Barbara Lee Calls for More Humane, Less Militaristic Policy in Debate on Foreign Aid Bill Print
Washington, DC - Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) spoke out in favor increased humanitarian aid and a less militarized policy towards the western hemisphere during House debate on the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill today.

"We need to rethink our strategy to improve relations with our hemispheric neighbors," said Lee. "If you prioritize humanitarian and development aid over military assistance, you will reap more results, save lives, and improve security."

Lee spoke in support of the McGovern-Lewis amendment to close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). WHINSEC is a military training facility for Latin American security personnel located in Fort Benning, Georgia. For decades the students trained at WHINSEC participated and led torture, extortion and executions in Latin America. The amendment failed by recorded vote of 188 - 218.

"Just mentioning the School of the Americas is traumatic to the survivors and the family members of those who have been victimized by SOA graduates," said Lee.

She also cosponsored and spoke in favor of the McGovern- Leach-Payne-Lofgren-McCollum-Grijalva-Schakowsky-Lee amendment to provide an additional $30 million to the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Account (ERMA) by removing excess funding from the Andean Counterdrug Initiative. It left intact $515.2 million in funding for Colombia, $9 million more than President's FY07 request for Colombia. ERMA helps the United States respond quickly and flexibly to humanitarian disasters. The international community is overwhelmed by the current crisis situation of refugees in Darfur, Sudan, along the Chad/Sudan border region, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo/ Brazzaville, and Colombia. This relatively small increase in funding would substantially improve the situation of innumerable victims. The amendment failed by recorded vote of 174 - 229.

"We can and must do more to help global victims of violence cope with the loss of everything they know and love," said Lee. "I urge my colleagues support this amendment and take a step towards ending the global refugee crisis."