What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : War on Drugs : On passage of a Democratic amendment to the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act (S. 2400) that would cap the number of U.S. military troops and civilian contractors in Colombia at 500 each. (2004 senate Roll Call 140)
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On passage of a Democratic amendment to the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act (S. 2400) that would cap the number of U.S. military troops and civilian contractors in Colombia at 500 each.
senate Roll Call 140     Jun 23, 2004
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

Progressives backed this amendment offered by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) that would cap the number of U.S. military troops and civilian contractors in Colombia at 500 each. Offered to the fiscal year 2005 Defense Authorization Act (S. 2400), which grants the Bush administration's request and increases the number of U.S. troops and private contractors allowed in Colombia to 800 (a doubling of current levels) and 600, respectively, Byrd's amendment was rejected 40-58, meaning troop levels under the bill will remain at levels chosen by the Bush administration. Byrd's proposal to reduce the number of troops and contractors, while considered far from ideal by Senate progressives, was seen as a possible first step in getting Congress to put the brakes on U.S. military escalation in Colombia. Allowing the Bush administration to back a failed military policy with still more resources and manpower puts innocent Colombian civilians at greater risk, progressives said. Progressives noted that even if senators support the U.S. policy in Colombia, now is not the time to expand U.S. military commitments abroad. Conservatives, however, argued in favor of the administration's Colombia policy. They said Byrd's amendment would undermine progress in Colombia, where, conservatives argued, greater troop strength is needed to ensure that it continues to move in the right direction under the direction of Colombia President Uribe, who conservatives said has shown a "strong commitment" to ending the drug trade in Colombia by the end of his administration in 2006. U.S. Counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia include military funding for equipment, training and education programs for Colombian military personnel. Raising the existing personnel caps will allow additional U.S. personnel to be made available to train Colombian personnel, and will enhance their ability to conduct their counter-narcotics missions, conservatives argued. However, progressives countered, according to the United Nations, direct human rights violations by the Colombian military increased last year, and, progressives said, even the U.S. State Department admits that the Colombian government has failed to break ties with brutal right-wing paramilitary groups. The United States should insist on reforms, progressives added, not reward this lack of progress with more military support.

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