Non-governmental organizations oppose U.S.-backed Plan Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombian human rights groups have rejected offers to take part in a U.S.-financed plan to fight drug production, saying it envisions spending too much on the military and not enough on social problems.

A coalition of rights groups turned down U.S. appeals to support President Andres Pastrana's ''Plan Colombia,'' which is being partially funded with $1.3 billion in aid from the United States.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering said last week that the anti-drug plan would rely on Colombian human rights and other non-governmental organizations for advice on how to spend millions in aid money.

But representatives from 37 human rights and other non-governmental organizations on Friday signed a statement in which they rejected Pastrana's initiative.

''We have ethical and political difficulties receiving aid from this program,'' said Fernan Gonzalez, director of the Jesuit-run Center for Investigations and Popular Education. ''Under these conditions, we would not accept the resources the program will provide.''

The group's statement said the aid ''will not resolve Colombia's drug problems'' because it assumes Colombia's ''national security is based exclusively on a strategy to fight drugs and not on this country's social and armed conflict.''

The organizations faulted Plan Colombia because its total projected $7.5 billion-budget earmarks a little less than $2 billion for social and economic development in areas where the economy depends on cocaine production - not enough, they say.

The statement came a week after about 100 elite U.S. troops arrived in Colombia as part of the plan and began training an anti-narcotics battalion near guerrilla territory.

Most of the U.S. funds will go toward providing 60 combat helicopters, which are to be used to ferry U.S.-trained troops into drug-producing areas where leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitary groups are active. The troops are to seize the areas and allow planes to destroy drug crops by aerial spraying without being shot down.

The United States is also dedicating some $51 million to strengthening Colombia's democracy and improve human rights, $13 million to improving Colombia's judicial system and $3 million to further the peace process.

European countries and international institutions are also pledging to add more money for the plan, though the amount remains to be determined.

Jorge Rojas, director of the Consortium for Human Rights and the Displaced, said Plan Colombia jeopardizes hopes that the Colombian government and leftist guerrilla groups will reach an accord to end a 36-year civil war.

He said his organization would reject any money offered by Washington as part of the plan.


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