(Original en inglés, fechada el 15 de febrero de 2000)

The United States Congress is currently debating a foreign aid bill valued at $1billion, six hundred million dollars, which is sponsored by President Bill Clinton's Administration in conjunction with Andres Pastrana, the President of Colombia. If this aid package is approved, most of the funds will be earmarked for the purchase of military equipment.

I, like most Colombians, am not opposed to receiving the proposed foreign aid -$1billion, six hundred million dollars is an amount that cannot be turned down at a time when Colombia is going through one of its worst economic crisis in history. However, I do firmly oppose the approval for US funds form military purposes on the grounds that favoring such a policy would only lead us into a war, the likes of which we have never seen. Mister Senator, US aid should be aimed at fostering life, not at letting death run wild.

The majority of both US and Colombian citizens reason that Congress is considering the Colombian aid package as part of the War on Drugs and how to respond to the role that the FARC guerrilla movement has in it. It is assumed that if the Colombian government receives increased military aid it will be better prepared to carry out the war. Those who support such a thesis are either forgetting or are ignoring the origins of the unending carnage in which Colombia is immersed.

Unfortunately, there are many sectors in US society, which still hold the belief, based upon outdated analysis formulated during the Cold War, that there exists a legitimate government in Colombia, which is on the verge of being taken over by communists and drug dealers. The truth is that in the midst of armed conflict, more than 40 million Colombians are being besieged by a lack of government, by corruption and by hunger and misery in a country where the state has virtually been taken over by a political and economic elite dedicated to privatizing the public sector. The creation of insurgent groups is only one response to this situation.

Furthermore, long before coca and poppies were planted on a large scale in Colombia –immediately following the eradication programs carried out in Bolivia and Peru in the early 1990´s- the phenomena of displaced internal populations had been occurring since the Violence of the 1950´s. At that time, thousands of rural families were forced to leave their homes and to settle in vast areas of the country located hundred of miles away from their birthplaces.

These rural citizens, who were left without land or who had been forced off their property, abandoned the Colombian heartland and moved to the remote regions of the Amazon jungle, to the Macarena mountain range, to the area around Mount Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, to the banks of the Magdalena River, and to the Uraba region near the Panamanian border -–oincidentally, all of these areas are where “illicit crops” are currently being raised. The FARC, founded in 1965, originally united 42 rural families, which had been displaced from central Colombia, in what were then known as the “Independent Republics” of Marquetalia, El Patio and Riochiquito, landmarks in Colombia´s internal Diaspora.

I believe that one of the most important links in the long chain of drug trafficking has to do with the ownership of land in Colombia. And, Mister Senator, it is a problem that has yet to be solved. While the manual laborers employed in processing cocaine continue to toil in inhospitable jungle environments, where they suffer from political persecution and the effects of fumigation which threaten both their lives and that of all living things exposed to it, Colombia's heartland is falling into the hands of a few land owners, many of whom are drug “lords”. The country's centrally located and most fertile lands lie idle or have fallen below their previous productive levels at a time when thousands of Colombians are dying of malaria, or of hunger, or are being sucked into the maelstrom of violence unleashed by the production of narcotics in the remote reaches of our tropical forests.

The late Colombian General, Fernando Landazabal, pondered why insurgent groups flourish in Colombia, and he reached the conclusion that there exists bothe objective and subjective reasons form their presence. The objective reasons cited by General Landazabal included the social and economic structure of Colombian society itself, which, in part, can only be remedied through agrarian reform. His analysis was supported by such members of Colombian society as the important industrialist, Hernan Echavarria Olazaga.

Therefore, it is urgent to initiate constructive dialogue between the centers of power in the United States and Colombia –beginning with Congress. This dialogue must go beyond shallow analysis of election year needs; instead, an effort must be made to identify the real reasons for this War. One of the central issues in this debate must be the use and ownership of land in Colombia. Is it possible that a genuine agrarian reform could bring an end to forced internal emigration in Colombia, that is could contribute to saving the tropical rain forest, that due to the sheer lack of resources Colombians would no longer be interested in growing coca and poppies in areas where they are currently doing so? I personally think that the answer is affirmative.

Mister Senator, I would like to invite you to participate in a productive and positive dialogue aimed at freeing US society from the threat of drug use, and which, at the same time, would aid Colombian society in its search for a just and lasting peace. This is the only way out of our current deadlock situation, and not the unbelievable proposal by ex-New York City Major, Edward Koch, to bomb Medellin in order to strop drug trafficking in Colombia. Therefore, Mister Senator, when the moment arrives to vote on the military aid package for Colombia, please keep the foregoing issues in mind, all of which I would personally be willing to provide you with more information. Above all, your vote is essential in ensuring that the aid package be reoriented towards fostering social benefits and agrarian reform in Colombia. Speaking from my point of view as an ex-member of the Colombian guerrilla forces, I assure you that is is the only way to triumph over drug trafficking and insurgency in this country.