Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

October 15, 2003

Colombia makes strides against rights abuses

The Sun's editorial "The other war" (Oct. 7) stated that human rights violations against the Colombian military increased between 2000 and 2002. This is not the case.

As reported by the U.S. Department of State in March, during 2002, the Colombian attorney general's office received 395 complaints of alleged violations of human rights by state agents, compared with 502 complaints in 2001.

This 21 percent decrease is consistent with the trend over the past several years and represents a significant decline since the mid-1990s, when Colombia's attorney general would receive more than 3,000 complaints a year.

The Colombian military's improvement in human rights performance has been accomplished with extensive U.S. training -- more than 290,000 Colombian troops have received U.S. training over the past six years.

All units of the Colombian military who receive assistance from the United States have been vetted by the United States on human rights violations. The Colombian army has opened 117 human rights offices run by professionals who handle complaints by citizens of misconduct by military personnel.

The Colombian government also maintains an ongoing dialogue with the international community and leading non-governmental organizations in an effort to continue improving the human rights situation in Colombia.

Luis Alberto Moreno

Washington

The writer is Colombia's ambassador to the United States.

Aid to Colombia adds to brutality

Having traveled twice to Colombia with Witness for Peace, I have had the opportunity to hear about the situation first-hand from representatives of many different sectors. Colombia's problems are indeed "complex and longstanding," and, without doubt, The Sun is correct to challenge the "automatic approval of the U.S. aid package to Colombia when it comes up for a vote in the Senate later this year" ("The other war," editorial, Oct. 7).

But I take issue with the editorial's apparent acceptance of government propaganda that suggests that U.S. involvement in Colombia is limited to the war against drugs.

The administration already speaks of counter-insurgency, and has sent almost $2.5 billion, primarily in military aid to Colombia over the past three years. And aiding the military means aiding right-wing paramilitary groups -- even though they are on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

High-ranking Colombian military personnel consider the paramilitaries an indispensable collaborator in maintaining internal security -- often through massacres, selective assassinations and other violations of human rights.

Colombia makes an ideal pawn for U.S. corporate interests. It is rich in natural resources, with oil production among the highest in the Western Hemisphere. Its soil is already exploited by U.S. coffee growers and other agricultural interests, whose presence has led to massive displacements.

But if we really want to fight drugs, we need to start at home, by eliminating the profitability of drug-dealing (and thus the market) and helping those already addicted.

And to "ensure that U.S. dollars are being used to improve the prospects for peace" in Colombia, as the editorial suggests, I believe we must stop the crop fumigations, stop military aid, and bring Colombians from all sectors to the table to discuss humanitarian aid that might be helpful, such as alternative, sustainable agricultural projects that can replace illicit coca crops.

Elizabeth Lamb

Columbia

The writer is a member of the board of Witness for Peace.

Negotiate settlement to war in Colombia

U.S. taxpayers foot a large bill to keep Colombia as the third-highest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, largely for military and counter-narcotics efforts ("The other war," editorial, Oct. 7). Colombian civilians pay an even higher price, however -- with thousands of lives lost each year and as many as 3 million people now displaced from their homes.

The U.S. administration should not waste another day in putting human rights and a negotiated settlement to Colombia's conflict at the center of U.S. policy and aid.

But for some people, that will still be a day too late.

Kathryn Wolford

Baltimore

The writer is president of Lutheran World Relief.

Didn't anyone help struggling student?

I was deeply disturbed by The Sun's editorial on 12-year-old J. Daniel Scruggs ("When adults fail," Oct. 8).

The teachers, his family and the society certainly did fail this bright child.

And I was really appalled at the report that a teacher would hold her nose and cover her mouth when she passed him in the hall. What kind of teacher is that? Didn't anyone inquire about helping him?

How many more Daniels are out there? Will we turn our backs on them, too?

I pray that we will not.

Mary Fineagan

Forest Hill

U.S. support of Israel hasn't brought peace

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