One of the most critical nations in our hemisphere is Colombia. Huge gains have been made to go after the Nacro-Marxists.
President Uribe is one of the best leaders South America has ever had. Sure, there have been problems and speed bumps along the way - the progress that has been made to disconnect from the entrenched Paramilitary Forces as the Colombian government steps up over the last decade has been outstanding. Slow, steady progress is being made against the longest running Communist insurgencies on the planet.
Colombia is a front line state against Hugo Chavez. All trends are going the right way - in a way that is good for America.
Well, we can't have that - can we?
Sen. Patrick Leahy last week put a hold on $55.2 million in military aid to Colombia, citing the increasing number of reports of collaboration between Colombian officials and right-wing paramilitaries. The scandal, widely called "para-politics," has rattled Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's government, hurting the president both in Colombia and in the United States.Help Colombia help itself and all we will have to do is watch and advise. Let Colombia fall in to anarchy and loss - and there will be a nightmare in the making - more of a nightmare.
The incidents of collaboration with paramilitaries, including the one involving Gen. Montoya, took place in 2002, the year Mr. Uribe was elected. (Several of the legislators at the time were not even Uribe supporters.) And although "para-politics" may taint Mr. Uribe's government, it doesn't change the fact that Colombia is safer, more peaceful and on a better path since 2002. Murders have been on a substantial and fairly steady decline. Mr. Uribe quickly made good on his promises to go after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), guerrillas that at one point had amassed some 20,000 soldiers. By increasing the size of Colombia's security forces, Mr. Uribe was able to weaken FARC, particularly in central Colombia, and was also able to negotiate the deal with the paramilitaries.
Democrats, Mr. Leahy included, have in the past been critical of U.S. aid to Colombia, so it's a little surprising that he now would put a hold on military assistance. This is clearly a mistake. U.S. aid is essential for Colombia to secure the progress that has been made -- progress that represents a small success story in Latin America. Democrats would be wrong to undermine U.S. support now.