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Last Updated:3/22/00
Foreign Policy Brief, House International Relations Committee Democratic Office, March 21, 2000
Foreign Policy Brief
from Sam Gejdenson
Ranking Democratic Member
House International Relations Committee

Update: Counter-drugs package for Colombia & Andean Region

The House will soon consider a $1.7 billion package of counter-narcotics and development assistance for the Andean region, principally Colombia [nearly $300m goes to support a domestic DEA program]. The funding is part of a $9.2 billion emergency supplemental to FY '00 spending that includes monies also for Hurricane Floyd recovery and U.S. forces in Kosovo, among other items. The full supplemental passed House Appropriations March 9 by a vote of 33-13. Floor action could come next week, pending resolution of a dispute among House Republicans regarding the budget and emergency spending -- fiscal conservatives (CATs) want offsets for the increase in the emergency supplemental, which is nearly double the Clinton request. Senate Appropriations will await House action before marking-up its version; however, Majority Leader Lott has now said he is not in favor of Senate action on the "too costly" emergency supplemental.


Colombian President Andres Pastrana began his four-year term in August 1998 with a mandate from Colombians to end a nearly 40 year-old civil war that claims nearly 10 lives a day, and a commitment to the U.S. to reduce the flow of drugs from the country. In response, the U.S. significantly raised assistance levels to Colombia, providing $361 million in fiscal year 1999.

Last fall, faced with sharply increasing drug trafficking, an economy at a 70-year low, and faltering peace talks, the Colombian government developed a comprehensive strategy aimed at regaining control over a disintegrating country. President Pastrana's Plan Colombia, drafted in consultation with the Clinton Administration, recognizes the essence of Colombia's difficulties: a history of official neglect -economically and politically- in the vast areas outside the main cities and a vicious and pervasive cycle of violence and corruption -fueled by drug trafficking- have combined to weaken the state and hinder progress.

The Plan has a price tag of $7.5 billion, $4.9bn of which the Colombian government has pledged to provide out of its own funds (including $900m already secured in credit from the IFIs). The remaining $2.6bn would come from the U.S. and other international donors. With that money, Pastrana proposes to tackle: 1) the peace process; 2) the economy; 3) drugs; 4) judicial reform and human rights; and, 5) democratization and social development.

Since the plan was announced in October, the situation on the ground has not improved markedly. Apart from a Christmas truce (not entirely adhered to), the civil war continues. Drug production numbers -crops and processing- have gone through the roof. The CIA had estimated production of 165 tons of cocaine per year for 1998 and 1999. Revised figures now show 435 tons were produced in 1998 and a whopping 520 tons in 1999. U.S. demand is about 300 tons per year (the rest is destined mostly for Europe). The line between the drug war and the civil war gets increasingly thin as the war provides cover for the drug trade and the traffickers in turn finance the war. The main guerrilla group, FARC, and the largest right-wing paramilitary group, AUC, have both admitted publicly to their involvement in the drug trade. The guerrillas extract protection money and likely engage in trafficking, while the paramilitaries - many of which are the private armies of drug lords - appear to be more deeply involved in the entire "food chain" of the narcotics trade, from cultivation to international distribution.

The State Department's annual human rights report, along with reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN, all show that human rights abuses have not abated over the past year. While the military's record continues to improve, the paramilitaries - whom many claim are directly allied with the Colombian Armed Forces - are still responsible for upwards of 75% of the abuses. The FARC and the ELN are also human rights violators and have stepped up their kidnapping campaigns.

There has been movement, nonetheless, in the peace process. The FARC's leader, Manual "Sureshot" Marulanda, showed up unexpectedly to the resumption of talks in January after a long absence from the negotiating table. [Marulanda, 69, and one of the few remaining ideologues in the oldest guerrilla group in Latin America, may be worried about his legacy. If he doesn't secure peace soon, it may be too late as the younger rebels could prove more enamored with drug money and heavy artillery than with peace and social justice.] Also hopeful, a small delegation of FARC leaders traveled to Europe recently to study economic and social models of Sweden, Norway, France, Spain, Italy, The Vatican and Switzerland. The FARC has indicated an interest in traveling to the U.S., but the State Department has no intention of granting those visas anytime soon, as the FARC is responsible for killing three Americans early last year.

[For more background, please refer to the October 1999 Foreign Policy Brief on Colombia. Call 5-6735 or go to: ]

U.S. Response to Plan Colombia

U.S. assistance to Colombia has doubled every year but one since 1995, when funding was just under $30m. In FY '99, funding was $361m. The proposed emergency funding in support of Plan Colombia represents an even larger leap, putting Colombia in the same league of aid recipients as Israel and Egypt.

Administration and Congressional proposals focus on the provision of equipment and training for counter-narcotics purposes. The Colombian government envisions 58% of total funding under Plan Colombia would go towards "Counter-narcotics strategy, security and judicial cooperation." The U.S. package (Clinton's and the Congress' proposals are nearly identical) would put 82% of its funds towards the military and police. While only 18% of the funds would be earmarked for economic development programs, this assistance does represent a huge increase over previous years. From FY '95 - FY '99, U.S. development assistance was less than $5 million total ($4.6 million for Administration of Justice; and $290,000 for USAID).

What's in the package?

The Administration originally requested $1.273m in emergency spending: $954 for FY '00 and $319m for FY '01. The emergency supplemental appropriates $1.701 bn in new funds, 33% more than originally requested by President Clinton. Of the $1.7 bn, $1.070 bn (63%) would go to Colombia. [About $330m in regular budget funding already allocated for FY '00 and planned for FY '01 would mean a total of $1.4 bn for Colombia over two years.] $300m of the emergency money -most of the $438m increase put in by House Appropriations- would go to the DEA*. The other $138m increase is mostly for increased alternative development and interdiction programs for the other Andean countries, principally Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.

Main items in the emergency spending bill as passed by House Appropriations:

* Assistance for three Colombian Army Counter-narcotics Battalions ["Push into Southern Colombia" program]. This includes 33 Huey helicopters and 28 UH-60 (Blackhawk) helicopters, along with training, operations and maintenance and related equipment

* Assistance for Colombian National Police - 2 UH-60 helicopters; a spray aircraft; base construction; upgrade of existing aircraft; and provision of intelligence.

* Interdiction assistance for Colombia and neighbors in the region.

* Economic development including crop substitution, employment, and resettlement.

* Human rights protection, democratic governance, judicial reform and the peace process.

What's not in the package?

* Human rights provisions to condition the aid. Rep. Farr had an amendment in the Appropriations mark-up, but withdrew it after objections from HAC Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Sonny Callahan. Farr will likely offer a similar amendment on the floor. Human rights groups and many Democrats in Congress are insisting that the package should not go forward without human rights conditions beyond the already existing "Leahy Amendment" provisions.

* Extra economic funds proposed by some Democrats for additional alternative development; increased protection of human rights workers; humanitarian aid to the internally displaced; and the peace process. Farr also withdrew an amendment that would have added $50m for most of these items.

* Funds for drug treatment programs to reduce domestic demand. Rep. Pelosi proposed an amendment which would have added $1.3 bn for this purpose. The amendment lost in House Appropriations, 31-23, on a mostly party-line vote. Resistance to this measure came from the office of the drug czar, Gen. McCaffrey (ONDCP). Recognizing the broad support among Democrats in Congress for drug treatment funds and also (perhaps a little too late) that drug policy needs more resources dedicated to domestic demand, ONDCP has backed off and the White House has disclaimed any opposition.

*$282.5 million would go to the "Carrier Compliance Fund," to be used primarily by telecommunications companies to upgrade equipment. The upgrade of this equipment aids law enforcement efforts - mostly through wiretapping- across the board, not just on drugs.

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