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Variations on "Plan Colombia"

by Manuel Wednesday, May. 09, 2001 at 10:44 AM

by Carlos Fazio Uruguayan-Mexican journalist and writer

A great deal is being said about the "inevitable turn" the Bush administration will make toward "Plan Colombia". There has been some criticism of this militarist project within the U.S. That is true, but it is also being stated, quite rightly, that Washington cannot remain "neutral" in relation to Colombia's internal conflict. Thus, there is no room for illusions.

The plan was approved by a bipartisan consensus and constitutes part of a vast geostrategic project on the part of the Pentagon and the multinationals-- another phase in the expansion of finance capital in Latin America.

Those who argue in favour of a policy change quote Henry Kissinger's "scepticism" about the risk of a Vietnam-type quagmire in the heart of South America. They also say that "Plan Colombia" will not survive the scrutiny of the hawks that direct the interventionist "Powell Doctrine"-the doctrine of the victor of Panama and the Persian Gulf.

Nevertheless, positions favouring the replacement of the military perspective with a new vision based on economic and social considerations, turn out to be weak. The new discourse aims to hide the goal of involving the region in the warmongering scheme. Regionalize it. From this point of view, turning "Plan Colombia" into a "Plan Andes" would provide better overall coherence and invigorate the geostrategic project of the two Bush administrations (father and son) in the Oval Office.

Let's proceed step by step. The military framework of the U.S. anti narcotics policy imposed by George Bush Sr. at the beginning of the 1990s, has become a real disaster. Since then, the fundamentalist rationality of the White House and the U.S. Congress, based on the supposition that the demand for drugs depends upon the supply, took the "war" to the Andean countries where the centres of cultivation, production, processing and traffic of narcotics were located.

Even before, Colombia had become a laboratory for the U.S. to experiment with its policy of aerial spraying of illicit crops. From paraquat they went to glyphosate for marihuana and to garlon-4 for coca. Then they tried more toxic herbicides like imazapyr and tebuthiuron. As a component of "Plan Colombia", Washington has been pressuring Bogota since 2000 to use a dangerous fungus, the biological agent, fusarium oxysporum, in the process of forced eradication. This measure has been criticized by Europe.

But the strategy of a punitive battle against the nuclei of supply did not have positive results. According to CIA figures, the impact of chemical suppression has been insignificant. In 1981, Colombia had 25,000 hectares planted with marihuana and coca; in 2001, there are 120,000 hectares of coca alone. The production of heroin and cocaine has continued to grow as well.

This phenomenon has allowed the consolidation of an emergent, rich and violent class that in alliance with the traditional native oligarchy has today shaped Colombia as a criminal, mafia-type state.

At the same time, on the demand side there has been no progress either. The U.S. drug market has 14 million consumers and is growing.

But this line of analysis would be weakened without considering the other underpinning of the White House's "war on drugs": its military component.

Following the end of the cold war, the military industrial complex, Pentagon strategists and the CIA rapidly replaced the "communist threat" with a trendy new enemy, the "narco-guerrilla". In Colombia's case, this involves an ad hoc label to justify U.S. interventionism against the popular strength of the FARC-EP, whose military and political stature have grown significantly in recent years.

This is the hidden purpose of "Plan Colombia" that they are trying to hide in the camouflage of apparent anti-narcotics assistance. This is the illusion with which they attempt to justify the presence of 400 U.S. military "advisors" and 70 "private" mercenaries, experts in jungle training, radar operations, interception of radio communications and aerial reconnaissance. This provides cover as well for the U.S Defence Department flights of AWAC and Orion spy planes.

"Plan Colombia" is an integral and genuine expression of rapacious contemporary capitalism. It aims to consolidate an hegemonic model of accumulation by finance capital and the multi nationals, centred on speculation, criminal economy and new wars of conquest.

Together with the Pentagon's geostrategic repositioning in the region, U.S. interventionism in Colombia will look toward favouring the interests of the petroleum, coal and agribusiness multinationals and toward finally taking possession of the biodiversity and water of the Amazon. At the same time, the forced expulsion of the peasant population is tied to the new concentration of land in the hands of big landowners.

This is a combined offensive of the Pentagon, the monopolies and the Colombian oligarchy, directed at wiping out what remains of the peasant economy, pushing further privatizations and a counter-agrarian reform favouring local landlords, agribusiness and the multinationals dedicated to genetically modified crops. To do this, they have to politically and militarily defeat the popular and guerrilla movement in Colombia.

Venezuela will then be next, along with the landless of Brazil, the Bolivian coca growers and all forms of organized resistance to the assaults of capitalism and its neo-liberal model in the Americas.







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