Colombia: The War on Drugs and US Duplicity


In spite of numerous reports financed by the United States’ government finding that police and military action against drug trafficking does nothing to hamper the illegal trade in narcotics, and in spite of the increase in cocaine production in Colombia in the face of the military application of Plan Colombia, the United States has continued to address narcotics in the Andean Region by military means. Plan Colombia was first conceived as a peace initiative by President Pastrana, who in his 1998 – 2002 term as president, had entered into peace negotiations with the FARC and ELN. His hope for a peaceful resolution to the violence in Colombia was transformed by the US Clinton Administration, however, into a militaristic anti-narcotics plan as an extension of the war on drugs (Plan Colombia).

Rather than bring about the peace envisioned by Pastrana, the United States’ reworking of the Plan delivered a package targeting the coca production chain – a major source of income for guerrilla insurgents in Colombia – with military ‘aid;’ worsening the conflict. After September 2001, with the terrorist attacks in the States, the Bush Administration was able to label the non-state actors in the conflict ‘terrorists’ and thus legitimise the more open pursuit of armed counter-terrorism measures, and the language of terrorism within the context of the early days of the War on Terror allowed the US to circumvent its own human rights codes apropos the provision of military aid to the Colombian government.


When Álvaro Uribe, a rightist with documented links to right-wing paramilitary death squads, was inaugurated as president of Colombia the scene was set for a deepening of the crisis. Under Uribe the AUC – the national union of paramilitary organisations (which had also been deemed a terrorist organisation by the US) – was officially demobilised, but continued to operate as ‘criminal groups.’ Relocating the death squads, by the judicious use of language, to the past and re-categorising them as a matter of law and order the new Colombian government could claim independence from terror while carrying on business as usual.


The drive behind this violent route of the US version of Plan Colombia was betrayed by Uribe when he denounced human rights groups (domestic and international) for their support of a non-violent peace process, arguing that if the FARC had its way the sale of oil to the United States would stop. Both the FARC and ELN had been involved in a militant campaign against the oil pipelines, and it was against the locations of this campaign that the US and Colombian Plan Colombia actions were primarily directed. Any balanced view of the evidence, taken into consideration with the WikiLeaks documents pertaining to the US’ foreign policy in Colombia before and during Plan Colombia, leads to the conclusion that the US planned all along an aggressive push against the Leftist guerrillas to secure the oil resources of Colombia. Peace was never part of the US Plan.


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