A plan to expand military aid to Colombia’s army was considered by the Bush administration Tuesday. Under the plan, Colombia’s army could receive up to $98 million to protect its oil pipelines from leftist rebels. While it is good to help the country protect its largest moneymaking export, the United States should make sure the money goes to protect the pipeline from the rebels and not to fund paramilitary groups or others who would abuse the funds in illegal manners.
Occidental Petroleum of Los Angeles owns the Cano Limon pipeline that was bombed 170 times last year. The damages cost Colombia and the company more than $500 million, and since 1986 (when the first attacks on the pipeline were recorded) more than 2.6 million barrels of oil have been lost.
This is a great ecological and economical danger to a country that has faced 38 years of rebel conflict and hardships. Though the United States certainly has a stake in sending aid, there are concerns that need to be addressed before the aid is sent.
It is no secret that the Colombian government is full of corrupt personnel who may shift funds to paramilitary operations or to people involved in cultivating drugs. In fact, many Americans may worry that several times the United States has trained other nations’ military armies or groups ( for instance, those in Iran and Afghanistan), and those same groups turned their learned skills back on this nation.
This is certainly a valid concern and should be addressed. The money sent to Colombia to defend the pipeline should be carefully watched and evaluated to ensure it is not abused. The United States has always been keen to protect its interests, but this is one that could help both nations if done properly and with jurisprudence.