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Two minutes to take action

February 21, 2009

By the time you read this I’ll be hours from an internet connection, part of a team being asked to verify the damage done by cropdusters spreading Monsanto’s glyphosphate product across fields of of what’s known here as “pancoger” – yucca, plantain, corn, rice and other basic staple crops. The fumigations took place last week in areas affiliated with the Asociacion Campesina del Valle del rio Cimitarra, who are notoriously anti-coca production, only days before two of the group’s leaders went before a judge. We were able to shoot video of the actual fumigation, and are going to check out the damage a week later.

After the jump you’ll find a photo I took last night, of ACVC member “Juancito,” who was fumigated while walking home last fall. He still has open sores on his arms, and he asked us to publicize this image.

Also, by this time Colombia’s defense and foreign ministers will be on their way to Washington, DC to meet with Senators John Kerry, Patrick Leahy and Obama Administration officials. They’ll be making their voices heard, as that article makes clear. I hope you’ll also raise yours to amplify the hopes of millions of Colombian campesinos hit especially hard by the parts of the drug war/counter-insurgency funded by US tax dollars.

Here’s a sample letter followed by contact info. It’s not as easy as just entering your name and pressing “send,” but I hope you’ll take two minutes to do it anyway. Remember to replace the word “Senator” if you send it to the two Obama officials.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton is also to meet with the Colombians

February 21, 2009

Dear SENATOR,

I’m writing to urge you to cut military and aerial fumigation funding for Plan Colombia in 2009. Americans can’t afford to continue wasting money on ineffective Colombian military operations. Last year the GAO found that, despite over a billion US dollars in aid per year, Colombian coca production increased 15%, and 4% more cocaine entered the US from the country over a six-year period. Meanwhile, just last week farmers in Puerto Matilde, Antioquia, participants of EU-funded coca crop substitution programs, had their yucca and rice fields fumigated by cropdusters, while military helicopters kept watch. This was verified by International Peace Observatory, an international accompaniment team comprising American, Spanish, Italian, French and Danish citizens trained in human rights observation. What’s unverifiable is how many of these farmers will have to turn to coca farming as a result – coca is a much more resilient crop than many other staples, and can regrow quickly after US-funded fumigation ends one of the three annual growing cycles. Or the longterm health effects of glyphosphate on local residents. This herbicide has been known to cause premature births, skin rashes and chronic respiratory illnesses, in addition to sterility in buffalo and cattle, also raised locally as a coca alternative.

I hope you’ll also let Defense Minister Santos know in your meeting with him that Americans are unhappy with the recent aesthetic changes to the Colombian armed forces, such as the replacement of Brigade 15 of the 2nd Division with Mobile 23, and do not represent an end to impunity. To date no army officer or soldier has faced charges in the official response to the “false positives” scandal, in which thousands of ordinary Colombian citizens were executed by members of the army and made to look like guerrilla combatants.

Thank you for being responsive to my concerns and those of peaceful, justice-seeking Colombians.

Sincerely,

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Send an email or a fax to Senator Kerry: 202-224-8525

Send an email or a fax to Senator Leahy: 202-224-3479

Send an email or a fax to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: 202-647-0911

Send an email or a fax to National Security Advisor James Jones: 202-456-2461

Send an email or a fax to Public Liaison Valerie Jarrett: 202-456-2461

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