Friday, February 13, 2004


Our pal Jeremy Bigwood, in his pursuit for the truth about Latin American policy through relentless FOIA requests, has uncovered the ugly truth about Plan Colombia. He and James Henry published a disturbing piece that proves our government callously instituted their inhumane eradication policies, ignoring CIA admonitions that Plan Colombia was not only likely to fail in its goal of reducing coca production but would contribute to political instability in the region.

These are your tax dollars being used to foment civil unrest under the guise of the 'war on drugs' and we're not talking about 'chump change' here.

....$3.13 billion of US military and economic aid, including $743 million this year alone, and up to $688 million for 2004, more than half of all US total aid to Latin America. Indeed, Colombia now ranks third in world among all US foreign aid recipients, behind only Israel and Egypt.

Since the Clinton administration, our government has been selling this to the public as a humanitarian program to:

...reduce coca production and curb cocaine trafficking, and also to help defeat narco-terrorism and bring peace, economic development, and social justice to Colombia, where an increasing proportion of the population -- up to 60 percent -- dwells in poverty.

The CIA reports unearthed by Bigwood would indicate our leaders ignored the intelligence reports that contradicted this scenario and kept this information secret from US taxpayers all these many years.

That conclusion supports those critics who have long maintained that the supply of coca is very elastic, so that it defies any simple 'supply-side' cures like eradication or interdiction. As the conservative magazine The Economist noted recently, there may well be a "balloon effect," with increased eradication in one area just expanding production elsewhere - especially in more remote, mountainous, and cloudier regions where crop spraying is harder, or in nearby countries where the police and military are weaker or even more corrupt.

Moreover, as this CIA study notes, wholesale coca eradication may just destroy large amounts of ordinary food crops like cassava, which are much less robust than coca. That, in turn, would alienate thousands of local farmers, creating new recruits for radical movements like the FARC, and helping to spread their influence to new regions of Colombia and other countries.

All told, the study indicates, it is hard to make Plan Colombia out to be anything less than a high-risk gamble with the future of the entire Andean region.

This is indeed what has happened. Plan Colombia has succeeded in poisoning thousands of acres of the Amazon rainforest, which has merely spiked coca production in neighboring countries. In the words of the CIA report:

Already, Peru's cocaine trade - dealt a significant blow by a potent combination of interdiction, eradication, and alternative development successes in the late 1990s - is showing signs of recovery; and Colombian traffickers are making increased use of Ecuadorian, Venezuelan, Brazilian, and Panamanian territory to reach the US and European cocaine markets. Although less likely, rising coca prices resulting from Colombian supply shortages could put at risk Bolivia's significant accomplishment in dramatically reducing its illegal coca supply.

The article details other negative consequences of this program and if you read the whole thing, you can only reach one conclusion. The only way this plan would work in its stated goal of eradication would be to poison the entire continent with herbicides. As Bigwood and Henry note:

Given all this instability, it now appears likely that Plan Colombia's 'success' will depend on whether it is followed up by a Plan Ecuador, a Plan Peru, and a Plan Venezuela, and a Plan Bolivia. This is a recipe for endless civil wars, not for peace and the kind of economic development that is the only real solution to the "coca farming problem."

I can think of one more. Legalizing coca leaf and developing markets for its traditional uses as an agricultural product.

[Link via BigLeftOutside]


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