned that the US House of Representatives is contemplating deferring resources allocated to Colombia, as declared by the chair of the Foreign Operations subcommittee,” said Julio C. Idrobo, co-chair of the Colombia Human Rights Committee in Washington DC. “This decision is based on unjustified perceptions and misconceptions that diverge significantly from the reality of the new government under President Gustavo Petro.” Idrobo affirmed, “Colombia stands as the most stable democracy in South America, presenting an opportunity for the United States to foster a stronger relationship and designate it as a reference point for the region. The current government has demonstrated exceptional dedication in addressing security issues and combating illegal economies, particularly in its effective seizure of illicit substances, as well as its relentless fight against the financial structures of drug trafficking. Furthermore, the new Colombian government has shown robust support for immigration policies in response to the crisis faced by the United States. The country’s leadership and dedication to environmental protection have garnered international recognition and should be met with strong support and increased investments. Failing to extend the necessary resources to Colombia not only poses considerable challenges but also undermines the foundations of democracy. It sends a conflicting message to governments that uphold democratic principles and partner for progress. This decision overlooks the critical phase of Colombia’s ongoing transformation from conflict to peace, marked by the implementation of peace agreements signed in 2016.” (Contact: Julio C Idrobo, firstname.lastname@example.org).
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a longstanding relationship with Colombia, and the Reformed University established by the Presbyterian Church of Colombia flourishes today as an important peace initiative and gives strong and vital witness to the words and work of Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of advocacy, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “ This church has called on us for support in supporting human rights and with the displaced and most impoverished communities. Its assembly has made declarations about the damages from war and militarization and the grave consequences of not supporting the pathways to peace and human rights. At this critical moment, the United States must not abandon the crucial initiatives of justice and reconciliation begun by the Petro administration. We must continue to contribute to a future of peace with justice and equality for Colombia.” (Contact: Catherine Gordon, email@example.com)