Plan Colombia

From Academic Kids

Plan Colombia is an ambitious and controversial initiative aimed at resolving the ongoing, forty-year civil war in Colombia. The plan was conceived in 1999 by the administration of President Andrés Pastrana Arango with the goals of social and economic revitalization, ending the armed conflict and creating an anti-narcotic strategy. The most controversial element of the anti-narcotic strategy is aerial fumigation to eradicate coca. This activity has come under fire because it appears to damage legal crops and has adverse health effects upon those exposed to the herbicides. Critics of the initiative also claim that elements within the Colombian security forces, which receive aid and training from it, may be involved in supporting or tolerating abuses by rightwing paramilitary forces against the population and legal leftwing organizations.



This original plan called for a budget of US$7.5 billion, with 51% dedicated to institutional and social development, 32% for fighting the narco-trafficking, 16% for economic and social revitalization, and 0.8% to support the then on-going effort to negotiate a political solution to the state's conflict with insurgent guerrilla groups. Pastrana initially pledged US$4.864 billion of Colombian resources (65% of the total) and called on the international community to provide the remaining US$2.636 billion (35%).

The Clinton administration in the United States supported the initiative by committing $1.3 billion in foreign aid and up to five hundred military personnel to train local forces. An additional three hundred civilian personnel were allowed to assist in suppressing coca growers and the organizations that support them. This aid was an addition to US$330 million of previously approved US aid to Colombia. US$818 million was earmarked for 2000, with US$256 million for 2001. These appropriations for the plan made Colombia the third largest recipient of foreign aid from the United States.

Though Colombia had sought additional support from the European Union and other countries, with the intention of financing the mostly social component of the original plan, it eventually met with little cooperation as the would-be donors considered that the US approved aid represented an undue military slant, and additionally lacked the will to spend such amounts of money for what they considered an uncertain initiative. Some countries did end up donating several hundred million dollars to Colombia (approximately US $128.6 million dollars, 2.3% of the total) but most preferred to avoid falling under the Plan Colombia moniker, and the sums raised fell well short of what was originally called for. In addition, Colombia's eventual contribution was less than planned due in part its 1999-2001 economic crisis.

The war on drugs

Although Plan Colombia includes components which address social aid and institutional reform, the initiative has come to be regarded as fundamentally a program of counternarcotics and military aid for the Colombian government.

Officially, especially in the US, it is justified as part of the "war on drugs", but many suspect the true targets of the Plan is the guerrilla forces, which have exerted influence over vast swaths of territory in the rural interior of the country. Some of the more critical observers argue that the peasantry and indigenous people might be considered as a target of the Plan, as they would be calling for social reform and the protection and eventual legalization of drug crops as their source of income or cultural expression, thereby potentially interfering with alleged international plans to exploit Colombia's valuable resources, including but not limited to its oil (Colombia has been considered as the 7th or 8th oil supplier to the USA, though recent studies point to a coming reduction in the country's currently known oil reserves).

Prominent in the aid package approved by Clinton is the so-called "Push into Southern Colombia", an area that for decades has been a stronghold of Colombia's largest guerrilla organisation FARC; it also a major coca producing region.

This funding was earmarked for training and equipping new Colombian army counternarcotics battalions, providing them with helicopters, transport and intelligence assistance, and supplies for coca eradication. While the assistance is defined as counternarcotics assistance, many believe it will be used primarily against the FARC. Supporters of the Plan argue that such an action would make sense as the distinction between guerrillas and drug dealers may have increasingly become irrelevant, seing as they could be considered as part of the same productive chain.

In June 2000, Amnesty International issued a press release in which it criticized the implemented Plan Colombia initiative:

Plan Colombia is based on a drug-focussed analysis of the roots of the conflict and the human rights crisis which completely ignores the Colombian state's own historical and current responsibility. It also ignores deep-rooted causes of the conflict and the human rights crisis. The Plan proposes a principally military strategy (in the US component of Plan Colombia) to tackle illicit drug cultivation and trafficking through substantial military assistance to the Colombian armed forces and police. Social development and humanitarian assistance programs included in the Plan cannot disguise its essentially military character. Furthermore, it is apparent that Plan Colombia is not the result of a genuine process of consultation either with the national and international non-governmental organizations which are expected to implement the projects nor with the beneficiaries of the humanitarian, human rights or social development projects. As a consequence, the human rights component of Plan Colombia is seriously flawed. [1] (

During the late 1990s, Colombia was the leading recipient of US military aid in the Western Hemisphere, and due to its continuing internal conflict has also compiled the worst human rights record, with the majority of atrocities attributed (from most directly responsible to least directly responsible) to paramilitary forces, insurgent guerrilla groups and elements with the police and armed forces.

A United Nations study reported that elements within the Colombian security forces, which have been strengthened as a whole due to Plan Colombia and other initiatives, at times and in certain regions do continue to maintain intimate relationships with right-wing death squads, help organize paramilitary forces, and either participate in abuses and massacres directly or, as it is usually argued to be more often the case, deliberately fail to take action to prevent them. Critics of the Plan and of other initiatives to aid Colombian armed forces point to these continuing accusations of serious abuse, and argue that the Colombian state and military should sever any persisting relationship with these illegal forces and and need to prosecute past offenses by paramilitary forces or its own personnel. Supporters of the Plan assert that the number and scale of abuses directly attributable to the government's forces have been slowly but increasingly reduced.

Expansion under Bush

In 2001, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush expanded the program with the appropriation of $676 million for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative. Of this appropriation, approximately $380 million was targeted at Colombia. The rest went towards other South American countries covered by the Andean Counterdrug Initiative. The 2001 initiative reduced the limitations on the numbers and the activities of civilian contractors, allowing them to carry and use military weapons which, according to the U.S. government, would be necessary to ensure the safety of personnel and equipment during spray missions. Congress rejected amendments to the Andean initiative that would have redirected some of the money to demand reduction programs in the United States, primarily through funding of drug treatment services. Some critics have opposed the rejection of these modifications, claiming that the drug problem and its multiple repercussions would be structurally addressed by curbing the demand, and not the production, of illicit drugs, since drug crops can always be regrown and transplanted elsewhere, inside or outside Colombia and its neighboring countries, as long as there is a commercially viable market.

In 2004, the United States appropriated approximately $727 million for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, $463 million of which was targeted at Colombia.

In October 2004, the compromise version of two U.S. House-Senate bills approved to increase the number of U.S. military advisors that operate in the country as part of Plan Colombia to 800 (from 400) and that of private contractors to 600 (from 400). [2] (

On October 15, a statement by U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign office and an interview with his Latin American affairs advisor Peter Romero, both published in the Colombian daily El Tiempo, pledged to continue supporting Plan Colombia and the efforts made by Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, but highlighted the need for the Colombian government to improve the grave human rights situation inside the country, by severing any remaining links with right-wing irregulars and to provide adequate protection to all its citizens, including rights and union workers.[3] ([4] (

In a November 22 2004 visit to Cartagena, President Bush stood by Colombian president Uribe's security policies and declared his support for continuing to provide Plan Colombia aid in the future. Bush claimed the initiative enjoys "wide bipartisan support" in the US and in the coming year he would ask Congress to renew its support. [5] (


The results of Plan Colombia have been mixed. U.S. government statistics would show that a signification reduction in leftover coca (total cultivation minus eradicated coca) has been observed from peak 2001 levels of 169,800 hectares to an estimated 114,000 hectares in 2004. Despite this, effective reductions may appear to have reached their limits as in 2004, despite a record high aerial herbicide fumigation campaign of 136,555 hectares, the total of surviving coca hectares has remained constant, as an estimated 113,850 hectares in 2003 were followed by about 114,000 hectares in 2004.

Additionally, recent poppy seed cultivation has decreased while coca cultivation actually has not. Overall attempted coca cultivation by growers (total planted coca without taking eradication into account) increased somewhat, from 246,667 hectares in 2003 to 250,555 hectares in 2004. Peak coca cultivation was apparently 267,145 in 2002. This would appear to mean that growers continue to plant coca at a relatively constant rate despite fumigation efforts. [6] ( [7] (

The U.S. and Colombian governments interpret this data to show a decline in potential production of cocaine, from a peak of 700 metric tons in 2001 to 460 in 2003 and 430 in 2004, as result of an increase in "newly-planted [coca fields] in response to eradication", which would allegedly be less productive than mature coca.

U.S. government officials have admitted that the market price of drugs has yet to suffer any significant upward increase, as would be expected from the above reductions in supply. They point to possible hidden stashes and other methods of circumventing the immediate effect of eradication efforts which allow for a relatively constant flow of drugs able to enter into the market. [8] ( Other observers say this points to the ultimate ineffectiveness of the Plan in stopping the flow of drugs and addressing more important or underlying issues like providing a viable alternative for landless and other peasants, which turn to coca cultivation due to a lack of other economic possibilities, in addition to having to deal with the tumultous civil conflict between the state, guerrillas and paramilitaries. They also say that simply making coca difficult to grow and transport in one area will lead to the movement of the drug cultivation processes to other areas, both inside and outside Colombia, a consequence also known as the balloon effect. [9] (

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