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Plan Colombia: 10 Billion US Dollars Spent; 7 Million Colombians Dead


February 13, 2016
Megan Alpert / Foreign Policy & Daniel Kovalik / TeleSURtv & Dan Kovalik / The World Report

Plan Colombia's 15th anniversary was celebrated in Washington February 11. President Juan Manuel Santos came to DC to praise Colombia's US-backed $10 billion "war on drugs." Washington's military approach to America's drug-addiction left Colombia marked by massacres, mass graves, and death squads. Bullets were supposed to cut cocaine exports 50% by 2006. Today, however, after 15 years of war, Colombia remains the world's No. 1 cocaine producer.

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/35115-us-efforts-to-curb-colombias-cocaine-trade-have-failed



US Efforts to Curb Colombia's
Cocaine Trade Have Failed

Megan Alpert / Foreign Policy

(February 10, 2016) -- Last week, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos came to Washington to tout the dual-barreled successes of peace talks with the rebel group FARC and Plan Colombia, an aid program that began in 2000 when the government had control of only a third of its country.

At a February 4 reception, US President Barack Obama announced the next phase of the partnership between Bogota and Washington would be called Peace Colombia and hailed "a country that was on the brink of collapse is now on the brink of peace."

Amid the congratulatory speeches, however, nothing was said about the fact that Plan Colombia has done little to stem the nation's cocaine exports after 15 years and $10 billion in US aid devoted to what was initially a counter-narcotics program.

Santos did not deny that Colombia remains the world's No. 1 cocaine producer. "We've never been No. 2," he quipped during a February 3 question-and-answer session hosted by the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington. In fact, Colombia did fall behind Peru for two years, before retaking the top spot in 2014.

Yet Santos also said coca production is expected to go up over the next few years -- even though Plan Colombia originally sought to cut in half the country's drug production by 2006.

But few realists believed that would ever happen. "I don't think anyone ever assumed that Plan Colombia, or the Colombian government's efforts, would magically eliminate narcotics trafficking in Colombia," said one senior US government official who has worked on Plan Colombia and spoke to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity to more candidly discuss diplomatic issues.

In fact, the flow of cocaine from Colombia to the United States went up during from 2000 to 2006, although poppy and heroin production were reduced by half.

That's rarely mentioned when officials -- who would rather focus on the security successes of Plan Colombia -- laud the program. The US official said the program did succeed in breaking up large drug cartels that posed an existential threat to the Colombian state. Now, the cartels are only "a still serious, but manageable, law enforcement challenge," the US official said.

Virginia Bouvier, a Colombia expert at the federally-funded US Institute for Peace, was more blunt. "If you're looking at the piece of Plan Colombia that was about drug trafficking and eradicating coca, that did not work," she told FP. She also described as "a bit of a pipe dream" Santos's claim that the peace deal would help stop drug exports because the FARC has agreed to share intelligence about narcotics trafficking.

A congressional aide noted drug traffickers are likely to proliferate after the peace deal is signed, "because you have the FARC laying down their arms and that creates a vacuum." He added that some former FARC fighters may also join the drug trade. The aide also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified by name.

All of which begs the questions: What happened to the $10 billion the US has already spent on Plan Colombia, and how should Washington spend the $450 million that Obama wants to contribute to Peace Colombia?

Much of the Plan Colombia money trained and armed the Colombian military and police, which, despite making security gains, were later shown to have been complicit or otherwise committed human rights abuses.

Some also went to aerial fumigation of coca crops, which Santos halted last year, not just because farmers had found ways to evade it, but because the chemicals were labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

Coca eradication remains central to anti-drug efforts in Colombia -- even if whether it is effective is debatable. The congressional aide said it's ineffective to solely eradicate coca if Colombian farmers have no alternative crops to grow and sell for financial support. It's unclear to what extent Peace Colombia -- and the additional $450 million in aid to Colombia -- will bolster alternative crops.

Santos said during his appearance at the Wilson Center that he wants to use a comprehensive approach that combines eradication efforts with giving farmers "an alternative way of life." He halted aerial fumigation last year and legalized medicinal marijuana in December, moving the country away from the policies Washington had favored for fifteen years.

But that hasn't stopped the US from from adopting similar strategies modeled after Plan Colombia in other Latin American countries. The United States has pursued these approaches in Afghanistan as well, where it has also fallen short.

Bouvier said that as the finalization of the peace deal nears, it is important for policy makers to take stock of the successes and shortcomings of Plan Colombia even as they celebrate: "It's been a rough haul for 15 years."





The Wages of Plan Colombia Have Been Death
Daniel Kovalik / TeleSUR

(February 3, 2016) -- According to Colombia's Victims Unit, the number of victims of Colombia's civil war has surpassed 7 million. This number includes those who have been killed, disappeared or displaced since 1956. For a country of under 50 million citizens, these numbers are staggering, and certainly newsworthy, but apparently not for the mainstream media.

Of course, the violence and human rights abuses in Colombia have constituted inconvenient truths for the Western media as the US has been a major sponsor of the violence and abuses in that country.

Indeed, a notable fact in the Colombia Victims Unit report is that "that the majority of victimization occurred after 2000, peaking in 2002 at 744,799 victims." It is not coincidental that "Plan Colombia," or "Plan Washington" as many Colombians have called it, was inaugurated by President Bill Clinton in 2000, thus escalating the conflict to new heights and new levels of barbarity. Plan Colombia is a plan pursuant to which the US has given Colombia billions in mostly military and police assistance.

As Amnesty International has explained, these monies have only fueled the human rights crisis in Colombia:

Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cut off of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions.

Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of US military aid for well over a decade and the largest in the western hemisphere . . . . Yet torture, massacres, "disappearances" and killings of non-combatants are widespread and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day . . . .

"Plan Colombia" -- the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means . . . .

Despite overwhelming evidence of continued failure to protect human rights the State Department has continued to certify Colombia as fit to receive aid. The US has continued a policy of throwing "fuel on the fire" of already widespread human rights violations, collusion with illegal paramilitary groups and near total impunity.

Furthermore, after 10 years and over $8 billion dollars of US assistance to Colombia, US policy has failed to reduce availability or use of cocaine in the US, and Colombia's human rights record remains deeply troubling. Despite this, the State Department continues to certify military aid to Colombia, even after reviewing the country's human rights record.


However, what Amnesty International did not explain are two salient facts.

First, the human rights group does not mention that Plan Colombia was initiated in the midst of peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas, and actually played a key role in derailing these talks, and with them the prospects for peace -- prospects which have only been revived recently.

Second, Amnesty International does not mention that the paramilitaries which continue to collaborate with the US-backed military in Colombia were actually a creation of the US Thus, these paramilitaries were the brainchild of the Kennedy Administration back in 1962 -- that is, two years before the FARC guerillas were even constituted.

As Noam Chomsky has mentioned a number of times, Kennedy commenced the US's counterinsurgency program, of which paramilitaries were a key component, in order to combat the scourge of Liberation Theology unleashed by Vatican II. And indeed, as Chomsky has also noted, the US School of the Americas has bragged about how it helped "destroy liberation theology," which emphasizes the "preferential treatment of the poor."

Colombia has been ground zero for this plan which has targeted, among others, Catholic clergy for assassination. Accordingly, as documented by the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, over 80 Catholic clergy have been murdered in Colombia since 1984 -- including 79 priests and 2 bishops -- for the crime of advocating on behalf of the poor.

One brave Colombian Liberation Priest, Father Javier Giraldo sent a letter in September of 2011 to the US Ambassador to Colombia, P. Michael McKinley, imploring him to prevail upon President Barack Obama to reconsider his decision to release millions of dollars in military aid to Colombia in light its abysmal human rights record.

In this letter, Father Giraldo informed the Ambassador that Colombian military's directive known as EJC 3-10 -- a directive based upon General Yarborough's 1962 recommendation to organize paramilitary groups -- is still very much in effect today in the form of paramilitary groups which both the US and Colombian governments attempt to dismiss as mere criminal bands known as "BACRIM."

According to Father Giraldo, these neo-paramilitary groups, as before, continue to work "in close harmony with the Army and Police" to carry out crimes against humanity, including forced displacement, with the number of internally displaced people in Colombia now at over 6 million; extra-judicial killings which have resulted in the proliferation of mass graves throughout Colombia; and "the systematic crime of forced disappearances, which according to national and international agencies now affects more than 50,000 families."

And, he also places the responsibility for these continued abuses firmly at the feet of the US Thus, Father Giraldo informs the US ambassador that "[t]he current commanders take part in the same immunity, and impunity and the assistance from your government only reinforces their criminal activity."

As Father Giraldo explains, the US's military/paramilitary policy is part and parcel of an unjust economic policy which allows for the unconstrained penetration of Colombia by multinational corporations at the expense of the Colombian people. He states:
The permits issued for mining exploitation to numerous transnational businesses have activated paramilitaries and armed conflict tremendously. They are leaving huge populations of poor people without any land or resources.

The destruction of the environment and the destruction of indigenous, campesino and Afro-Colombian communities by these projects are leading to every kind of resistance. This means that the security of these companies and of their destructive projects is only effective with the protection of enormous contingents of paramilitaries secretly co-opted by the armed forces and by the government security agencies, which do not hesitate to murder the leaders of the resistance.


Father Giraldo further describes:
"The permanent genocide that is being carried out in Buenaventura, where the neighborhoods and the Community Councils around the port are being invaded by paramilitaries supported or tolerated by the armed forces.

They cut people in pieces with horrifying cruelty throwing the body parts in to the sea, if any of them dare to resist the megaproject for the new port. This included the expulsion of people living in the poorest areas and it includes the expropriation of the plots of garbage dumps where these people, in the midst of their misery, have over decades tried to survive.


Not surprisingly, Father Giraldo's prophetic voice fell on deaf ears, and Obama proceeded with the release of the military aid to Colombia. And, it is the deathly silence over the horrifying human rights situation in Colombia which allows the US to continue its destructive military/economic policy in that country.

Daniel Kovalik is labor and human rights lawyer. He teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.



Number of Colombian Victims of Civil Conflict
Surpasses 7 Million: Media Unimpressed

Dan Kovalik / The World Report

(January 24, 2015) -- A tragic milestone went virtually unreported in the English-speaking press last week, as Colombia's Victims Unit released its report indicating that the number of victims of Colombia's civil war has now surpassed 7 million. This number includes those who have been killed, disappeared or displaced since 1956. For a country of under 50 million citizens, these numbers are staggering, and certainly newsworthy, but apparently not for our mainstream media.

Of course, the violence and human rights abuses in Colombia have constituted inconvenient truths for the Western media as the US has been a major sponsor of the violence and abuses in that country.

Indeed, a notable fact in the Victims Unit report is that "that the majority of victimization occurred after 2000, peaking in 2002 at 744,799 victims." It is not coincidental that "Plan Colombia," or "Plan Washington" as many Colombians have called it, was inaugurated by President Bill Clinton in 2000, thus escalating the conflict to new heights and new levels of barbarity. Plan Colombia is the plan pursuant to which the US has given Colombia over $8 billion of mostly military and police assistance.

As Amnesty International has explained, these monies have only fueled the human rights crisis in Colombia:
Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cut off of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions.

Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of US military aid for well over a decade and the largest in the western hemisphere. . . . Yet torture, massacres, "disappearances" and killings of non-combatants are widespread and collusion between the armed forces and paramilitary groups continues to this day. . . .

"Plan Colombia" -- the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means . . . .

Despite overwhelming evidence of continued failure to protect human rights the State Department has continued to certify Colombia as fit to receive aid. The US has continued a policy of throwing "fuel on the fire" of already widespread human rights violations, collusion with illegal paramilitary groups and near total impunity.

Furthermore, after 10 years and over $8 billion dollars of US assistance to Colombia, US policy has failed to reduce availability or use of cocaine in the US, and Colombia's human rights record remains deeply troubling. Despite this, the State Department continues to certify military aid to Colombia, even after reviewing the country's human rights record.

What Amnesty International (AI) did not explain is two salient facts. First, AI does not mention that Plan Colombia was initiated in the midst of peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas, and actually played a key role in derailing these talks, and with them the chances for peace.

Second, AI does not mention that the paramilitaries which continue to collaborate with the US-backed military in Colombia were actually a creation of the US Thus, these paramilitaries were the brain child of the Kennedy Administration back in 1962 -- that is, two years before the FARC guerillas were even constituted.

A report by Human Rights Watch explains this well:
[Colombian] General Ruiz became army commander in 1960. By 1962, he had brought in US Special Forces to train Colombian officers in cold war counterinsurgency. Colombian officers also began training at US bases. That year, a US Army Special Warfare team visited Colombia to help refine Plan Lazo, a new counterinsurgency strategy General Ruiz was drafting.

US advisors proposed that the United States "select civilian and military personnel for clandestine training in resistance operations in case they are needed later."

Led by Gen. William P. Yarborough, the team further recommended that this structure "be used to perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States."


Judging by the events that followed, the US recommendations were implemented enthusiastically through Plan Lazo, formally adopted by the Colombian military on July 1, 1962.

While the military presented Plan Lazo to the public as a "hearts-and-minds" campaign to win support through public works and campaigns to improve the conditions that they believed fed armed subversion, privately it incorporated the Yarborough team's principal recommendations. Armed civilians -- called "civil defense," "self-defense," or "population organization operations," among other terms -- were expected to work directly with troops.

The combination of the US's paramilitary (aka "death squad") strategy in Colombia, combined with the US's billions of dollars of lethal aid to the military that works with these death squads have contributed greatly to the massive human rights disaster which has claimed now over 7 million victims and counting.

This is certainly nothing of any of us should be proud of, but it would be useful if our news media, which purports to be one of the pillars of our democratic system, would inform us of such matters at least once and a while.

Instead, Colombia and its ongoing armed conflict continue to be almost invisible in our mainstream news outlets. Of course, it is this very silence about such tragedies which allow them to happen in the first place.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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