The world’s most evil PowerPoint presentation Nothing new for Plan Colombia 2
Feb 022007

We now know that the Colombian government has begun to circulate a 77-page Spanish document called "Strategy of Strenghtening Democracy and Social Development (2007-2013)." This alone is a step forward from the 30-page document that presented the first "Plan Colombia" in September 1999, which was available in English for months before someone got around to translating it.

The "Strategy of Strengthening…" – whose title is so long that everyone is just going to call it "Plan Colombia 2" – calls for $43.8366 billion in new investment over the next six years. That money fits into six categories:

  • Social: $20.6614 billion, 48%
  • Economic internationalization (probably trade capacity-building): $12.0066 billion, 27%
  • Fight against terrorism and narcotrafficking: $6.1724 billion, 14%
  • Strengthening of justice and human rights: $2.7492 billion, 6%
  • Attending to the displaced population: $1.2013 billion, 3%
  • Reintegration (of ex-combatants): $1.0457 billion, 2%

That’s what we know – an overall six-year plan that would be only 14 percent military or police funding.

Before we view this as a sea change in Colombia’s approach to violence and narcotrafficking, let’s recall the makeup of the original Plan Colombia. While the U.S. contribution to Plan Colombia has been more than 80 percent military and police aid over the years, U.S. and Colombian officials always insisted that the overall six-year, $7.5 billion Plan Colombia – which was to include investment from the Colombian government and aid from other countries – was only a 25 percent military and police proposal.

Moving from 75 percent to 86 percent is not a dramatic change, though the overall increase in investment appears significant. Also significant is that the first "Plan Colombia," in practice, ended up becoming a mostly military endeavor. By 2006, according to the Colombian government, only 43 percent of Plan Colombia funds actually ended up going to non-military, non-police programs. Moving from 43 percent to 86 percent – if it actually happens – would an important change.

At this point, the answers we have heard only raise more questions, especially about the expected U.S. contribution.

  • How much of this $43.8366 billion is expected to come from Colombian funds, and how much from foreign donors?
  • Of this 86 percent economic-aid investment, how much is actually "civic action" construction projects and other military-led endeavors?
  • How much is expected from the United States specifically?
  • Of the money requested from the United States, is Colombia’s government expecting Washington to move away from the lopsided 80-20 split in military versus economic aid? Is Colombia asking, for instance, for a 50-50 package?
  • Will this new plan, with new proportions between types of aid, be reflected in the Bush administration’s 2008 foreign aid budget request to Congress, which will be released Monday? (Watch this space and this space to find out.)
  • Once we get more details, will the "new" plan look much different from the old plan, or is this a "shell game," using new categories to make a heavily military package palatable to a Democratic Congress?

Much will be revealed, starting Monday.

3 Responses to “Plan Colombia 2: prematurely crunching the numbers”

  1. Gómez Says:

    A donor should not limit its activities to giving money.I am convinced that as a donor, one of the main responsibilities is to follow up the impact of its money invested: to expect results.

    Expected outcome should be previously agreed on and based on that, the money should be invested or not in a project. There is always an opportunity cost in investment, even if it is represented as a donation.

    If the Colombian Government obtains money from the American Government and no specific outcome is agreed, maybe the Colombian Government misuses it in any way (as in previous Plan Colombia, where most of the money was used, as you affirm, for military actions).

    I think great things can be done with “Plan Colombia 2″, agreeing that the name is incredibly long. Drug dealing and drug growth has been very harmful to Colombia and even though finding a way out is not easy, great things can be done with initiatives such as MIDAS and ADAM and with more social investment as it is supposedly stated in this new Plan.

    PS: all American aid for Colombia has to be given to American (or international) institutions, which in turn hire Colombian organizations to be the executors. This represents an important reduction to the resources which are effectively invested in the programs.

  2. jcg Says:

    Excellent questions, and I really hope that at least the U.S.-related ones eventually receive revealing answers.

    While the Colombian government obviously wants to present a plan that a Democratic-led Congress will want to approve, not all Democrats are going to sign away just any piece of paper with only differences in rhetoric.

    So unless the “shell game” is so good and the Democrats so blind that they can’t see through it, I’d expect that at least some real changes are included, even if they are far from the ideal.

  3. jcg Says:

    Gomez:

    “If the Colombian Government obtains money from the American Government and no specific outcome is agreed, maybe the Colombian Government misuses it in any way (as in previous Plan Colombia, where most of the money was used, as you affirm, for military actions).”

    While that (diversion of funds) may have some impact, I doubt that’s the main issue at stake here.

    For instance, not many “outcomes” can be “agreed” or even predicted, especially when you deal with such complex problems. Problems whose solutions depend on correct strategical and tactical implementations, not just on shiny aid figures or rhetorical demands.

    For example, the current war on drugs is so conceptually flawed that if the strategy doesn’t significantly improve, you really can’t expect any different “outcome” other than an endless struggle. You could even say a similar thing about the war in Iraq, if you want to argue that (but that’s too off-topic, I know).

    Going back to the subject at hand…what has to be agreed, and in fact usually is, are the destinations not just for cash /credit funds but also for human and material resources (which make up a significant portion of this Plan, and it’s not like money is randomly falling from the heavens).

    That being the case, most of the resources (which isn’t just loads of “money”) provided by the U.S. has been employed for anti-narcotics/military action because that was what it was originally assigned for. It’s not like the U.S.has ever been giving Colombia a free hand to do whatever it wants with the aid it provides.

    “PS: all American aid for Colombia has to be given to American (or international) institutions, which in turn hire Colombian organizations to be the executors. This represents an important reduction to the resources which are effectively invested in the programs.”

    That may be the case too, but some American companies and institutions are also the direct executors on the ground. Plenty of private U.S.-based contractors are involved.

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