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The failure of Plan Colombia: a story of success March 16, 2009

Posted by mundoproject in Uncategorized.
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by David Díaz

The name of Cesar Gavíria by itself might not elicit worldwide recognition, but the former president of Colombia will always be remembered for orchestrating the military operation leading to the death of legendary drug lord Pablo Escobar. Such an achievement warrants the former first secretary of the OEA with an immaculate spot in the war against drugs’ hall of honor.

Yet, in a meeting with former presidents Zedillo (Mexico) and Cardoso (Brazil), Gavíria himself turns to be  advocating a change in drug policy, and his new stance stems from a simple conclusion: the war on drugs has been a failure. The latest chapter of this ongoing saga of erratic episodes is the bloodshed crippling the corrupted Mexican state of Ciudad Juarez where drug lords have overtaken the city.

However, in the drug war saga, another country has played a pivotal role in the experimentation of anti-drug policies: Colombia.

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The necessary aggionarmiento of the war on drugs

An almost “failed state” during the 90’s, the paradise of Juan Valdez –the famous coffee store-, has experienced a resurrection (not without its problems) under the tenure of right wing president Alvaro Uribe Velez.
But this change of fortunes began with Plan Colombia (PC), an aid package that saw the light of day in 1999 under the Clinton Administration, at a time where Marxist guerrillas and vicious right wing paramilitaries were seriously threatening the viability of the Colombian state.

Some ten years later, if we are to believe Gavíria, the PC has failed, yet at the same time it has proven to be a success story. Indeed, it has failed miserably in his anti-drug vocation (his initial mission) but it has allowed Colombia to become the US’ best student in the war against terrorism. The continuous blows to the FARC guerrilla have cemented Uribe’s reputation in Washington as a tough yet effective proxy in the worldwide war against terror that began after 9/11.
The war on terrorism may have succeeded, but statistics are not forgiving, and 10 years later the conclusion is clear: the war on drugs in Colombia has been a fiasco. A joke, at best. For ten years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into Colombia only to see the production of cocaine grow and the drug traffic increase in an, at best, ironic result.

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A New President In Town

In any case, politics are not determined by statistical trends. If this were the case, policy analysts in Washington would have surely reconsidered the pertinence of Plan Colombia as an anti-drug mechanism long time ago. Politics are instead driven by national interest.

During George W. Bush’s tenure, the latent prospect of Venezuela spreading its leftist influence in a country threatened by a Marxist guerrilla movement such as the FARC justified unconditional backing to Plan Colombia.
With a new president in office, politics are still driven by national interest, but the way they are going to be framed will make all the difference. During the presidential campaign, the Democrat Party took a rigid stance regarding Colombia: long gone was the unconditional republican backing, now the priority was going to be the respect of human rights. President Obama is yet to take a position regarding Plan Colombia, but the extent of the worldwide economic crisis will surely prove to be a factor pushing Washington to seriously reconsider the amount of money being allocated to Colombia. Specially when even in Bogotá, vice-president Santos, in a maybe overconfident declaration, declared Colombia could do without US-aid in the fight against drugs.

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Drug Policy under Barack Obama- can they change? “Yes they Can”

The way a problem is conceived will ultimately shape its hypothetical solutions. In the same way, the way a political issue is framed will determine the policies undertaken. When the drug issue is understood as a “war” an immediate military stance is adopted; the problem laying in the countries exporting such narcotics, the solution is to intervene in such nations hoping to block all incoming drugs. 30 years later, this so called “war on drugs” could very well earn the title as the most incoherent American policy of the last decades. The more Washington strives to fight drug production, the more drugs enter American soil.
A new century demands new prisms to understand the drug problematic. For almost half a century the emphasis has been put in repression, and the results point at an utter failure.
Drugs are more and more of a commodity in a globalized world. Liberal states such as California are trapped in a grey area of criminalization, while attempting at integrating marijuana use as a medical alternative. Yet college campuses are rid drugs that slowly become latent elements of pop culture.

It no longer makes sense for the most powerful nation in the world to wage a war on drugs that ultimately causes more harm than good. From human rights violations in Colombia, to fumigations exacerbating and worsening the situations of peasants all over the continent, Plan Colombia and its war on drugs ironically ends up contributing to the solidification of black markets all over the world.

If Barack Obama indeed incarnates change, at the very least a drastic revision of the Plan Colombia should take place. Otherwise, we would be witnessing the prolongation of a failed and invalid policy

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David was born in Bogota, Colombia. After graduating from a French high school he decided to continue his academic formation in France. After obtaining a general diploma of Law in the University Pierre Mendes France of Grenoble, he enters Sciences Po Grenoble in order to pursue studies in Political Science. Currently specializing in Latin American Political studies, he also continues studying Law with the University of Paris. His areas of interests focus in Latin American Affairs, Human Rights, US policy in Latin America, and regional integration in South America.

You can contact him at diazbejarano@gmail.com

Comments»

1. Camila - March 18, 2009

No dudo que Obama quiera liderar grandes cambios en materia de política exterior en EE.UU. Sin embargo, no es el único actor indispensable para cambiar el enfoque que ha tenido la política antidrogas. Desde Nixon, viene apropiandose en EE.UU un enfoque en el que la producción y consumo de drogas son vistas como un problema de “seguridad nacional” y no como un tema de salud pública. Obama no es el primer presidente democrata en buscar cambiar la lógica de este discurso frente a la producción de drogas: Jimmy Carter, y en cierta medida Clinton, intentaron definir esta política desde un nuevo enfoque. Lastimosamente, ninguno ha logrado cambiar esta lógica, y por el contrario se ha mantenido este discurso securitizado sobre la producción de drogas, y asi, la ayuda militar a paises productores . Creo que seria interesante revisar este artículo, donde se explican, de acuerdo a una teoria constructivista, las razones por las cuales ha sido imposible cambiar esta lógica antidrogas: colombiainternacional.uniandes.edu.co/datos/pdf/descargar.php?f=./data/Col_Int_No.54/04_Rev_54.pdf

El plan Colombia puede sin duda acabar proximamente, pero yo creeria que tiene mucho mas peso explicativo la crisis económica reciente en EE.UU, que un cambio en la definición de ésta política. La política exterior de Colombia, frente a este tema, tambien puede jugar un papel importante en la decisión que se tome. Por un lado, estan efectivamente las declaraciones de Fracisco Santos. Por otro, el expresidente Andres Pastrana (“papa” del Plan Colombia), ha insistido en varios medios de comunicación su preocupación por el fin de esta financiación. Una parte de los resultados queda sin duda en cómo Uribe y la cancilleria juegen sus cartas.

2. David Diaz Bejarano - March 20, 2009

“El plan Colombia puede sin duda acabar proximamente, pero yo creeria que tiene mucho mas peso explicativo la crisis económica reciente en EE.UU, que un cambio en la definición de ésta política.”

La crisis economica se ha vuelto la nueva supra estrucutura bajo la cual se tienen que desarollar ahora las politicas publicas. Ahi, te doy la razon.

Pero la politica tambien puede ser de procesos y evoluciones coherentes. Esta coherencia es muy subjetiva, pero para mi el hecho de que desde hace diez años los estudios muestren que entre mas se fumiga mas drogas entran a Estados Unidos es una locura. Una incoherencia. Ante una politica publica que se sabe que esta fracasando la unica solucion solo puede ser la coherencia.

Un ejemplo:

durante años y años los republicanos financiaron guerras civiles en Centro America. Prematuramente, se descubrieron abusos por parte de las fuerzas armadas, se sabia que esa plata estaba catalizando violaciones ATROCES de derechos humanos, pero nada se hizo. Al final efectivamente, nada se hizo, y el balance? Como 10’000 muertos, todo por “promover la democracia en el mundo”. Una politica incoherente, que se sabia que estaba causando mucho daño al pais “beneficiario”, nada se hizo, nadie tuvo el coraje de cambiar nada y pailas, todos nos jodimos.

3. David Diaz Bejarano - March 30, 2009

Wankers btw…


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