War on Drugs

Clinton Revises Colombia’s Drug History to Justify U.S. Military Role in Mexico and Central America

Category: US Foreign Policy, War on Drugs
By · September 20, 2010 · 1 Comment

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently compared Mexico’s drug violence to that experienced in Colombia twenty years ago and claimed that drug trafficking networks were “morphing into or making common cause with what we would consider an insurgency in Mexico and in Central America.” President Barack Obama and Mexican government officials were quick to correct her, claiming that the contemporary Mexican reality does not reflect that of Colombia in the late 1980s. What they failed to correct, however, was her misinterpretation, or conscious revision, of Colombia’s history in order to justify an increased U.S. military role in Mexico and Central America. Read more»

U.S. Military Documents Show Colombia Base Agreement Poses Threat to Region

Category: US Foreign Policy, War on Drugs
By · November 6, 2009 · Comment

Leaders in South America have publicly expressed their concerns regarding the recently-signed agreement between the U.S. and Colombian governments that provides the U.S. military with long-term access to seven bases in the territory of its closest Latin American ally. Some leaders, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez in particular, have claimed that the agreement poses a threat to left-leaning South American nations. The recently released text of the base agreement and a related U.S. military document confirm that the fears of Chávez and other South American leaders are not mere paranoia. The documents make evident that U.S. military objectives extend beyond Colombia’s borders, stating that the Palenquero Air Base “provides an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America.” Read more»

Washington Post Shamelessly Promotes U.S. Drug Policy in Colombia

Category: Media, War on Drugs
By · May 29, 2009 · Comment

An article by Juan Forero published last week in the Washington Post reflects the approach commonly used by most mainstream media correspondents covering the war on drugs and the armed conflict in Colombia. This modus operandi involves a journalist briefly visiting a rural region—often on a press junket organized by the Colombian government or US embassy—and being spoon-fed a story by the authorities. Inevitably, the official perspective dominates the resulting article, which ends up being little more than a public relations piece promoting the policies of the US and Colombian governments. Forero’s article about a recent shift in strategy in the US war on drugs in Colombia clearly fits this pattern. As a result, his findings contrast dramatically to those revealed in my recent investigation of the same counternarcotics project in eastern Colombia. Read more»

Uribe Gets It Wrong Again with Proposal to Crackdown on Colombia’s Cocaleros

Category: Economics and Globalization, War on Drugs
By · May 2, 2009 · Comment

The northern Colombian departments of Antioquia and Córdoba have seen an upsurge in violence in the last year that Colombian authorities have attributed to two phenomena which are, in their minds, interrelated: a dramatic increase in coca cultivation and the push by emerging criminal groups to take advantage of coca crops and trafficking routes in the region. Facing down a difficult situation experienced elsewhere in the country, Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe briefly mentioned a new strategy to confront these two phenomena: the arrest and prosecution of those who grow coca in the region. This strategy, though, is fraught with problems that are likely to lead to failure. These include the overt ignorance of the failures of past punitive policies against coca growers, the overt ignorance of the reasons why cocaleros grow coca in the first place and the alienation of the cocalero population, which could lead growers to move even closer to armed groups in the area. Read more»

The New Face of Plan Colombia: An Alliance for Progress for the 21st Century?

Category: Armed Conflict, Human Rights, War on Drugs
By · February 27, 2009 · Comment

The streets of the remote village of La Cooperativa in the La Macarena region of eastern Colombia were bustling with people going about their daily business. The restaurants were full and stores had no problem selling their wares to a steady stream of customers consisting of local peasants and leftist guerrillas who had controlled this region for more than four decades. There was plenty of work for everyone and local businesses were booming. At the heart of this robust economy was coca, the plant whose leaves provide the raw ingredient in cocaine. But that was in 2006. Today, La Cooperativa is a virtual ghost town. The coca is gone, the guerrillas are gone; and so has more than 80 percent of the population. “Life is worse now than it was three years ago; the situation here is critical,” says one local resident. “In six more months there might not be anyone left here.” From the Colombian government’s perspective, however, a pilot project that utilizes a carrot and stick approach towards combating both the insurgency and coca cultivation is paying dividends as the state is finally establishing a permanent, and comprehensive, presence in a traditional stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Read more»

Plan Colombia Devastates Afro-Colombian Communities

Category: Armed Conflict, Race and Gender, War on Drugs
By · December 5, 2008 · Comment

Several hours up the Tapaje River from the Pacific Ocean, the monotony of the lush green rainforest is broken when we round a bend and the remote village of San José comes into view. Most of the buildings on the riverbank are fragile wooden structures precariously perched on stilts. Afro-Colombian women busily wash clothes in the river while their children splash around in the fast-flowing brown water. The motorboat slows, glides past the women and pulls up to the crumbling cement steps that constitute the dock. There is little to distinguish San José from hundreds of other remote jungle villages in Colombia that have suffered from goverment neglect in the social and economic spheres. And, like many other rural communities, San José has also been devastated by the US-backed counternarcotics initiative called Plan Colombia. Read more»

If Not Colombia, Then Where is the Cocaine Coming From?

Category: War on Drugs
By · August 1, 2008 · Comment

Colombia’s National Police Chief Oscar Naranjo recently announced that his country’s production of cocaine has dropped by more than half and that it is now responsible for only 54 percent of global production. Speaking at an anti-drug summit in Cartagena, Naranjo’s comments not only constitute the latest misinformation being distributed by the government of President Alvaro Uribe, but they are also ludicrous. Naranjo claims that Colombia was responsible for 90 percent of the world’s cocaine production when President Uribe came to office in 2002. This is a figure that analysts have regularly referred to with regard to the distribution of cocaine production. But if Naranjo’s claim that Colombia is now only responsible for 54 percent of production is true, then it begs the question: Where is the rest of the cocaine being produced? Read more»