Everyone deserves a place to call home. Yet, every week in Colombia last year, over 2,250 people were violently pushed off their lands and left homeless. This is a result of a nearly fifty-year long conflict in Colombia between guerrillas, paramilitary groups, and the Colombian state as they fight to control territory and resources. With over 5.2 million people robbed of their homes, Colombia has the largest internally displaced population in the world, but this massive humanitarian crisis is often ignored in U.S. news.
A lot of people don’t know that since 2000, the U.S. government has spent over $8 billion from taxpayers on strategies that have only worsened the displacement crisis and fueled violence. In an effort to win the “war on drugs,” the United States has invested in programs to spray toxic chemicals on the crops of poor, small-scale Colombian farmers and provided equipment and training to the Colombian military. During that time, 3.3 million more people have been displaced, an estimated 30,000 civilians have been killed in the war, and Colombia has continued to be the world's leading cocaine producer.
It’s time for us to try something new. Instead of giving priority to corporate and military interests, our government should create policies that support land rights activists, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, human rights defenders, and small-scale farmers who face threats and attacks every day just because they ask for the basic right to live on their lands in peace.
This spring, thousands of people across the United States will take action to raise awareness about the U.S. role in Colombia’s displacement crisis and advocate for change. Please join us by signing our petition to Congress asking them to create U.S. policies that will support victims of violence and those working for peace in Colombia.
Over the past decade, the U.S. government has promoted harmful trade policies, supported a toxic aerial spraying program, and given billions of dollars in mostly military aid to Colombia—and yet displacement continues. Last year alone at least 118,000 people were newly displaced. It’s time for us to try something new. Instead of giving priority to corporate and military interests, we must create policies that support land rights activists, afro-descendant and indigenous communities, human rights defenders, and small-scale farmers who face threats and attacks every day just because they ask for the basic right to live on their lands in peace.
This April, tens of thousands of people will come together to advocate for peace in Colombia and for U.S. policies that will help solve, rather than exacerbate, this massive humanitarian crisis. Acting in solidarity with millions of displaced people in Colombia, we urge you to:
● Support a process to reach a negotiated and peaceful end to the armed conflict. After more than 50 years of war, it is time to re-open dialogue, address the root causes of the conflict, and bring the bloodshed and displacement to an end.
● Increase funding in this year’s budget for humanitarian assistance and protection for Colombia’s five million internally displaced persons and the 750,000 refugees who have fled from the violence.
● End inhumane and ineffective aerial fumigation programs. Spraying these toxic chemicals has destroyed food crops, jeopardized human health, hurt the environment, and caused displacement even as it has failed to reduce coca production. Instead, we need to take responsibility for our role in the drug trade by investing in drug prevention and rehabilitation programs to reduce demand for drugs here at home.
● Invest in programs that will protect people working for land return, community and religious leaders and human rights defenders. Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to live in peace and without threats of violence from armed groups, including the military. We must support victims’ quests for truth, justice and reparations.
● Do not implement the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement until there are documented and significant improvements in human and labor rights standards in Colombia. Instead, forge economic ties that spur people-centered development and help create opportunities for the rural poor and endangered workers. We should support sustainable alternative development programs, but make sure they are designed in consultation with Colombian small-scale farmers, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
● Use the Summit of the Americas as an opportunity to reset U.S. relations with the region, so they are based on mutual respect and cooperation. Our military strategy in Colombia has fueled violence and displacement. It is not a “success” that should be replicated elsewhere. We need to enforce the human rights conditions on our assistance to Colombia and stop sending military aid that fuels the war.
Please make these changes to promote human rights, support indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and safely restore displaced people to their lands.