Agencia Prensa Rural
Site Map
Suscríbete a servicioprensarural

Plan Colombia: “Success”
web: Cajar

El Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo" es una organización no gubernamental de derechos humanos, sin ánimo de lucro, conformada por profesionales del derecho y estudiantes que apoyados en otras áreas del conocimiento y la participación de diferentes sectores sociaels y democráticos de la población, defiende y promueve integralmente los derechos humanos y los derechos de los pueblos, desde una perspectiva de indivisibilidad e interdependencia, con el objetivo de contribuir a la construcción de una sociedad justa y equitativa en la perspectiva de la inclusión política, económica, social y cultural.

Temas relacionados

"Plan Colombia has been a success for Colombia, a success for the region, and a success for United States," recently assured newly appointed US ambassador William Brownfield, a position –without a doubt- shared by the Colombian government, which is expending untold effort to ensure the continuation of US military assistance.

In 1999, the War on Drugs, which is the primary focus of Plan Colombia, was formulated to diminish by 50% the area cultivated with plants used for illicit purposes and substantially lower the flow of cocaine to United States, (and consequently diminish consumption), which justified the militarization of Colombia and the narcotization of the conflict. [1] We are still a long way from employing such flattering conclusions.

The word in Spanish for success is éxito (from the Latin exitus, meaning result or solution). Let us take a glance at the context in which this word is being used.

When Plan Colombia began, there were 163,289 hectares planted with coca. In 2007, there were still 157,200 hectares. During the Álvaro Uribe Vélez administrations, approximately 800,000 hectares have been fumigated, while over the last two years 3,300 eradicators –distributed in 109 mobile groups operating in 20 departments- have eradicated 109,000 hectares, according to official figures from Social Action. The previously described means that all of this “effort” has only represented the effective decrease of 6,000 hectares.

In 1999, coca was present in 12 of the 32 [administrative regions] departments in Colombia. Presently, coca is found in 23 departments. [2] The department of Nariño, neighboring the department of Putumayo, has had the greatest increase in cultivated area (in keeping with the logic of the balloon effect), reaching almost 10% of the national total.

From 1999 to 2006, 11,563 cocaine-processing laboratories were destroyed, [3] while the persecution of the chemical precursors used in this process was minimal and almost exclusively focused on gasoline, a vital resource for the lives of thousands of families in rural areas who are not even necessarily involved in the planting of coca.

From 2002 to 2006, more than 600 tons of cocaine was confiscated. [4] Nonetheless, over the last four years, the price of cocaine has lowered 36 percent on US streets. [5] This means supply has remained constant and production capacity is greater than that presumed by authorities determining antinarcotics policy. [6]

In addition to the unquestionable inefficacy of the methods implemented in forced eradication (since 1978, no less), other elements must also be considered concerning this policy’s impact on human rights. For instance, even if the Colombian government has employed effective mechanisms to invisibilize said impact, [7] the current situation with Ecuador has brought to light a fairly complete picture of the violations to the rights of persons and communities subject to these policies. Aerial fumigations, carried out “with a mixture of the product called Round Up (commercial name for gyphosate herbicide) and a surfactant called Cosmoflux with other additives,” [8] directly impact the rights to health, food, environment, access to justice, and not being forcibly displaced. [9]

For its part, forced manual eradication does not represent an alternative to the humanitarian collateral effects of the fumigation. The mobile groups are made up of persons not from the area of operation. These persons are also reintegrated members of paramilitarism, which produces fear among the population. Furthermore, these mobile groups only begin to work after carrying out land-based military operations with police and army protective security rings, which damage the licit food economy. [10] In 2007, in the departments of Putumayo and Nariño, where forced manual eradication is most undertaken, two mass displacements have already taken place as a consequence of these operations. [11]

Nonetheless, other antinarcotics activities have also affected human rights and the environment. In August 2007, troops from Battalion No. 3 Cabal de Ipiales - Nariño, incinerated several tons of chemical precursor and, as a result, contaminated the Cultún River, which hundreds of persons living in the rural communities along its shores depended on for their subsistence. More than 20,000 fish, and several cattle, died and the health of the local population was put in grave danger. As is common in these cases, the army troops did not follow proper procedures for the destruction of these chemicals. [12]

With these briefly described situations, Plan Colombia, as a public policy in the war on drugs, can hardly be sustained to be a success. Nonetheless, if it were, the question must be raised: what kind of success and for whom?

Looking at reality, we see how the success of Plan Colombia is found in a military setting and benefits the national and international war industry. This is why it is not disproportionate to assert (once again) the success of Plan Colombia essentially lies in its failure. While the War on Drugs fails, it will only become even more necessary.

[1Term used by the UNDP.

[2Vargas, Ricardo. Cultivos Ilícitos en Colombia: Elementos para un Balance. Fundación Seguridad y Democracia, Bogotá, September 2005.

[3Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca Colombia. United Nations Office against Drugs and Crime, June 2007.

[4Logros de la Política de Consolidación de la Seguridad Democrática – PCSD. Colombian Ministry of Defense, Bogotá, September 2007.

[5Precio de Cocaína en Calles de EEUU ha Bajado 36 Por Ciento en los Últimos Años. El Tiempo newspaper, Bogotá, April 25, 2007.

[6In this regard, Ricardo Vargas has carried out several studies. Ob. Cit.

[7For instance, through undertaking scientific studies (certainly fairly controversial), which deny the impact on health and environment; through non-compliance with its duty to implement an epidemiological oversight plan in the sprayed areas; through procedures hindering the registration of persons displaced by fumigations; as well as through other procedures hindering reparation for the damage to the licit assets of the affected persons. (See Resolution 0017 of May 12, 2006, of the National Narcotics Council.)

[8United Nations. Ob. Cit.

[9Informe Comision Cientifico-Tecnica sobre Impactos de las Fumigaciones del Plan Colombia. Acción Ecológica, Ecuador.

[10Aura María Puyana, independent consultant.

[11“Protests, mobilizations, and stoppages of the main roadways, marked one of the most complex weeks –insofar as public order- in the history of Nariño. Indigenous peoples from the Awá community and campesinos from Policarpa, Cumbitara, Leyva and El Rosario, among other areas in the north of the department, traveled to the rural community of El Remolino along the Panamerican and El Diviso on the way to Tumaco. Principally, the protests are related to the aerial and manual eradication campaign of the crops used for illicit purposes undertaken by the national government in this part of the country. The most critical moment was when hundreds of campesinos began to leave their homes to set themselves up on Panamerican Highway with the singular purpose of using the stoppage as the only way to be heard by the national government.” Nariño Afectado por Bloqueos de Vías y Desplazamiento Masivo de Personas. Nariño Governor’s Office.

[12Desastre Ambiental por Insumos de Coca. El Tiempo newspaper, Bogotá, August 31, 2007.