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Last Updated:10/27/00
Is Plan Colombia dead? October 27, 2000

Is Plan Colombia dead? The truth behind the numbers

Ingrid Vaicius, Associate; Adam Isacson, Senior Associate; Abbey Steele, Intern
Center for International Policy
October 27, 2000

The Clinton Administration’s $1.3 billion aid package for Colombia and its neighbors, which was introduced in January and became law in July, raised a great deal of controversy because of its overwhelming emphasis on Colombia’s security forces. Administration officials defended the package’s imbalance -- 75 percent, or $2 million per day, for Colombia’s military and police -- by arguing that the aid was a contribution toward a much larger effort.

International Support for Plan Colombia - our best estimate as of October 27, 2000
(Target amount: $3.5 billion)
Millions of $ (U.S.)
Grants for Plan Colombia: $960 million
United States
(Signed into law July 13, 2000)
(Madrid conference July 7, 2000)
Grants that may or may not be for Plan Colombia: $151 million
United Nations
(Madrid conference July 7, 2000:
contribution would have been forthcoming without Plan Colombia)
(Madrid conference July 7, 2000)
Grants specifically not for Plan Colombia: $180 million - $221 million
European Commission
(Announced 10/20/00 in Bogotá)
European Union member countries
(Peace Process Support Group conference, October 24, 2000)
Loans that the Colombian Government must pay back: $1.27 billion
Inter-American Development Bank / Andean Development Corporation
(Madrid conference July 7, 2000)
Japan (soft credits)
(Madrid conference July 7, 2000)
International Financial Institutions' loans for poverty reduction

The package, they explained, would form part of the "Plan Colombia," a $7.5 billion investment in counternarcotics efforts and social programs. $4 billion of the "plan" was to come from Colombian government funds, while the remaining $3.5 billion would come from international contributions. According to Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, only 25 percent of the Plan Colombia would benefit the country’s security forces (the exact opposite of the U.S. contribution, which is 25 percent non-military).

A year after the Plan’s October 1999 launch, however, it seems that the international community will not offer even a fraction of the grant support that the Plan Colombia’s designers had expected. In fact, the plan is looking increasingly like a bilateral U.S.-Colombian initiative.

U.S. and Colombian officials are going to great lengths to give the impression that the Plan Colombia still enjoys enthusiastic international support. "This is a demonstration of solidarity for Colombia. We feel very positive that this plan has support," Colombian Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernández de Soto told reporters after an October 24 European donors’ meeting in Bogotá. An October 19 State Department communiqué reported that "at a previous donors' meeting July 7 in Madrid, Spain, the international community pledged $871 million for Plan Colombia. In addition, the United States has committed about $1,000 million."

The State Department communiqué gives the impression that Plan Colombia has raised over $1.8 billion from overseas -- half of the hoped-for $3.5 billion in international contributions. To the contrary, other than the U.S. contribution -- which actually totals only $860 million after subtracting aid to Colombia’s neighbors and increases for U.S. agencies -- we could identify only $100 million in grant assistance from other countries earmarked specifically for Plan Colombia.

Those $100 million come from a pledge of aid made by Spain, whose president, José María Aznar, is the only European leader who openly backs the Plan Colombia. Aznar took the lead in organizing a July 2000 donors’ conference in Madrid that, according to numerous press reports at the time, raised an impressive-sounding $871 million in support for the Plan.

In fact, the amount of grant aid approved in Madrid was much lower. The following items must be subtracted from the $871 million figure:

  • $370 million in loans that the Colombian government must pay back ($300 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Andean Development Corporation, and $70 million in soft credits from Japan);
  • $250 million from the United States that was double-counted, as it was actually part of the $860 million aid package;
  • $131 million for United Nations programs in Colombia, an outlay that, while it could be construed as Plan Colombia support, would have been made even if Plan Colombia had not existed; and
  • A $20 million grant that the Norwegian government has not explicitly called a contribution to Plan Colombia.

This leaves $100 million, the Spanish contribution -- the only non-U.S. grant to Plan Colombia that we have been able to identify.

On October 24, a "Peace Process Support Group" of mostly European donor countries met in Bogotá to discuss and present contributions for Colombia. They came up with approximately $180 million to $221 million in commitments for new grant aid (depending on the value of the euro, and excluding Spain’s earlier $100 million pledge, which many reports about the Bogotá meeting had added to the total). The European Commission pledged about $94 million, and the rest will come from several donor governments.

After the "Support Group" meeting, the U.S. State Department’s William Brownfield told the Colombian daily El Tiempo, "Such support for various Plan Colombia projects had never before been heard. I think it is a very positive step and in the name of my government I recognize the European governments’ effort."

The European governments in Bogotá, however, made a point of distancing their promised support from the Plan Colombia. French diplomat Renaud Vignal, the European Union’s spokesperson at the meeting, told reporters that the October 24 commitments "are not for Plan Colombia, which is totally different." Most of the European money, according to press reports, will benefit nongovernmental organizations, not the Colombian government. Asked about the largely military U.S. package, Vignal responded, "This is their backyard and not ours."

Critics of the "Plan Colombia" have long charged that the initiative is little more than a ploy to make a U.S. military aid package look more benign and multilateral. The plan’s very origins -- in Under-Secretary of State Thomas Pickering’s August 1999 visit to Bogotá -- suggest that there may something behind these charges. According to a Washington Post report at the time, Pickering had told Pastrana that "the U.S. will sharply increase aid if he develops a comprehensive plan to strengthen the military, halt the nation’s economic free fall and fight drug trafficking." Allegations that the plan is a figleaf for the U.S. package were fed by the Plan’s release in English in October 1999 and in Spanish four months later, in February 2000.

The lack of European enthusiasm for Plan Colombia leaves little more than Bogotá’s contribution (which, given Colombia’s economic situation, is unlikely to reach $4 billion, even with massive new loans and credits from international financial institutions) and the U.S. aid package. The Plan Colombia, it seems, has reached a dead end.

Early next year, the United States will begin considering how to aid Colombia in the year 2002. As Plan Colombia fades for lack of international support, Washington will have to find a new way to disguise its military emphasis -- or, preferably, it should drop the battalions and helicopters and join the rest of the international community in supporting development, human rights, democracy and peace in Colombia.

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