Plan for Peace in Colombia Is a Plan 'For Death ' Say Church Activists

Will U.S. military assistance in destroying coca fields only increase violence?

As Columbia prepares for a visit by U.S. President Bill Clinton, church leaders and human rights activists have warned that expanded U.S. military assistance to this war-torn country will in fact increase the level of violence and swell the number of displaced people. President Clinton will travel to the Colombian city of Cartagena on August 30 to meet Colombia's President Andres Pastrana. For security reasons, however, President Clinton will spend only a few hours in Columbia. Last month the Clinton administration approved US$1.3 billion in aid for Pastrana's "Plan Columbia," an ambitious program to eradicate illegal coca production and end the crippling war with armed groups. The number of U.S. troops here will increase dramatically under the latest aid package, which includes 63 high-tech military helicopters for the Colombian military and police. President Clinton's visit to Cartagena is intended to provide moral support for Pastrana's campaign to bring peace to Columbia. But church activists and others who work with the victims of violence vehemently oppose Pastrana's military solution to Colombia's seemingly endless war."Plan Colombia is not really a plan for peace, it's a plan for more war and more death," Antony Sanchez, the executive director of the Mennonite Development Foundation of Colombia (Mencoldes), told ENI. "It's difficult to believe that ripping out a few more illicit coca fields is going to solve anything. The peasants who are cultivating coca are just going to move further into the jungle, cutting down trees in the natural reserves of the Amazon region in order to keep cultivating it," Sanchez said. "As long as there is no clear, concrete economic alternative for the peasants, nothing is going to change, ...

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