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May 042009

Here is an interview recorded April 24 with Rodrigo Botero, the director for the Amazon and Orinoco regions at Colombia’s National Parks Service.

Colombia’s government, with U.S. support, is trying to implement a “consolidation” strategy to establish state presence and services in the vast areas of the country that have historically been completely ungoverned. One of the priority zones, and one which has received significant U.S. investment, are the municipalities in and around the La Macarena National Park.

A FARC stronghold for decades, the La Macarena park was situated completely within the demilitarized zone ceded to the guerrillas during the failed 1998-2002 peace process. During the 2000s, this zone of primary forest saw a sharp increase in coca cultivation, as farmers moved into the zone, with guerrilla encouragement, to grow the crop. Since 2006, the Colombian and U.S. governments have responded by sending manual eradicators, then fumigation aircraft, into the park.

Mr. Botero is wrestling with one of the thorniest questions that the state-building effort faces: what to in areas where people simply shouldn’t be living? In zones that, because they are parkland, wilderness, or simply too far from the rest of the population, cannot expect to be properly served by the government?

His solution has been an ambitious program to move people out of the park with promises of housing, productive projects and food-security assistance in exchange for voluntary eradication of coca. His efforts – by far the largest voluntary eradication project in the country – have so far brought the permanent disappearance of 2,000 hectares of coca from in and around the park.

Though he is an ecologist by training, Mr. Botero and his team have had to learn a lot very quickly about rural development, housing construction, community organizing and political negotiation. Though the Park Service is purportedly part of an inter-agency effort to bring the Colombian state into the area surrounding La Macarena, it – and the communities with which it is working – have seen little assistance or accompaniment from most other government agencies.

Here are 5 minutes of footage of a conversation with Mr. Botero, with English subtitles. He describes the model that he has constructed, together with the leaders of several communities outside the park.

Interview with Rodrigo Botero from Adam Isacson on Vimeo.

(Yes, by the way, I’m aware my Spanish accent is atrocious.)

3 Responses to ““This is an experiment that makes sense””

  1. Steve Says:

    Hmm, I can appreciate Mr. Botero’s innovative spirit, but his plan seems to rely on, one, Colombia’s jungles being part of a carbon market and, two, long term foreign aid investments. Is the former feasible and the latter desirable?

  2. John Wilpers, Global Blog Coordinator, GlobalPost.com Says:

    Dear “Plan Colombia and Beyond” editor and Adam,

    First of all, I want to tell you what you must already know (but it’s always nice to hear it from someone else): The “Plan Colombia and Beyond” blog is excellent. I have spent almost 10 months hunting for 300 of the best blogs in the world in 46 countries and 8 themes, and the “”Plan Colombia and Beyond” is one of the most intelligent, comprehensive blogs about one country that we’ve found.

    All of your posts are well-written, intelligent, provocative, wide-ranging, and educational. Your liberal use of terrific, real-life videos adds richness to the experience of reading “Plan Colombia.” Your blog is a must-read if you want to stay on top of what’s really going on in Colombia beyond the typical “bad news” headlines.

    Anyway, suffice to say we love your “Plan Colombia and Beyond” blog and we would like to give your work more exposure here in the United States and around the world.

    My name is John Wilpers. I am the Global Blog Coordinator for GlobalPost, a new international news organization that launched on Jan. 12. We were featured in the New York Times last month. We have also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, MSNBC, MediaShift on PBS, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Online Journalism Review, and many more. In barely three months, we have had 250,000 unique visitors and 1.1 million page views. Our readers have come from every country in the world except North Korea, Chad, and Eritrea!

    My job is to build a list of blogs that will appear on GlobalPost where we have approximately 65 correspondents in some 46 countries plus high-profile correspondents writing about eight major themes.

    We are looking for enlightening, informative posts from bloggers writing (in English) about the countries they live in or care deeply about, and so we were pleased to find “Plan Colombia.”

    So, I would like to extend an invitation to you to have your most recent post blog included on the Colombia page of GlobalPost.com as part of our “Global Blogs” service. (We wrote to you earlier this year, but we hadn’t launched yet and were an unknown entity.)

    The way it would work if you accept our invitation is that we would use your RSS full-text feed to place your most recent post on your personal page on GlobalPost.com. We would point back to your actual blog for comments and for archives, hopefully driving lots of traffic to your site. Each time you write a new post, it would replace the older one so only one post would appear on GlobalPost.com at any one time.

    By appearing on Global Post’s exciting new international news website, your words, viewpoints, and pictures would gain worldwide exposure.

    You do not need to do anything differently. We do request that you point back to us from your blog (we will send out the code for our badge if you accept). We also ask that you use our GlobalPost headlines widget, but that’s not a requirement.

    You should know that we have a few guidelines that we observe here at Global Post (but reading your work, these rules don’t really apply, but they give you a good sense of our culture):

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    We hope these guidelines are acceptable to you.

    I look forward getting your permission to put your full-text RSS feed on our site. Thank you!


    John Wilpers

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  3. Plan Colombia and Beyond » Vistahermosa and Puerto Toledo Says:

    [...] with two Colombian NGO colleagues and the National Parks Service official who appears in the brief video interview posted earlier this month. As it turned out, road travel was made impossible by high recent levels [...]

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