Witness for Peace

Upper Midwest

1015 E 11th Street

Duluth, MN 55805

(218) 349-1786



Contact:  John Clark Pegg at 218-349-1786

                 or wfpumw@witnessforpeace.org                                                               March 5, 2002


Nine Minnesotans Joining Witness for Peace Delegation to Colombia


Duluth, MN – On March 9, a group of 20 citizens from the United States will embark on a 12-day delegation to Colombia to bear personal witness to the effects of an aggressive U.S. policy in this South American country.  Following a day and a half training period in Miami, the group will fly to Bogotá to meet with a broad array of community representatives, including human rights activists, business leaders, economists, government and military officials, indigenous groups, displaced persons, farmers, and  U.S. State Department officials.  They will then bring their observations back to the United States.

Witness for Peace – Upper Midwest, with nine Minnesotans taking the lead, has organized the delegation.  The other participants come from nine other states, ranging from Philadelphia to Chicago to San Francisco.  This delegation is endorsed by Veterans for Peace, and nine are members of that organization and have served in the military between World War II and Viet Nam.  The group will hear testimony and observe the effects of U.S. aid to Colombia through the Andean Initiative of the Bush administration.  The majority of this funding has gone for military aid and to support the aerial fumigation of coca crops with toxic chemicals, which has devastating effects on the environment and people.  Witness for Peace has joined other human rights organizations in expressing concern that most of the military aid will go to the Colombian army, which has been repeatedly linked to brutal paramilitary groups which are accused of serious human rights violations and are on the U.S.’s official list of international terrorist organizations, along with the rebel forces of that country.

“People in the United States need to know that billions of our tax dollars are being committed to military intervention that has not and will not solve our domestic drug problem, but will only escalate a very complicated, decades-old internal armed conflict that each year kills thousands of innocent civilians and displaces hundreds of thousands from their homes,” says John Pegg, Delegation Coordinator.  “In addition, President Bush and various numbers of Congress are now considering funding legislation to send additional U.S. troops as military advisors, to train the Colombian army to better protect a major oil pipeline, which will further up the ante of U.S. military involvement in Colombia.”

Witness for Peace, which led the U.S. movement against the Contra War in Nicaragua in the 1980’s, has taken over 10,000 U.S. citizens to Latin America and the Caribbean since its founding in 1983.  Witness for Peace is a grassroots, non-violent, faith and conscience based organization dedicated to justice and peace in the Americas.  “We know that there are risks with such a delegation,” says Pegg, “but especially in these times of increasing military violence around the world, we believe that we must be willing to take the same risks for peace that others take for war.  Violence is not the answer.  With war there are no winners.”