of Problems, Plenty of Alternatives: The Administration’s
Aid Proposal for Colombia
is already the world’s 3rd-largest recipient of U.S.
military and police aid.
- U.S. military
and police aid to Colombia has jumped from $65 million in
1996 to $300 million in 1999. With the new aid package,
it will likely be over $900 million in 2000. Yet coca cultivation
has doubled since 1996.
with the aid proposal:
Continuing a failed drug policy. Colombian peasants will continue
growing coca and heroin as long as rural Colombia lacks basic services,
economic opportunity, and a rule of law. It’s a matter of survival. Aerial
fumigation won’t change that – if anything, it will push coca-growing
into more remote guerrilla-controlled areas.
2. A step closer to
quagmire. The new package’s “push into southern Colombia” closely
resembles counterinsurgency, activating U.S.-created units in a fiercely
defended guerrilla stronghold. Our new commitment risks sucking us into
a 40-year-old war in a country 50 times the size of El Salvador.
3. Threatening a fragile
peace process. President Pastrana’s talks with guerrilla groups are
in a delicate but promising stage. U.S. weapons and training could weaken
this effort, escalating the conflict and encouraging hard-liners on both
sides who want to keep fighting. More aid didn’t bring El Salvador’s FMLN
to the negotiating table – talks began in 1990, ten years after U.S. aid
was first increased and shortly after aid levels went down.
4. Human rights.
Colombia’s army, the main beneficiary of the new aid, remains a deeply
troubled institution. Despite top leaders’ good intentions, local-level
military collaboration with paramilitary groups – responsible for over
¾ of violations in 1999 – remains commonplace and mostly unpunished. The
new aid proposal barely mentions the paramilitaries, though they profit
handsomely from the drug trade.
to the administration’s approach:
the real reasons Colombians grow drugs. State neglect, lawlessness
and poverty have made rural Colombia fertile ground for both armed groups
and drug-crop cultivation. The economic aspects of the administration’s
aid proposal – alternative development, judicial reform, human rights
protections, and institutional strengthening – are worthwhile and should
be increased dramatically.
2. Relief for
the displaced. Colombia’s violence has driven over 1 million from
their homes in the last four years; only Sudan and Angola have a higher
displaced population. These internal refugees’ desperation could bring
further unrest. Despite enormous need, only 1.5% of the aid proposal would
help displaced Colombians.
the peace process. The United States could do much more to support
peace, from supporting civil-society peace initiatives to meeting with
combatants. But less than 0.3% of the aid package would support the peace
For more information
Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy (202) 232-3317, email@example.com