After 15 Years, What’s Next for Plan Colombia?
By admin February 11, 2016


FARC guerrillas in 1998. Public domain image.


Recently, US President Barack Obama met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Plan Colombia and to discuss the future of US-Colombian relations.

Conceived in the late 90s under US President Bill Clinton and Colombian President Andres Pastrana Arango and signed in 2000, Plan Colombia has been one of the US’s most consistent projects in Latin America as well one of the most controversial instances of US involvement in the region in recent decades. Often viewed as an extension on the decades-long US War on Drugs, the Plan was intended to also address the violence and detrimental social effects of continued violence in the country resulting from various factions, including guerrillas, paramilitaries, and the country’s military. As a result, the US focused the vast majority of its aid on the military and police activities in the country, with a particular emphasis on counter-narcotic efforts. The success of the program is widely disputed. Although violent crimes have decreased significantly and the drug cultivation has decreased and has even been eradicated in targeted areas, the drug market remains strong as it continually adapts and there have been wide criticisms of human rights violations and environmental degradation resulting directly from the US-Colombian combined efforts. After $10 billion dollars in aid under Plan Colombia, the country has over four million internally displaced persons and others left with health problems and few means of livelihood resulting from aerial crop fumigation and violence.

The timing of the meeting between the presidents coincides with ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, who are expected to sign a peace agreement next month. President Obama has, in turn, requested $450 million from Congress for a new plan called Peace Colombia to help Colombia rebuild its society after decades of conflict. The new plan will focus on security, demobilization of FARC, reconciliation, and justice to victims, as well as an increased emphasis on social and economic development. They hope to offer more income options to rural farmers aside from growing coca. However, the Plan must first pass Congress, which has historically advocated the security-focused drug-eradication efforts of Plan Colombia.


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