U.S. has to be careful in S. America

For the first time in Colombia’s bloody civil war, the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC, has captured U.S. government workers and deemed them “prisoners of war.”

Even as the world’s attention turns to Iraq and the Korean peninsula, these events showcase the need for the United States to engage Latin America and carefully apply a combination of measures to address the unique problems of each of these countries.

Colombia’s situation is particularly grim.

In 1997, the United States began supplying Colombia with funds and military assistance for the purpose of squashing drug production and fighting leftist rebels who — while leading an insurgence against the Colombian government for the past 39 years — became intimately involved in the country’s drug trade. Since then, the original purpose of the U.S. mission — known as Plan Colombia — has changed.

In attempting a rescue, the United States must be careful not to go beyond the scope of the legislation permitting U.S. troops in Colombia.

Congress voiced this sentiment in 2001 due to concerns the United States might end up in a protracted conflict similar to Vietnam.

The saving grace in all this is a restrictive clause in the legislation allowing the president to “carry out emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens or any search-and-rescue operation for U.S. military personnel or U.S. citizens.”

Although the United States used the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 to stake its claim on the countries of Latin America, it was not until the late 19th century that it had the economic and military might to pursue its interests there wholesale.

The United States must not lose sight of South America, its strategic and economic importance, as well as the plight of its people, as it pursues its agenda elsewhere.

University Wire — U. Minneapolis