Jun 28
The twelve kidnapped Valle del Cauca state legislators. Francisco Giraldo is in the middle row, all the way to the left.

Hello from Brussels, where I’ve been accompanying a delegation of Colombians organized by the British NGO Justice for Colombia and the British labor union UNITE. We are here to seek support for a “humanitarian exchange” to win the freedom of dozens of hostages whom the FARC has been holding for years.

The delegation includes the head of the Colombian Catholic Church Episcopal Conference; the mother of former senator and FARC hostage Íngrid Betancourt; an opposition congressman, a Liberal Party official; one of the authorized “facilitators” for FARC dialogues; two labor leaders, and the sister of one of the twelve departmental legislators whom the FARC has been holding for more than five years.

Needless to say, the group has had a very bad day.

We were at a meeting this morning in the European Union Council of Ministers, where the group was asking for some sort of statement discouraging armed rescue attempts and supporting dialogue.

Just as we were getting started, Ángela Giraldo, the brother of kidnapped Valle del Cauca legislator Francisco Giraldo, got a cellphone call. (See our interview with Angela posted May 30.)

According to a FARC communiqué, we learned, Ángela’s brother and ten other local legislators were killed on June 18. The FARC claim that they fell in the crossfire when an “unidentified military group” tried to rescue them.

There is no such thing as a good place to be when getting news that a loved one has been murdered. But the sterile, unwelcoming offices of the European Union are an especially awful setting. In the very least, though, Ángela Giraldo can say that at the very moment she found out about her brother, she was doing her absolute utmost to seek his freedom.

Ángela is on her way back home to Cali. The rest of the group, including Ms. Betancourt, has continued its agenda as planned. Here is a translation of their statement.

Invited by the British NGO Justice for Colombia and by Europe’s largest union, UNITE, a delegation made up of representatives of the Catholic Church, relatives of kidnap victims, the Liberal and Alternative Democratic Pole political parties, and the CUT labor union are in Europe to seek support for a humanitarian accord from the European Union and its member countries.

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Jun 27

Look at these headlines or first sentences from the past few days in Colombia:

Meanwhile Colombia’s Defense Ministry reminds us (PDF) that 9,508 guerrillas have been killed since President Uribe took office in August 2002.

Do these body-count statistics tell us anything about whether Colombia’s government is weakening armed groups and regaining control of territory? Keep in mind:

Large numbers of dead FARC guerrillas is not an indicator of a successful strategy. In too much of Colombia today, the FARC has shown itself enormously capable of replacing lost rank-and-file members by drawing from the country’s vast pool of poor and unemployed, especially in rural areas. For too many Colombians, the FARC is a jobs program, a surrogate family and a poor substitute for an absent government.

Instead of body counts, far more interesting would be measurements of the Colombian government’s progress in reducing the conditions that still make guerrilla membership attractive to so many poor young Colombians.

Jun 25

Several relevant events are scheduled on Capitol Hill this week.

  • On Tuesday at 10, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to mark up several mostly small pieces of legislation. Among them will be H. Res. 426, a non-binding resolution “Recognizing 2007 as the Year of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Colombia, and offering support for efforts to ensure that the internally displaced people of Colombia receive the assistance and protection they need to rebuild their lives successfully.” (June 26, 10:00 AM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.)
  • On Tuesday at 2, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommitee on the Western Hemisphere will hold a hearing on violence in Central America. (June 26, 2:00 PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.)
  • On Thursday at 10, the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet to “mark up,” or approve the draft of, the 2008 foreign aid bill (the State Department / Foreign Operations Appropriation). We will then learn to what extent the Senate bill includes the changes to Colombia aid present in the bill that the House of Representatives approved last week. Chances are the bill will include a notable change in direction, as it is drafted principally by Foreign Operations Subcommitee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), a longtime critic of Plan Colombia’s mostly military approach. (June 28, 10:00 AM, 216 Hart Senate Office Building.)
  • On Thursday at 2, two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees will co-host a hearing on “Protection and Money: U.S. Companies, Their Employees, and Violence in Colombia.” During a late April hearing (PDF), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts) spoke forcefully about allegations that Chiquita Brands, Drummond Coal and other U.S. companies had dealings with paramilitaries. Thursday’s hearing, whose witnesses include both labor activists and human rights experts, should be lively. (June 28, 2:00 PM, 2172 Rayburn House Office Building.)

I will be spending 2 1/2 days this week in Brussels, as part of a delegation hosted by the British labor-rights group Justice for Colombia. While I hope to post interviews with some of the prominent Colombians who will accompany me on the delegation, it will be up to CIP Intern Gareth Smail to take good notes during this week’s congressional hearings, which we’ll post here.

Jun 24
Freddy Rendón, alias “El Alemán,” confessed to almost nothing in his appearance before prosecutors.
El Tiempo ran this photo of Rendón’s supporters, dressed in the colors of Colombia’s flag and playing loud music, holding a rally outside the courthouse in Medellín.
El Tiempo ran this photo of indigenous people from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta showing support outside the hearing of local warlord Hernán Giraldo, whom their banners called “our leader.” Some tried to pass themselves off as victims and enter the building. Giraldo’s son-in-law reportedly paid their travel costs.
In this photo published by Medellín’s Popular Training Institute (IPC), a priest holds a mass for supporters of feared paramilitary leader “Macaco,” who gathered across the street from the courthouse where he was admitting to nothing.
This El Tiempo photo shows El Alemán’s victims, wearing loved ones’ photos, mingled with his t-shirt-clad supporters outside the Medellín courthouse.

After a sputtering start at the beginning of the year, several more demobilized paramilitary leaders have begun appearing before prosecutors to give their confessions. This is part of the “Justice and Peace” process established by law in 2005 and modified by Colombia’s Constitutional Court in 2006. Some 2,812 paramilitaries accused of crimes against humanity must admit to their crimes, detail their ill-gotten wealth, and reveal their structures of command and support.

This process is not going well at all. In fact, it is rapidly becoming a perverse caricature of what it should be.

After six months, only 40 of the 2,812 have appeared to give confessions. Authorities don’t even know the whereabouts of about 700 of them. One of the first leaders to testify, Salvatore Mancuso, began his process last December. He has made a handful of appearances, and is not scheduled to report again until September.

At least Mancuso has confessed to crimes and named some names. (Whether he is telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” remains to be determined.)

Instead, some of the more recent paramilitary defendants have chosen to stonewall. They are admitting to almost nothing.

In late May, Iván Roberto Duque (”Ernesto Báez“), the nominal head of the AUC’s powerful Central Bolívar Bloc, insisted that he committed no serious crimes because his role in the group was little more than that of a spokesman and ideologist. An exasperated representative of the government’s Inspector-General’s office said to him, “Señor ‘Báez,’ if you are not going to confess to any crime covered by the Justice and Peace Law, then you are in the wrong place.”

Hernán Giraldo, whose Tayrona Bloc carried out a reign of terror over northern Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, insisted that his crimes were very few. He said that his role was largely political after 2000, and blamed others for most of the murders and massacres attributed to him. Giraldo, a prominent and long-wanted narcotrafficker, said he only owns a few “finquitas” (small farms) with which to raise money for reparations to his victims. Asked about the locations of mass graves where his victims’ bodies can be found, Giraldo said that he knows of nothing in particular, “but I can ask around.”

His hair in a ponytail and his shirt unbuttoned halfway to his navel, Freddy Rendón (”El Alemán“), whose Élmer Cárdenas Bloc dominated much of the violent Urabá region, also denied nearly all responsibility. St. Petersburg Times reporter David Adams was in Medellín during the trial; his account is a must-read.

In court, Rendon admitted only to ordering the assassination of a local mayor whom he accused of collaborating with the guerrillas. He also admitted to kidnapping and murdering four peasant leaders in Rio Sucio in late 1996.

Other than that he was vague on details. “You can be certain that they are dead,” he told the court. “What I can’t be precise about is with how many bullets, two, or three or five.”

One of the most feared of all the paramilitary leaders is Carlos Mario Jiménez (”Macaco“) of the Central Bolívar Bloc. Macaco is widely believed to be up to his elbows in paramilitarism and narcotrafficking to this day. The account of his confession in El Tiempo, then, is amazing.

It’s as though the more than a decade that Carlos Mario Jiménez spent as head of the Central Bolívar Bloc was a blank. … Jiménez announced that he would compile information with imprisoned AUC members about the location of 78 bodies, but he denied any direct participation in the deaths. Nor did he speak of massacres or the mass graves atrributed to him in Putumayo, Barrancabermeja and southern Bolívar.

Meanwhile Ramón Isaza of the eastern Antioquia paramilitaries – one of the oldest AUC leaders, who reportedly organized his first militia back in 1978 – claimed that the early stages of Alzheimer’s were keeping him from remembering his hundreds of alleged crimes. Isaza actually called on his victims to come forward to “help him remember” the abuses he committed. El Tiempo columnist María Jimena Duzán noted that Isaza had no problem remembering the names of local candidates he was endorsing in a recently taped telephone conversation.

Continue reading »

Jun 22

Here is a back-of-the envelope calculation of what happened to U.S. aid to Latin America and the Caribbean in the 2008 foreign aid bill (H.R. 2764), as passed yesterday by the House of Representatives. There are some estimates mixed in here, so this is inexact, but I am confident that the margin of error is slim. (The Excel file I used to make these calculations is here.)

The overall grand total does not change much from what the Bush administration asked for. The House bill more or less preserves the White House’s requested across-the-board 5 percent aid cut. The House figure is slightly higher because an amendment yesterday successfully reversed a cut in requested aid to Cuba’s opposition.

Total Aid: Foreign Operations 2006-2007 2008 request 2008 House Increase from 2006-2007 Increase from 2008 request
Military aid total $668,974 $574,111 $432,653 -35% -25%
Economic aid total $1,047,115 $1,043,002 $1,213,737 16% 16%
Grand Total $1,716,088 $1,617,113 $1,646,390 -4% 2%
% Military aid 39% 36% 26%    

The big headline here is a cut in military aid and increase in economic aid, nearly all of it a result of the re-balancing of aid to Colombia. A package that was 39% military aid this year would fall to 26% military aid next year.

We must recall that the foreign-aid bill approved yesterday is not the sole source of aid to Latin America. About $300 million in additional military aid flows through the Defense Department budget. We estimate it as follows:

  • Counter-drug aid: $275 million ($150 million for Colombia);
  • “Section 1206″ equip-and-train authority: $15 million;
  • Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program: $4 million;
  • Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Special Forces deployments, Aviation Leadership, and others: $6 million.

Throw in that $300 million in Defense-budget military aid, and the overall regional totals look like this:

Total Aid: Foreign Operations plus Defense 2006-2007 2008 request 2008 House Increase from 2006-2007 Increase from 2008 request
Military aid total $968,974 $874,111 $732,653 -24% -16%
Economic aid total $1,047,115 $1,043,002 $1,213,737 16% 16%
Grand Total $2,016,088 $1,917,113 $1,946,390 -3% 2%
% Military aid 48% 46% 38%    

Jun 21
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), chairwoman of the subcommittee that drafted the new foreign aid bill.

It now appears that the House of Representatives will be passing a foreign aid bill that changes U.S. aid to Colombia significantly for the better. As detailed yesterday, aid in the House version of the Foreign Operations bill (H.R. 2764) will be $160 million (36%) less military, and $101 million (73%) more economic.

Those in Congress who support the more militarized approach of the past have chosen not to offer any amendments. Instead, former Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) expressed his concerns about the military-aid cuts and the stronger human-rights conditions this afternoon while engaging in a “colloquy,” or pre-arranged discussion, with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), who chairs the subcommittee that drafted the aid bill.

If U.S. support for Plan Colombia had looked more like this in 2000, we still would have had criticisms and concerns, of course. But we would have been much more encouraged by the greater emphasis on poverty-reduction and institution-building, and by the stronger conditions to keep the aid from having unintended consequences.

This is still a 65-percent military effort, when funding through the Defense-budget bill is added to the total. However, this is down from more than 80 percent over the past several years. The House has taken a big step today toward a policy that better reflects the kind of partner the United States should be, both for Colombia and for the region. A policy that, incidentally, shows far more promise of actually working.

Jun 21

No Colombia-related provisions are on the list of fifty-five amendments up for consideration today, as the House of Representatives debates the 2008 foreign aid bill.

We understand that an agreement has been reached on Colombia between the Republican leadership (mainly former Speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert [R-Illinois]) and the Democratic majority (mainly Rep. Nita Lowey [D-New York], who chairs the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee). As a result, the Republican leadership has not sought an amendment or debate on Colombia.

We have no idea how – if at all – this agreement might change the Colombia provisions summarized in yesterday’s post. Sometime today, Lowey and Hastert are expected to “engage in a colloquy” – have an exchange of views on the House floor – to discuss aid to Colombia.

The debate is being televised on C-SPAN’s website.

Jun 20

The House of Representatives is working today on the 2008 State / Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 2764, or simply, “the foreign aid bill”). Yesterday afternoon Congress made public the full text of both the bill and the House Appropriations Committee’s non-binding narrative report.

The bill reshapes aid for Colombia in some very important ways. Here are the six most significant changes.

1. Less military aid, more economic aid.
2. Specific directions for economic aid.
3. Stronger human-rights conditions.
4. Stronger fumigation conditions.
5. Stronger paramilitary demobilization aid conditions.
6. Reporting requirements.

We support all of them. This is a very good bill: it shows that a great deal of thought went into trying to get this policy right.

1. Less military aid, more economic aid.

Since 2000, over 80 percent of our aid to Colombia has gone to Colombia’s security forces. The Bush administation’s 2008 aid request would have continued that proportion, giving 76 percent of all aid to Colombia’s military and police.

H.R. 2764 makes great strides toward establishing a balance to our priorities in Colombia. Military and police aid’s share of the bill’s Colombia funding would fall to 55 percent. Economic assistance would increase by over $100 million and moved out of the “Andean Counterdrug Initiative” account. This will mean significant increases in funding for rural development programs, judicial reform efforts, and assistance to internally displaced people.

Military / Police Assistance
(Millions of U.S. dollars) 2006 2007 2008, admin. request 2008, House Approps House minus Admin.
Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI) 382.7 366.4 367 236.6 -130.4
Foreign Military Financing (FMF) 89.1 89.1 78 48 -30
International Military Education and Training (IMET) 1.7 1.7 1.5 1.5 0
Nonprolif., Antiterrorism, etc (NADR) 5.5 5.5 3.7 3.7 0
Total 479 462.7 450.2 289.8 -160.4
  79% 78% 76% 55% -22%
Economic / Social Assistance
Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI) 129.2 129.2 0 0 0
Economic Support Funds (ESF) 0 0 139.5 218.5 79
International Narcotics Control (INC) 0 0 0 22.3 22.3
Total 129.2 129.2 139.5 240.8 101.3
  21% 22% 24% 45% 22%
Total Foreign Operations Aid 608.2 591.9 589.7 530.6 -59.1
Defense-Budget Military Assistance(est. based on 2006 amount) 152.6 152.6 152.6 152.6  
Total Military / Police Assistance, all accounts 631.6 615.3 602.8 442.4  
Total Aid to Colombia, all accounts 760.8 744.5 742.3 683.2  

Continue reading »

Jun 20

(Update as of 10:00 – the House is scheduled to reconvene and take up the foreign aid bill tomorrow morning.

Both parties have arrived at a “unanimous consent” agreement listing fifty-five amendments to be debated tomorrow. None of these amendments pertains to Colombia.

It appears increasingly likely – though still not 100% certain – that there will be no efforts to change Colombia aid in the House bill. The 55-45 military-to-economic aid split may go unchallenged.)

(Update as of 9:00 – they barely got started, thanks to a prolonged debate on the Energy and Water bill. The action will start again tomorrow.)

(Update as of 3:00 – they’re doing the Energy and Water bill now, and won’t take up foreign aid until roughly 6:00 this evening.)

The bill, H.R. 2764, was posted to the Congress’s website yesterday.

Visit C-SPAN’s website to watch the debate as it unfolds.

Right now, they have begun with the “debate on the rule,” in which members have a chance to praise or criticize what they like and don’t like about the bill. Colombia already came up in comments by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts).

We still have no word on whether there will be any amendments, likely from Republican members, attempting to increase military aid to Colombia. If there is to be a debate on Colombia aid, it is not likely to begin for a few hours yet.

Shortly we will post some highlights of the bill’s many Colombia provisions.

Jun 19

This is a translation of the lead editorial in today’s edition of Colombia’s most-circulated newspaper, El Tiempo. It argues that long-overdue adjustments are needed in the U.S.-funded counter-drug strategy in Colombia.

(The text refers to a 50 percent drop in coca cultivation in Colombia; UN Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC] estimates showed coca dropping sharply from 2000 to 2003, though this progress has since stagnated. U.S. government estimates have found no reduction; in fact, in 2006 the U.S. government found twice as much coca in Colombia as the UN did.)

Let’s just admit it (Por qué no reconocerlo)

Between 2000 and 2006, Colombia reduced the area of coca cultivation by 50 percent; if it weren’t for the immense [U.S.-supported aerial herbicide] fumigation effort – 172,000 hectares last year – and manual eradication – another 41,000 hectares – we would be overrun with coca. At least this is the defense of the current anti-drug strategy’s supporters as they scream to high heaven because the Democrats in the U.S. Congress want to reduce this “effort” by $100 million.

After a decade of fumigation and more than five years of Plan Colombia, however, there is plenty of reason to conclude that aerial spraying has failed and the current anti-drug policy has not produced the expected results. The recent report of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) includes more than a few relevant facts.

The relation of cost to benefit is ruinous: between 1997 and 2007, 983,000 hectares have been fumigated, yet Colombia has the same area of coca. The level of effectiveness is even worse: in 2001, for every hectare of reduced cultivation, 3 were fumigated; in 2006, 21.5 hectares had to be fumigated to reduce one hectare of cultivation.

Continue reading »

Jun 19

The 2008 foreign aid bill will go before the House of Representatives as early as tomorrow. It is likely that some Republicans may seek to reverse the bill’s balancing of military and economic aid to Colombia. We hope that they do not succeed.

During the same debate, meanwhile, several Democrats will be trying to cut funding to another Latin American military-aid program.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) and others will introduce an amendment to shut off funding for training at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). The amendment would not shut down the WHINSEC, but it would cut off most of the “scholarships” that pay for Latin American military personnel who attend it.

Based at Fort Benning, Georgia, the WHINSEC is the U.S. Army’s principal institution for training Latin American military personnel in their native language. It is the successor to the highly controversial U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), which was located in the same building and taught many of the same courses.

The School of the Americas was a central tool of U.S. military aid during the Cold War, when Latin America was dominated by military dictatorships. The militaries who sent students there were among some of the most abusive in the hemisphere’s history. The School’s graduates include some notoriously bloody figures. Books have been written about the School’s past, and a non-governmental organization, School of the Americas Watch, has performed extensive documentation and attracts tens of thousands to an annual protest at Fort Benning’s gates.

In 2001 – partly in response to criticism – the School got a new name and underwent some changes to its mission and structure. Its courses began to include more instruction in human rights and respect for democracy. Several of the most troubling courses, including some whose manuals included abusive interrogation techniques, disappeared from the curriculum. Its staff became far more forthcoming with information requests, and sought out more interaction with critics.

I have participated in some of these interaction efforts:

  • I paid my first and only visit to the Institute in early 2005, when its staff invited several non-governmental representatives to encourage input on their human rights instruction.
  • The WHINSEC brings classes to Washington twice a year, and they have asked me to invite colleagues from other non-governmental organizations to participate in meetings where we explain, and answer questions about, our own work. I have had discussions with WHINSEC staff about how these interactions can be improved.
  • Last week, I met here in Washington with members of the WHINSEC “Board of Visitors,” a federal commission charged with overseeing the institution, before their regular meeting.

The Southern Command has also sought periodic dialogue with CIP and other non-governmental organizations working on security and human rights in Latin America. These exchanges have been useful and positive, helping us to understand each other a bit better.

This process has always gone smoothly and cordially when it leaves “off the table” our more fundamental disagreements about the U.S. relationship with Latin America’s security forces. It is one thing to focus on how to improve transparency or human-rights instruction. It is another thing entirely to ask, for instance, why military-to-military ties still play such a central role in our relationship with Latin America.

It appears that the upcoming McGovern amendment is forcing the issue.

On Thursday of last week, the WHINSEC held a meeting of its “Board of Visitors,” a federal commission charged with overseeing the institution, on Capitol Hill. I did not attend, but I heard that, to my surprise, the Institute’s commandant and the head of its Board of Visitors both referred to me as an “important ally” because of my past interactions with WHINSEC. According to several of those present, my name came up while this oversight board was discussing how best to fend off the McGovern amendment. It was intimated that I might be a resource for the upcoming legislative debate.

This is news to me. I have found our open lines of communication to be beneficial, and I value the exchanges we have had with WHINSEC. I have also not made closing WHINSEC a top priority for CIP’s work, for reasons outlined below.

But I think it is too strong to call me an “ally.” Right now, I consider myself to be a moderate critic of the Institute. This means that if I had to vote on the McGovern amendment, I would end up voting in favor.

Continue reading »

Jun 18

Here is a super-quick look at how the 2008 foreign aid bill, soon to be debated in the House, would change U.S. aid to Colombia. This chart takes into account the additional $150 million in military assistance ($152.6 million in 2006) that would go through a different bill, the defense-budget appropriation.

  1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008, admin request 2008, House Foreign Ops
Military and Police 86.6 114.3 306.6 743.6 236.9 398.9 624.4 614.8 597.8 631.6 615.3 602.8 434.9
Economic and Social 0 0.5 8.8 231.4 1.4 115.5 136.7 134.5 134.7 129.2 129.2 139.5 229.6
Military / Police percent of total 100% 100% 97% 76% 99% 78% 82% 82% 82% 83% 83% 81% 65%

These are not final figures – exact information on some accounts is still lacking – but they should be accurate within 1 or 2 percent. But in extremely “macro” terms, they show that the proposed change to U.S. assistance for 2008 would be significant (and badly needed, and long overdue), but not radical.

And here is a chart depicting the U.S. government’s estimates of coca cultivation in the Andes over the past 20 years. Measurement methods have changed over the years; what is remarkable, though, is how steady the overall amount of coca has been.

(Note on 2006 coca numbers: ONDCP reported only ranges for Bolivia or Peru, not actual numbers. I use the point estimates chosen by John Walsh at the Washington Office on Latin America, who explains: “For Bolivia, the ranges reported for 2005 and 2006 were nearly identical, so this table uses the same point estimate for 2006 as for 2005. For Peru, ONDCP did not publish a range for 2005, but reported a 17 percent increase for 2006 when compared to similar survey areas from 2005. This table takes a conservative approach, using an estimate for 2006 that represents only a 10.5 percent increase over 2005.”)

Jun 18

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) is the ranking Republican on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. He has been one of the House’s staunchest defenders of a mostly military U.S. aid program in Colombia.

At a subcommittee hearing [PDF] about Colombia in late April, however, Rep. Burton indicated that his position on aid to Colombia might be evolving:

Well hey, listen, I am for doing whatever it takes to stop it down there. You favor a 50/50 split, Mr. Schneider [witness Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group], military to soft side. I might be open to something like that if you do not favor cutting the total of $700 million per year.

Rep. Burton said this before the House Appropriations Committee did just that. The committee’s draft of the 2008 foreign aid bill – approved last week and likely to come up for debate in the full House as early as this Wednesday – makes a slight cut, but overall aid would stay at about $680 million. However, the draft bill takes a big step toward a 50-50 split between military and economic aid. It would change the makeup of Colombia aid from 76%-24% military to economic, to 55%-45% military to economic. (Add aid from the Defense appropriation, and the real overall proportion moves from 82% military to 65% military.)

Seven weeks later, Rep. Burton’s view of the aid balance seems to have shifted back. He told the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor last Wednesday:

What makes this change in the FY08 Foreign Operations Appropriations increasingly troublesome is that the remaining funding will move from the previous allocation of 76 percent security-focused and 24 percent focused on social development to a 55-45 percent split. The only outcome can be increased coca growth due to less funding for security forces within the country and reduced aerial fumigation. Without aerial assets for police and military to reach remote regions, necessary social programs are doomed to failure, for without security, nothing works. This is a grave oversight on behalf of our Congress.

There is a strong likelihood that Rep. Burton will introduce an amendment during this week’s debate seeking to “redress the imbalance” between military and non-military aid. Unless, of course, he “remains open” to trying something new.

Jun 15

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its 2006 Andean coca survey estimates yesterday. Consider these charts, using data from the UNODC report, of the five Colombian departments that the U.S.-supported aerial herbicide fumigation program sprayed most heavily in 2006. They vividly illustrate a phenomenon known as the “balloon effect.”

Nariño became a major coca-growing department after Plan Colombia increased eradication in neighboring Putumayo. While large-scale spraying has since slowed coca-growing’s increase, it has not been able to roll it back.

  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Spraying 0 6442 8216 17962 36910 31307 57630 59865
Coca 3959 9343 7494 15131 17628 14154 13875 15606

In Putumayo, Plan Colombia reduced coca-growing dramatically. Once the spraying let up a little bit, coca cultivation began to creep up again. Putumayo had the country’s largest increase in coca cultivation last year.

  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Spraying 4980 13508 32506 71891 8342 17524 11763 26491
Coca 58297 66022 47120 13725 7559 4386 8963 12254

Continue reading »

Jun 13

As you can see, PC&B looks a bit different today. We’re moving to a new blog platform (WordPress), so a few things may behave strangely for the next few days. If you encounter a problem, please let me know about it by commenting on this post.