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Colombia has been involved in a civil war for over 35 years which has created the third largest refugee population in the world. Since 1990, over 35,000 people have died in the war -- each year adds another 4,000 to that total. The three principal forces in this war are: the military; paramilitary forces under the umbrella organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC); and the guerilla organizations Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN).

U.S. involvement in Colombia has prolonged and increased the violence through the provision of arms and military training, closely linked with the paramilitary forces. Colombia receives more military aid than any other Latin American country. In 2006, $641.2 million was budgeted for military and police aid to Colombia, with only $138.5 million being budgeted for social and economic aid (100 percent of which was for “International Narcotics Control”).

Together with other civil society organizations, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns works for a change in U.S. policy toward Colombia. U.S. aid should be shifted away from arming an already violent situation and toward humanitarian aid for displaced people, alternative development aid for local farmers, and judicial reform assistance.

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