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An Open Letter to Congress: Now Is the Time to Reduce Foreign Aid Spending in Colombia!
June 23, 2005
Dear Member of Congress:
According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress appropriated $4.5 billion for Colombia between Fiscal Years 2000 and 2005. We are deeply concerned by the continued use of taxpayer dollars to support massive foreign aid that has not shown positive results.
Despite language in the FY 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act calling for reduced Colombia spending in FY 2006, the Administration?s budget request includes almost identical funding levels, proposing over $407 million in military and police aid and $152 million in social and economic aid. The expected addition of an estimated $160 million through the Defense Department budget brings FY 2006 appropriations for Colombia to approximately $720 million. Policymakers are weighing these requests at a time when the Congressional Budget Office predicts the deficit will reach $370 billion in FY 2006.
In 2000, U.S. taxpayers were assured that a significant financial investment in Colombia would lead to a 50 percent cut in coca production in the region thereby reducing the availability of cocaine and raising its price on U.S. streets. Similar goals were set for Colombia?s heroin production. Despite this multi-billion-dollar investment and a record 130,000 hectares of illicit crops sprayed in Colombia in 2004, new data prepared for the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicates that coca production in Colombia remained ?statistically unchanged? and the U.S. street prices of cocaine and heroin are at or near all-time lows. Meanwhile, the Justice Department this year reported ?slightly increased availability? of cocaine.
Furthermore, policymakers suggested that U.S. assistance to Colombia would stabilize a democracy under threat from guerrilla and paramilitary groups. Five years after the massive infusion of U.S. foreign aid to Colombia began, it is hard to say the nation is any closer to a sustainable peace or stability.
In light of the higher-than-expected costs associated with the War on Terror, it is imperative that Congress acts to get spending under control immediately. Having spent five years and $4.5 billion in Colombia, we believe that Congress should dramatically reduce or even eliminate Colombia spending in the FY 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill ? starting with excessive military assistance and the ineffective aerial spray program. Assistance to Colombia ? for which taxpayers have very little to show ? is a logical place to begin the return to a more fiscally prudent path.