Pubdate: Thu, 02 Dec 2004
Source: News & Observer (NC)
Copyright: 2004 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Author: Denise Cumbee Long


It is ironic that your Nov. 23 report on President Bush's visit with 
President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia followed an article from the prior day 
("Ballenger considers his legacy") in which another elected official, 
retiring U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger of North Carolina, lauded Colombia's 
president: "If they don't kill him, he'll be the most successful president 
ever in the Western Hemisphere." Unfortunately, both Bush and Ballenger 
ignore the cost of Uribe's militarization of that troubled country. The 
Colombian military has proven ties to the very paramilitary groups now 
labeled as "narcoterrorists" by the United States. These groups threaten 
and assassinate human rights workers, labor leaders, peasants and priests. 
By funding the Colombian military, we are indirectly supporting terrorists.

When I traveled to Colombia last year I visited the region where the 
U.S.-funded aerial eradication campaign against coca was under way. I 
witnessed devastation caused by this wrongheaded approach to our country's 
drug problem. Coca production may be down in some zones, but it simply 
moves to other provinces and neighboring countries.

I also spoke to innocent people who are caught in the crossfire between the 
three warring factions: guerrilla, paramilitary and military. U.S. dollars 
fan the flames of this violence. We should be supporting a negotiated end 
to the conflict and providing funds for social and economic development. If 
Uribe initiates and implements such an approach, I'll join Ballenger in 
singing his praises.

Denise Cumbee Long

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