Locals See Colombian Drug War First Hand 

Locals See Colombian Drug War First Hand 
Posted by FoM on July 04, 2001 at 08:29:29 PT
By Amy Orringer, News Staff Writer
Source: Ann Arbor News
Two husbands, one home. That is what the Colombian woman who prepared dinner for Ypsilanti resident Ivan Harner's tour group had lost because of her country's war on drugs.Paramilitary groups killed both her husbands and the herbicide meant to destroy the country's coca crops accidentally ruined her fruits and vegetables. Fed up with the fighting and the spraying of herbicides, the dark, skinny, sunken-eyed woman joined the guerrilla army. The woman later left the army and went into hiding to protect herself and her seven children.
The woman represented a shocking reality of life in Colombia to Harner who had followed politics and social issues in the country and wanted to get a first-hand look at life there. "I went to find out what is going on and what the United States government is paying for," he said, referring to the federal government's $1.3 billion aid package for the Colombian government's anti-narcotics effort.Ann Arbor resident Richard Stahler-Sholk also was a part of the delegation. He has worked on peace and justice issues for many years and teaches political science at Eastern Michigan University. He lived in Nicaragua for five years but wanted to see the situation in Colombia first hand.Harner, 56, and Stahler-Sholk, 42, were a part of a Witness for Peace delegation to the South American country. They were two of 20 people who traveled around the country and met with political and community leaders in May. Stahler-Sholk is also on the board of the organization.Witness for Peace is a U.S. organization that sends delegations to examine human rights in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. Many delegates contact local government representatives when they return to tell them what they witnessed.The delegation focused on the effects of Plan Colombia, the anti-drug plan funded partially by the United States. The plan involves fumigating coca plants and opium poppy crops that are used to produce cocaine and heroin. The U.S. also provides training and weapons for the military in the hopes that a better equipped military will be more effective in stopping the flow of drugs out of the country.The U.S. implemented a similar plan in Peru and Bolivia, which are two of the largest coca producers in the world. According to the U.S. government, aid sent to these countries largely reduced the cocaine production in the region."This year's package breaks out about 50-50 between law enforcement and security assistance on one hand and social and economic and institutional reform on the other," said Michael Deal, assistant administrator of the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean.More Harm Than Good? The aerial herbicide spraying that started in December has not curbed cocaine production in Colombia this year, according to government officials. The State Department instead reported coca cultivation increased 11 percent from last year. Coca growers moved into Colombia when spraying started in their countries, increasing Colombia's supply."The rise in the cocaine industry in Colombia is very much related to the decline of the cocaine industry in Peru and Bolivia," said Rand Beers, the assistant secretary of state for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.In most areas, Harner said, the herbicide is doing more harm than good. State Department officials, however, said the chemical is harmless and has a direct targeting system that only sprays the chemical on the coca.Harner said he saw people crammed into crowded, makeshift shelters, displaced due to the spraying. "People who have been displaced from their homes are living basically without daily needs, they are living in huts with dirt floors and no running water and very little to eat," he said.Stahler-Sholk said he was impressed with the courage of Colombians who were trying to bring the human rights problems to the forefront. By crossing through areas riddled with armed groups, he said he "got a sense of the tension and insecurity that the Colombians feel."But the State Department said the exact cause of the homelessness is in doubt."It is hard to separate internal displacement due to conflict and what may have happened due to spraying," said State Department official Wes Carrington.He said the individual departments contributing to Plan Colombia are all monitoring the use of their funds but no overall evaluation has been completed.Expansion and Evaluation The U.S. did quite a bit of research before contributing to Plan Colombia, Carrington said. "No assistance is given to countries with human rights violations," he said.Part of the aid also goes to alternative development. The program encourages the farmers to eradicate their own crops in return for agricultural and community benefits. Farmers are shown how to grow legal, profitable crops and communities receive money for schools and health services. These programs are expected to begin with the next year.U.S. officials insists that the chemical is harmless and that once their aid programs are enacted things will be better for the Colombians.Stahler-Sholk said Colombia is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the world, and that it is important that U.S. citizens know where their tax dollars are headed.Harner has been home for more than three weeks now, and the images of poverty and desolation are still fresh in his mind."Until I made this trip, I only read about the problems that the people of Colombia were experiencing," Harner said. "I would like to go back some day, but for now, my mission is to convince our Congress that they must stop the spraying of the countryside in Colombia and must stop sending weapons of war."Note: Area residents joined delegation that examined human rights in the South American country. Source: Ann Arbor News (MI)Author: Amy Orringer, News Staff WriterPublished: Wednesday, July 4, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Ann Arbor NewsWebsite: Letternews aol.comFeedback: Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News's Drug Problem Pulls Out of Cocaine War Outsources Secret War
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Comment #2 posted by Sudaca on July 05, 2001 at 10:21:46 PT
"It is hard to separate internal displacement due to conflict and what may have happened due to spraying," said State Department official Wes Carrington."it isn't hard. it's the same! the spraying is part of the conflict that Plan Colombia is escalating. The Plan makes no separation between the "drug producers" and the "leftist groups" which have been part of the Colombian conflict. So how can you say that Plan Colombia has nothing to do with the "conflict"? In any case, 40 years of civil war didn't create a desert in the amazon, didn't poison the land and the fauna and the childresn. "La violencia" certainly was there before Plan Colombia but now its crazier than ever thanks to PC"The U.S. did quite a bit of research before contributing to Plan Colombia, Carrington said. "No assistance is given to countries with human rights violations," he said."- witness the $43 million sent to the Taliban.. they are all about huMAN rights..
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Comment #1 posted by freedom fighter on July 04, 2001 at 12:38:47 PT
What punishment would be most accurate for
"It is hard to separate internal displacement due to conflict and what may have happened due to spraying," said State Department official Wes Carrington.Mr. Wes Carrington, lies that yu have to say make me so sick in my stomach. How would you feel if I spray the stuff on your children?? Mr. Wes Carrington, you and your cohorts are true criminals.this is sick.. 
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