Jorge Enrique Robledo, Bogotá, April 3, 2009

Translation Mingas-FTA / Traducción Mingas-TLC

Every State has the duty and the right to militarily confront those who illegally take up arms against it. Although increased spending on arms and training does tend to improve a military’s combat capability, as can be seen by looking at what’s happened in Colombia in recent years, at the same time this doesn’t mean that the ends justify the means. Governments are entrusted with solemn obligations and under no circumstances should they violate the law. It’s unacceptable to sacrifice national sovereignty to improve military performance, because a country that loses the capacity for self-determination will never be able to solve its own problems.

Andrés Pastrana, who was president of Colombia when Plan Colombia was hammered out, has confirmed that “the free trade agreement is a fundamental part of Plan Colombia” (Caracol Radio, 3/17/2008). The Plan also defines policy in every key aspect of the nation’s economy. It affects fiscal and financial policy, the tax system, industry, salary rates, the environment, agriculture, health, education and foreign investment, in ways which are most beneficial to the North American elite. As if this weren’t enough, in 2001 the Colombian finance minister, Juan Manuel Santos, signed a letter of intent titled “The IMF approves Plan Colombia”. This alone, in a country less confused by government disinformation, would disqualify him as a presidential candidate (Santos plans to run for president in 2010).

If we consider just the economic losses caused by the importation of eight million tons of agricultural products –imports imposed by Plan Colombia of products that we can produce ourselves–, we realize how relatively small the sum of 7.814 billion dollars in U.S. military “aid” from 1999 to 2008 is. And while “aid” from Washington is small and short-term, “free trade” works on a large scale and is intended to be permanent. As history has shown, those who lose their national sovereignty also lose control of their economy. The systematic beautifying of Plan Colombia has sold the false notion that the Colombian military budget was largely covered by the plan’s resources. But the money sent down from Washington represents only 13.7% of the total costs of the armed forces and the police, while we, Colombians, pay 86.3%. Also, it’s false and misleading to say that Plan Colombia covers “social expenditures”, when in reality not one U.S. cent is spent for that purpose.

The third declared objective of Plan Colombia is “to bring about negotiated peace agreements with the guerrillas”. The weekly news magazine Semana (12/6/2007), quoting Caracol Radio and Channel RCN, reported that in the Foreign Relations Commission former president Andrés Pastrana said that the demilitarization of El Caguán, which Uribe sharply criticized at first, “was a demand made by the U.S. government”, via Bill Clinton, who let him know that Plan Colombia would not be approved unless they sought a negotiated settlement to the armed conflict. The magazine also reports that Uribe, in response to Pastrana, could only come up with: “why didn’t you say that from the beginning?” Neither the current president (Alvaro Uribe) nor any of the three preceding presidents (César Gaviria, Ernesto Samper, Andrés Pastrana) who were also present at the meeting denied what was reported in Semana. Even the withdrawal from El Caguán was ordered by Washington! Is it not imperialist for an anti-drug strategy to, on the one hand, force us to import the food that our agricultural workers and indigenous people can produce and, on the other hand, to have them sprayed like cockroaches, when these fellow Colombians are driven by poverty to plant coca? And it’s obvious that the justification for Plan Colombia cannot be based on its results; even the U.S. State Department acknowledges that –after spraying more than a million hectares– coca cultivation has increased from 122,000 to 160,000 hectares and the production of cocaine from 530 to 535 tons.

Furthermore, Plan Colombia also shows that the interests of Colombia and the United States can be –and in this case are– quite different. The Plan’s goal is not to eliminate drug trafficking but only to reduce it by 50%, as is stated in the text. Why? According to the architects of the Plan, when the supply of cocaine drops the price on the street will rise and the American youth consumer will have to “snort” fewer “lines”. It’s a market solution, as a neoliberal would say. But what’s not mentioned is that if the consumer has to pay higher prices on the street, it’s because the price drug traffickers can charge has also gone up; that’s the way they maintain or increase their profits. It’s clear that this doesn’t benefit Colombia in the war on drugs.