Human rights defenders visiting this week Selective memory at the Times
Nov 262008

Here is the translated text of a note that an audience member passed to me two weeks ago in the Ecuadorian border town of Barranca Bermeja, Ecuador, after Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) visited and held a meeting with community leaders. Barranca Bermeja has been hit hard by the violence across the river in Putumayo, Colombia, with all armed groups making constant incursions and a steady flow of Colombian refugees seeking a safer place to live.

The note follows:

I ask the favor that you tell the new government of the United States that it should change that Plan Colombia. That it not send us any more weapons, airplanes or helicopters, and that the money it invests in such things be invested in agricultural projects. And that together with the Colombian government, that it give security to the campesinos so that they may return to their farms and their productive projects like cattle-raising, fish-farming and crops that we can export. But these crops must be profitable in order to combat coca and narcotrafficking. Thank you.

Well said, “Yen B.” Happy to share it.

25 Responses to “Couldn’t have said it better ourselves”

  1. dr. thop Says:

    Why would they do such a thing? Farming and cattle raising will never be in the headlines.

    It seems to me that not enough attention has been paid to those reports that show that Plan Colombia is not working and that the coca planted area has increased.

    I heard that the US street price of cocaine has increased in recent months, and I also heard that lot of coca-growers stopped cultivating and became part on the recenlty collapsed Ponzi schemes going on throughout Colombia. DMG, the biggest one of them, started in Putumayo, one of the regions where coca cultivation is rampant.

    I wonder if you’ve heard the same, but it seems very plausible to me that the Ponzi schemes could have such an effect in the production of cocaine.

  2. Juan David Hincapie Ramos Says:

    The contradiction in the request is how to give security to the campesinos if is it not by fighting against the irregular armed groups? And in order to fight weapons, helicopters and planes are required. The point is that every region has to go through a process that will bring first security and then the state with it’s social and productive programs just like in La Macarena region. But it is irresponsible to suggest that the state should go into the regions right away with it’s social programs when it cannot even control their execution because irregular groups rule the place. Those resources will be completely lost, first by the corruption and second by the irregulars. Such a combination has been seen in departments like Casanare, that has received millions of dollars from the oil for the last many years, and that money went all into the corrupted political class allied first with the ELN and later with the paramilitary groups. And every attempt to denounce the situation by any instance of the state (procuraduria, defensor del pueblo, contraloria) was fought back with more corruption or assassination.

  3. Edwin Devers Says:

    I agree a 100% with this note BUT there are some problems

    “these crops must be profitable in order to combat coca and narcotrafficking”

    Coca plants grew on non fertile soil (big part of the Colombian soil), can be harvest multiple times a year, don’t need much care and give big benefits. That is in contrast with other crops.

    So I don’t see that el campesino is going to give up this business. See also the problems with the “pyramids” in Colombia. According to a psychologist the Colombian people want money fast and easy.

    I think that the UNO has to come in the game. If the world wants to stop coca in Colombia then this people need more help and not only from the “gringos” because the majority don’t like them. We have not only to subsidize the farmers but also teach the young people that coca not is the solution and that people everywhere in world have to work in the world for their money. Maybe a job for UNESCO.

  4. MZR Says:

    “According to a psychologist the Colombian people want money fast and easy.”

    Erm… Don’t we all?!

  5. Sergio Méndez Says:


    Coca is just like any other crop. The only difference is that it is illegal, and the problem is that it should not be illegal. Coca producers are not like the people in the pyramids, since coca produces, well, produce actually SOMETHING, will people in pyramids expect that money will multiply magically without doing nothing. So the solution is not replacing crops for more profitable crops, nor pretending that you can “teach people coca is not the solution”. The only real, sensible, moral solution is to legalize cocaine, and stop harassing peasants who cultivate coca, and anybody who dares to make of this coca cocaine or distribute it. Period.

  6. El Común Says:

    So the conclusion drawn by this post is that: if military aid to Colombia were replaced by economic aid for Colombia’s rural population, the Colombian armed conflict would no longer spill over into Ecuador.

    If we accept the above premise then (choose one):

    1. The armed conflict within Colombia would diminish in intensity, illegal armed groups would decrease in size and strength, human rights abuses would end, and coca production would diminish.

    2. The armed conflict within Colombia would increase in intensity, illegal armed groups would increase in size and strength, human rights violations would increase, and coca production would increase.

    How do you vote and why?

  7. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Hey Adam, not too fast… Obama is already targeting Afghanistan. :(

  8. Kyle Says:

    El Comun: I would change some wording, but right now, I would go for #1. I would remove the phrase “human rights abuses would end” and substitute it with “decrease.” Same with “diminish” in #1; replace with decrease. Also, define intensity. Do you mean only violent actions in this term, or would an increase in propaganda by the FARC count, for example? I argue it would count (and with either option, we would see an increase in FARC propaganda most likely). In general, does “intensity” only violent action or any increase in action by any armed group?

    At some point in the future I may answer the question, but it is a highly loaded one. Either way, any effects for economic aid are long-term and would not produce results right away. Military aid can produce immediate results, but in reality very rarely ever does. I know it is not “aid” per se, but Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone comes to mind as an example of when it does work rapidly. Otherwise, while the time until effectiveness is shorter than that of economic aid, it is still a matter of years, and not months.

  9. Kyle Says:

    Also, coca is not like any other crop. In fact, it is incredibly different from almost any other crop. Coca itself can grow in horrible soil; multiple harvests a year (and little time until first harvest); little care is necessary for harvest; just a few examples.

  10. joc Says:

    A European company I know is buying A LOT of land in Ecuador to plant Jatropha which is similar to Coca insofar as it is a cash crop (biofuel) and grows on bad soil and is easy to harvest.

    Crazy thought but I’d love to see someone do a feasibility study to investigate whether it could act as an economic alternative for coca farmers.

  11. El Común Says:

    Kyle, agreed on the change in wording. In my view, if military aid were cut off, the Colombian government would find a way to continue funding its military effort against illegal armed groups and narcotraffickers, which would mean a reduction in government spending for the rural poor (funding which may or may not be offset by increased U.S. aid). So my choice would most likely be #1 as well.

    I proposed two choices, #1 being essentially representing the status quo in terms of outcomes while #2 was a scenario involving a weakened Colombian military which would lead to a return to the immediate post-Caguan days, when human rights violations were rampant and there were serious debates about whether Colombia was becoming a failed state.

    The real debate, and one that this blog and this forum should engage, is: has Plan Colombia worked? Is Colombia better off now than it was in 2000?

  12. HENRY Says:

    Colombia is so much better off now than in 2000! Congratualtions to President Uribe and President Bush on a job well done! I have family in Colombia and life there has improved by leaps and bounds. Security first so that social programs can safely take hold. It is a proven and sound counter-insurgency policy that needs to continue so that Colombia will continue to prosper. I agree with Juan David.

  13. Camilla Says:

    Adam: How do you know Yen is not in it with FARC?

    This is the whole problem with human rights groups in general – they believe the first tale that is thrown in front of them as an absolute truth and never bother to investigate the motives of those who might be behind whatever the claims. This is why I have a hard time believing any of them.

  14. Sergio Méndez Says:


    You know, like the tall that the army was kidnapping people and murdering them to present them as guerrilleros fallen in combat?

  15. Randy Paul Says:

    Adam: How do you know Yen is not in it with FARC?

    May I suggest a project? Perhaps rather than merely throwing around an accusation without support, perhaps you could investigate and see if there are any verifiable links between this person and the FARC.

  16. Kyle Says:

    Camilla, I’m gonna reject anything you say because you have not shown that you are not/were not/have not been with the AUC.

  17. Kyle Says:

    Note: I am not accusing you of anything, just showing your logic.

  18. Camilla Says:

    Randy Paul: I didn’t throw around an accusation without support. I asked a question. Unless you are seeking to stifle the asking of questions (as many leftists do), you ought to know the difference.

    Kyle: Nice try. But you ALREADY reject anything I say because you disagree with me. Whether or not I am AUC is irrelevant.

  19. Randy Paul Says:

    Randy Paul: I didn’t throw around an accusation without support. I asked a question. Unless you are seeking to stifle the asking of questions (as many leftists do), you ought to know the difference.

    You made an inference that this person is in it with the FARC. All I asked is that you supply some proof. Your comment was pure McCarthyite smear. If you have something, please present it.

    Not everyone who opposes the Uribe government’s policies is a FARC sympathizer, no matter how much.

    Kyle’s point is well taken. No one has accused you of being involved with the AUC, simply because you embrace pretty much anything to wipe out the FARC. Perhaps you can afford those of us who don’t share your views and have genuine concerns about Uribe’s policies the same courtesy.

  20. Randy Paul Says:

    That second paragraph should read as follows:

    “Not everyone who opposes the Uribe government’s policies is a FARC sympathizer, no matter how much you want to believe it.”

  21. Camilla Says:

    Randy Paul: I made no inference. You made the inference and then accused me of it. I asked a question, a valid one, and one that could easily be answered well.

    You obviously are interested in stifling the asking of questions.

  22. Randy Paul Says:

    Poppycock. You wrote: “How do you know Yen is not in it with FARC? ”

    Fine, you implied that she was. Not everyone who criticizes Uribe is in with FARC. Feel free to ask questions; I’ve certainly never objected to your asking questions, nor, despite your puerile attempts to play victim every time someone has the temerity to take you to task for saying something inflammatory have I tried to stifle you. Just be prepared to be questioned yourself; both in terms of your accuracy and your motivation.

  23. Camilla Says:

    Accuracy is not an issue in the asking of a question, Randy Paul. Where accuracy is important is in the answer. Thus far, there has been no answer to how anyone determined whether or not Yen was in it with FARC, a valid question. As for questioning the motives of someone asking a question, that’s even less savory. Answer the question and the issue is resolved. Attack a person’s motives every time they ask a question is an obvious effort to stifle the asking of questions and you know it. You don’t like uncomfortable questions, do you? Instead of find an answer to them, you look for ways to discredit the question asker. People in Cuba know all about this technique of yours. Meanwhile, the question goes unanswered and that doesn’t look good.

    I am starting to wonder if you don’t understand the question. It’s not about whether the guy was FARC or not, but how an easily manipulated NGO worker can tell who’s FARC and who’s not. As President Uribe demonstrated with his rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, FARC can be easily fooled into thinking any NGO, even a fake one, is their friend because so many are.

    There are a lot of ways that could be answered, some possibilities are here:

    1. I don’t care if he’s FARC or not.
    2. People I was with knew him and said he was not.
    3. FARC has never operated in these parts.
    4. His name was in the newspaper for fighting FARC or screwing it out of some money.
    5. He was a paramilitary
    6. Etc.

  24. Randy Paul Says:

    And another possibility is:

    “Not everyone who opposes Uribe’s policies is a FARC supporter. Moreover a FARC supporter, given the FARC’s role in narcotrafficking, would not be suggesting alternative crops to coca and stressing their need to be profitable.”

    Feel free to ask questions. I would never stand in the way of your showing your tendentious, flatulent side.

  25. Randy Paul Says:

    There was one issue with your initial comment that really provoked the angry reaction from me and it’s this: when you make the slightest intimation that someone may be involved with the FARC, you can endanger their lives> You made the following comment here:

    Will you be the first to apologize, Adam, when FARC uses this list to kill someone?

    when Adam posted a post titled “WHINSEC transparency amendment today.”

    One wonders what is most appalling about you: your synchopancy towards Uribe or your utter lack of self-awareness.

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