Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Compass for Colombia Policy

Download:(PDF, 3.78 MB) A Compass for Colombia Policy

(PDF, 3.95 MB) Un nuevo rumbo para la política estadounidense hacia Colombia

October 22, 2008

New Report Outlines a Just and Effective Foreign Policy toward Colombia

(English PDF, 3.78 MB) | (PDF en español, 3.95 MB).

During their final presidential debate, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain expressed markedly different opinions on U.S. policy toward Colombia, an important partner in Latin America. Yet the next U.S. president won’t just be debating policy, he will be making it—and in the case of Colombia, he will need more than minor changes along the margins. He will need a new approach.

The Compass for Colombia Policy, written by some of Washington’s top Colombia experts, offers a better way forward for one of the main foreign policy challenges that the next administration will face. This report makes a detailed, persuasive case for a new U.S. strategy that would achieve our current policy goals while ending impunity and strengthening respect for human rights. Instead of risking all by placing too much faith in a single, charismatic leader, the United States must appeal to the aspirations and needs of all Colombians by strengthening democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. In particular, the United States must stand by and empower the human rights advocates, victims, judges, prosecutors, union leaders, journalists and others who are the driving forces towards a more just and peaceful Colombia.

The Compass details seven sensible steps policymakers can take to create a just and effective Colombia policy.

1. Use U.S. Aid and Leverage for Human Rights and the Rule of Law

To address a human rights crisis that continues unabated and a chronic lack of political will to deal with it, the United States must use tougher diplomacy to encourage the Colombian government to strengthen human rights guarantees, protect human rights defenders, and bolster institutions needed to break with a history of impunity for abuses. Colombia’s judicial system is central to the rule of law and must receive strong support.

2. Actively Support Overtures for Peace

The United States cannot continue to bankroll a war without end and, as the civilian population in the countryside continues to endure immense suffering, should make peace a priority.

3. Support Expansion of the Government’s Civilian Presence in the Countryside

Militarily occupying territory is not the solution to Colombia’s problems. The United States should help Colombia strengthen its civilian government presence in rural zones to address lawlessness, poverty and inequality, the roots of the conflict.

4. Protect the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees

The United States can help resolve Colombia’s massive humanitarian crisis by insisting on the dismantlement of paramilitary structures, supporting Colombia’s Constitutional Court rulings on IDPs, and increasing and improving aid to IDPs and refugees.

5. Protect the Rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities

The United States must pay special attention to promoting ethnic minorities’ land rights and guarantee that U.S. aid projects are not carried out on land obtained by violence.

6. Ensure that Trade Policy Supports, Not Undermines, Policy Goals towards Colombia

The United States should insist upon labor rights advances, especially in reducing and prosecuting violence against trade unionists, prior to further consideration of the trade agreement. The United States must ensure that any trade agreement will not undermine U.S. policy goals, such as reducing farmers’ dependence on coca and ending the conflict.

7. Get Serious—and Smart—about Drug Policy

The United States is overdue for a major course correction in its drug control strategy, which has failed spectacularly in Colombia and the Andean region. The United States should end the inhumane and counterproductive aerial spraying program and invest seriously in rural development, including alternative development designed with affected communities. Drug enforcement should focus higher up on the distribution chain, disrupt money laundering schemes and apprehend violent traffickers. Access to high-quality drug treatment in the United States, which will cut demand, must be the centerpiece of U.S. drug policy.

“The next administration should use diplomatic pressure to hold Colombia to much higher standards on human rights, labor rights, and protection of the rule of law.”–Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund

“The United States must recognize the magnitude of the human rights crisis for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lands and livelihoods to violence. –Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America

“Nine years after the launch of Plan Colombia, the production of cocaine remains virtually unchanged. The United States simply cannot afford to continue to pursue this costly and failed counternarcotics policy. The next President must change course.” –Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy

“In the last decade, Colombia’s conflict has taken 20,000 more lives and displaced more than 2 million citizens. Now is the time to make renewed efforts for peace.” –Kelly Nicholls, U.S. Office on Colombia

For more information:
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, (202) 546-7010; lisah [at]
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America, (202) 797-2171; gsanchez [at]
Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy, (202) 232-3317; isacson [at]
Kelly Nicholls, US Office on Colombia, (202) 232-8090; kelly [at]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

United States: Bolivia does not cooperate with the drug war

Last week, we speculated about whether Bolivia would be placed on the United States' list of countries who have "failed demonstrably" to cooperate with U.S. anti-narcotics policy and the implications this might have, especially when comparing coca production and eradication and seizure levels of Bolivia with those of Peru and Colombia - top U.S. allies in the region. This week, the White House issued the "Majors List" of narcotics source and transfer countries for 2008, and Bolivia had been added to the "non-cooperating" list, which last year only included Venezuela and Burma.

Below are two charts that lay out both coca cultivation and cocaine production levels in Bolivia since 1994. The U.N data used to create these charts show a 5% increase in coca cultivation and an increase in cocaine production from 94 to 104 tons in 2007. These numbers differ from those cited by Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson at a press conference this week, held upon the release of the 2008 list. In criticizing Bolivian President Evo Morales' drug policies, Assistant Secretary Johnson said "The expansion of cultivation and lack of controls on coca leaf resulted in a 14% increase in the area of coca under cultivation, and an increase in potential cocaine production from 115 to 120 metric tons." Regardless, while these numbers do show a rise in the amount of coca and cocaine in Bolivia, the increases are not outstanding, especially in comparison to Colombia and Peru's cultivation and production numbers.

The addition of Bolivia to the "non-cooperating" list, however, comes at a time of tense relations between the governments of the United States and Bolivia. Just last week, Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador, claiming that he was conspiring with the opposition. The United States retaliated by expelling the Bolivian ambassador the next day.

At the press conference, Assistant Secretary Johnson noted that the addition of Bolivia to the list was not "a hasty decision" in retaliation for the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, but instead cited "the [drug] policies that they are pursuing, capped off by the expulsion, if you will, of the USAID program in Chapare [a coca-growing region in central Bolivia] for alternative development, as well as the assistance program provided by our Drug Enforcement Administration, made the conclusion rather clear."

Here is a timeline of the deterioration of U.S.-Bolivia relations since last fall.

August 2007: Bolivian Minister Juan Ramon Quintana accuses the United States of using USAID funds to finance opposition groups.

November 2007: The Bolivian government passes around a photograph of U.S. Ambassador Goldberg with John Jairo Venegas, a Colombian accused by Bolivia of being a member of the Colombian right-wing paramilitary squads.

October 2007: In reaction to a campaign supported by President Morales to relocate the UN headquarters, Ambassador Goldberg publicly announced that he wouldn't also be surprised if Evo Morales asked for Disney Land to be moved.

February 2008: U.S. embassy official Vincent Cooper was accused of asking an American student and Peace Corps volunteer to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia.

June 9, 2008: Thousands of Bolivian protesters marched on the U.S. Embassy to demand that Washington extradite a former Bolivian defense minister who directed a military crackdown on riots that killed at least 60 people in 2003.

The United States recalled Ambassador Goldberg in reaction to the protests.

June 26 2008: The Chapare coca growers unions announced that they will no longer sign new aid agreements with USAID, as a result of the repeated accusations against USAID made by President Morales.

In reaction, the United States removes USAID personnel from the Chapare region, while President Morales praises the coca growers for kicking out the U.S. agency.

August 2008: Due to frustration with the way the U.S. spends money to fight cocaine production in Bolivia, drug czar Felipe Caceres announces that the Bolivia government will "nationalize the war against drug trafficking." And adds that "we will still welcome cooperation in the future, but the Bolivian government will decide how that money will be spent."

September 11, 2008: President Morales again accuses Ambassador Goldberg of working with the opposition, and orders the U.S. Ambassador to leave Bolivia. In 'solidarity' with Bolivia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also orders the U.S. Ambassador to leave his country.

The United States reacts by expelling the Bolivian Ambassador.

September 16, 2008: The United States adds Bolivia to the list of countries who have "failed demonstrably" to cooperate with U.S. anti-narcotics policy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

U.S. questions Venezuelan and Bolivian counter-narcotics strategies

Every year, the President is required by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to submit to Congress an annual report identifying (a) major drug-producing or transit countries and (b) those countries not "cooperating" with U.S. counternarcotics measures and subject to sanctions. Using the "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report" published by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) every March, the "Majors List" is compiled each year and presented to the Secretary of State for consideration before being approved by the President and sent to Congress.

Of the twenty countries that made the "Majors List" last year, only Venezuela and Burma were found to have "failed demonstrably" to cooperate. While making it to the second "non-cooperating" list stipulates that a country not receive U.S. assistance under the foreign operations appropriations act, the President can reinstate assistance if the "provision of such assistance is vital to the U.S. interests." Last year, President Bush determined that while Venezuela "failed demonstrably" to cooperate, "support for programs to aid Venezuela's democratic institutions is vital to the national interests of the United States," and therefore assistance was not revoked.

This yearly process is going on right now and we should expect to see the list for 2009 sometime next week, which coincides with a recent increase in coverage of the United States' criticism of Venezuela's and Bolivia's drug policies. While Venezuela and Burma are most likely to make the "non-cooperating" list for 2009, Bolivia is a wild card.

Recent U.S. criticism of Venezuela:
According to Reuters, the United States accused Venezuela's government "of failing to fight back against drug gangs moving huge amounts of cocaine through the South American country." This criticism stems from the decline in drug seizures from 63 tons in 2005 to 35 tons in 2007 and what the United States has cited as being a "more than 16-fold increase in the amount of cocaine departing Venezuela by air since 2002." The dispute continued, with President Chavez threatening to kick the U.S. ambassador out of the country and dismissing White House drug czar John Walters' criticisms as 'stupid'. According to the an Associated Press article, Chavez insists "that Venezuela doesn't need U.S. help in fighting drug trafficking" and that Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez said that "Venezuela is cooperating internationally - just not on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's terms."

Recent U.S criticism of Bolivia:
Under President Evo Morales, Bolivia has adopted a "zero cocaine, but no zero coca" policy, allowing for the cultivation of nearly 30,000 acres of coca for traditional uses, a policy which, according to Reuters, the United States has described as "permissive." However, the United States has started to critize Bolivia's drug policy as a result of a recent UN report on coca cultivation in the Andes region, which measures the cultivation in Bolivia increased by 5% in 2007 and covers 71,660 acres.

A recent article in El Espectador shows that despite the increase in drug-seizures in Bolivia from 18 tons in 2007 to 19.5 tons between January and August 2008, the U.S. government "considers that the increase in confiscations only is proportional to the increase in the production of coca" and the New York Times quoted a U.S. official saying "Let's put it this way: [Bolivia's] going in the wrong direction," in reference to Morales' drug policies.

While coca cultivation in Bolivia did increase in 2007, the UN report shows that coca cultivation also increased by 27% in Colombia and by 4% in Peru, two of the United States' main allies in the region, while confiscations increased 29% in Bolivia and decreased by 9% in Colombia and 30% in Peru. Bolivia remains far behind Colombia in increased coca cultivation and has improved its capacity to confiscate drugs in route, yet Bolivia is still being scolded by the United States.

Whether or not Bolivia makes it on the "failed demonstrably" to cooperate list, the recent U.S. criticism of President Morales' drug policies and belittling of Bolivia's increase in drug seizures so far in 2008 in light of the records of Peru and Colombia makes us wonder if all of this is just because Bolivia wants to pursue a different, yet effective, drug control approach, rather than do everything the United States asks?

You can read more of the recent coverage of the United States' criticism of both Venezuela's and Bolivia's drug policy here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

2007 Defense Department counter-drug aid

We have obtained and posted a report, required by this year's Defense Authorization law and released in March, detailing some of the Defense Department's counter-drug aid to Latin America and the rest of the world. The report [5.4 megabyte PDF download] covers aid provided in 2007.
The law (Section 1024 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act) requires the Defense Department to provide Congress with a country-by-country accounting of all counter-drug military and police assistance it provides overseas. This would mean all aid authorized by the "Section 1004" counter-drug assistance program and the related "Section 1033" program - two authorities that were created on a temporary basis in the 1990s and continue to be renewed regularly. 
What was submitted to Congress, however, is far from an accounting of all Defense Department aid. This report, like the 2005 report available here [PDF], only covers Defense Department aid for construction projects. While this is certainly interesting, construction aid is only a fraction of what the Defense Department offers Latin American and Caribbean militaries and police forces for counter-drug purposes. 
The Defense Department may use its budget to provide the following kinds of military and police aid:

1. Maintenance, repair and upgrading of loaned Defense Department equipment;
2. Maintenance, repair and upgrading of other equipment;
3. Transportation of personnel, supplies and equipment within or outside the United States;
4. Establishment and operation of bases of operation or training facilities within or outside the United States;
5. Training of law enforcement personnel, both foreign and domestic;
6. Detection and monitoring of narcotics related traffic coming into the United States;
7. Construction of roads and fences and installation of lighting to block drug smuggling across U.S. borders;
8. Establishment of command, control, communication and computer networks for improved integration of law enforcement, active military, and National Guard activities;
9. Linguistics and intelligence; and
10. Aerial and ground reconnaissance.

The newly acquired report only captures aid authorized by numbers 4 and 7 above. As a result, it lists only $4.855 million in Defense Department aid to Colombia in 2007, via seven construction projects. Yet a different document, acquired via a FOIA request issued by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, shows Colombia receiving Defense Department assistance totaling $107.332 million in 2007.

The report, while incomplete, nonetheless provides an interesting picture of U.S.-funded military construction projects in the region, including at the three Forward Operating Locations (Manta, Ecuador; Comalapa, El Salvador; and Aruba and Curacao, Netherlands Antilles.) Excerpted below is the section of the report detailing aid to Latin America and the Caribbean.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's official - Ecuador will not renew the United States's lease on the Manta air base

Ecuador's non-renewal of the U.S. presence at its Manta air base is not breaking news. President Rafael Correa has promised to close the U.S. counter-drug "Forward Operating Location" since he began his campaign for president in 2006, and its potential closing has been in the news for months. However, it was made official yesterday when Ecuador's Foreign Ministry formally notified the U.S Embassy of the decision to not renew the lease when it expires in 2009.

The Manta air base has been used by the United States since a ten-year agreement was signed in 1999. U.S. personnel and contractors launch surveillance flights that have been responsible for about 60 percent of drug seizures in the eastern Pacific, reports the Associated Press. However, Ecuador has been concerned that not only does the U.S. military presence in its territory threaten the country's sovereignty, it also threatens to unwillingly entangle Ecuador in the conflict in Colombia and the regional war on drugs.

According to the Foreign Ministry's statement yesterday, U.S. surveillance flights will end in August 2009 and all foreign personnel must withdrawal from the Manta air base by the end of November 2009, when the U.S. facilities there will be turned over to the Ecuadorian Air Force.

While it has previously been reported that the United States hoped to move the base to a new location in either Colombia or Peru, U.S. military officials have recently said that they do not plan to set up an alternative base.

Without the Manta air base, it will be interesting to see how the U.S. government arranges to host the AWACS, P-3 and other sophisticated aircraft that were carrying out surveillance from Manta. Rumors continue about a new base or other hosting arrangement in Colombia, while there is some possibility that surveillance flights may simply increase at the two other existing Forward Operating Locations in El Salvador and the Netherlands Antilles.

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