This is a follow-up to last night’s post about the e-mail threat sent last Friday to several Colombian human-rights groups. It was the seventh such threat since May. We’d like to direct this message to the individual or individuals, claiming to be former paramilitaries, who have issued these threats.
In your last message to our friends in Colombia’s community of human-rights defenders, you promised to begin carrying out your threats on this date. "Starting next Friday, September 22, our men will arrive in your cities to look for you, and we know very well where to find you."
Before you do something so cruel, hateful and anti-democratic, please consider one thing. Keep in mind that support for Plan Colombia, and for President Uribe and his policies, is not strong in the United States, or in Europe for that matter.
You may hear U.S. officials express broad support for giving Colombia large amounts of aid, and occasional words of admiration for Mr. Uribe’s security policies. That support is broad, but it is thin. Most U.S. decisionmakers can easily and quickly change their minds. They have many other foreign policy priorities and don’t spend much time thinking about Colombia. International support for the president you claim to admire hangs by a surprisingly thin thread.
If you want to see that thread snap, go ahead and carry out your threats. If you do what you have threatened to do, you will have given Plan Colombia’s opponents in the United States all the ammunition they need to take apart a policy that has been a disappointment anyway.
Recall what happened to U.S. aid to El Salvador in 1989, after the Salvadoran army killed six Jesuits on a university campus. It was cut dramatically, and the Salvadoran government was forced to get serious about negotiations with guerrillas. They ultimately signed an accord that yielded far more to the FMLN than Andrés Pastrana ever imagined giving up to the FARC.
The United States has given Colombia’s government $4.7 billion since 2000. If you start attacking human-rights defenders, you will have exposed that government as one that is unable – or unwilling – to protect its peaceful opposition, even when given months’ warning that attacks were imminent. Donor countries will recall that this government’s president, on a few occasions, has rhetorically linked human-rights groups with terrorists – a sentiment echoed repeatedly in your own e-mail messages.
Let’s be as clear as possible. If you so much as harm a hair on the head of one of our friends, you can kiss Plan Colombia goodbye. You can kiss U.S. support for the paramilitary demobilizations goodbye. You will create a huge new rift between the Bush and Uribe administrations. And you will embolden the U.S. government to push harder for the extradition of paramilitary leaders.