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-2006 Colombia Aid Bill ($731 m) Starts Moving in Congress; Call for Change!
-Colombia Hearing in House IR Committee Raises Crucial Questions
-Gearing Up for the House Colombia Vote- As Early as June 27th!

Take Action!
-2006 Colombia Aid Bill ($731 m) Starts Moving in Congress; Call for Change!
-Colombia Hearing in House IR Committee Raises Crucial Questions
-Gearing Up for the House Colombia Vote- As Early as June 27th!

Dear Colombia Advocates,

The ball has started rolling in Congress, and debate will begin on another year of military aid to Colombia in mid-June. We could see the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, which includes the Colombia aid package, go to the House floor as early as the week of June 27th! Below, you'll find information on the foreign operations subcommittee, the group that is now drafting the first version of the bill, and how you can lend your voice to the call for a new US-Colombia policy.

First, though, thank you to everyone who called members of the House IR Committee prior to the committee's hearing on Colombia last week. Your calls made a difference! Here's a quick recap of the hearing:

As we expected, committee members were allowed to hear testimony only from administration officials supportive of the policy. However, spurred on by your phone calls and e-mails, a number of committee members directly challenged the officials with questions on human rights and the impact of the drug war. If your member of Congress is on the list below, please let him or her know that you appreciate the effort by sending an e-mail or making a quick phone call to say thanks:

Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) asked particularly strong questions about human rights and drug policy issues; Barbara Lee (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), and Donald Payne (D-NJ) asked good questions as well on similar issues. Sam Farr (D-CA), who wasn't on the committee, issued a statement prior to the hearing on the need for greater investment in alternative development programs, and Tom Lantos (D-CA)'s staff helped ensure that the committee heard divergent perspectives by setting up a briefing on the Blueprint for a New Colombia Policy by LAWG and colleagues for committee staff before the hearing.

And Now... Take Action! Focus on the Foreign Ops Subcommittees

Aid for Colombia is passed each year as part of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. Over the next month, the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee will draft the first version of the FY2006 bill, and will debate the bill in subcommittee on June 14th. From there, the bill goes to the Appropriations Committee the week of June 20 and then to the full House for debate as early as the week of June 27th . The Senate schedule is similar, although a little slower. It's critical that we make our voices heard at this point in the process; right now, we can influence the makeup of the first draft of the bill.

We need to make our voices heard because the Bush Administration has requested another $731 million for Colombia for 2006. It is just as bad as previous years in terms of being overwhelmingly dedicated to fumigation and military aid. Even more disturbing is a recent request by Colombia's President, Alvaro Uribe, for an additional $130 million specifically for fumigation. The policy of aerially fumigating poor farmers' crops to stop drug cultivation has been an utter failure-- and it's taken an immense toll on rural Colombian communities. We need a new policy, not more of the same! Without your help, there may not be a full debate of the policy in Congress. Your activism keeps this issue on Congress' plate.

If you live in the district or state of any of the subcommittee members listed below, or if you know someone who does, we need your help. Call or e-mail the members with the following message:

I am a constituent from ____. I know that you will soon be considering the 2006 foreign operations appropriations bill, and I would like to ask you to support a new policy toward Colombia. Current policy has not stopped the flow of drugs to the United States-- in fact, the amount of coca planted in Colombia at the end of 2004 was exactly the same as the year the policy started. Human rights conditions in Colombia have worsened since US aid began in 2000. I believe that we need a major shift away from fumigation and military aid, and toward alternative development programs, aid to the displaced, and support for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities. A shift in resources and priorities won't cost the United States more money, but it could have an immense impact in Colombia. Please support a change in policy during the debate over the Colombia aid package for 2006.

Remember, if you know anyone living in one of the districts or states listed below, ask them to help out as well! For the House, I've included the location and phone number for each member's district office to help you determine if one of your friends or family members lives in their district. You or your friends can also reach these members in their Washington, DC offices by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202/224-3121.

Members of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee:

Jim Kolbe, AZ (R - Chairman) (Tuscon- 520/881-3588; Sierra Vista- 520/459-3115)
Don Sherwood, PA (R - Vice Chair) (Clarks Summit- 570/585-8190; Williamsport- 570/327-8161)
Chaka Fattah, PA (D) (Philadephia- 215/387-6404 or 215/848-9386)
Nita M. Lowey, NY (D - Ranking Democrat) (White Plains- 914/428-1707; New City- 845/639-3485)
John Sweeney, NY (R) (Clifton Park- 518/371-5004; Hudson-518/828-0181)
Joe Knollenberg, MI (R) (Farmington Hills- 248/851-1366)
Carolyn C. Kilpatrick, MI (D) (Detroit- 313/961-5670)
Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., IL (D) (Homewood- 708/798-6000)
Mark Steven Kirk, IL (R) (Deerfield- 847/940-0202; Waukegan- 847/662-0101)
Ander Crenshaw, FL (R) (Jacksonville- 904/598-0481; Lake City- 386/365-3316)
Steven R. Rothman, NJ (D) (Hackensack- 201/646-0808; Jersey City- 201/798-1366)
Dennis R. Rehberg, MT (R) (at large; offices in Billings (406/256-1019), Helena (406/443-7878) and others)
John Carter, TX (R) (Round Rock- 512/246-1600; College Station- 979/846-6068).
Members of the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee:
Mitch McConnell (Chairman) (R-KY)
Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Robert Bennett R-(UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Mike DeWine (R-OH)
Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Patrick Leahy (Ranking Member) (D-VT)
Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Don't forget that you can also reach them in Washington through the Congressional Switchboard, 202/224-3121.

We'll have maximum impact on the first draft of the Foreign Operations Bill if we get in touch with these offices right away, before June 14th. Send e-mails, make phone calls, or set up meetings with your representative in the district office or in Washington! It is especially important for constituents in Rep. Kolbe's district in Tucson, Arizona and Senator McConnell's state of Kentucky to try to band together to arrange a district meeting, because these members write the bill. There's tons of advice on getting your message across to Congress in the "Tools for Activists" section of the LAWG website, http://www.lawg.org/tools/contacting_congress.htm. Don't forget to use the Blueprint for a New Colombia with your members! See http://www.lawg.org/countries/colombia/blueprint.htm. As always, feel free to e-mail me with any questions or if you need additional information.

HOUSE FLOOR VOTE: We also need to begin gearing up for a Colombia amendment when the House foreign operations bill goes to the floor-- which could be as early as the week of June 27th! Urge all House members to support amendments that shift Colombia funding from military to social aid.

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