By Al Giordano, Latin American Correspondent. Wednesday, March 13, 2001.
It's front-page news in South America today, but U.S. President George Bush's half-billion dollar increase in funds for Plan Colombia - complete with a public relations facelift and attempted name change - flies under radar in the English-language press.
Plan Colombia, the .3 billion dollar "anti-drug" package, mainly consisting of military arms, advisors an aid to the war-torn South American nation, will now be officially titled "the Andean Initiative."
"The new administration will try to regionalize the Colombian conflict, so that the countries in the area recognize that this is their problem as much as it is Colombia's," said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In fact, Washington is publicizing this information. It's the U.S. media that hasn't reported it. And it's not that the newsrooms haven't heard the drums of war beating from the South.
As Village Voice media critic Cynthia Cotts noted in her March 2nd column, "The New York Times plans to move its Buenos Aires bureau to Bogota (Colombia) or Caracas (Venezuela) sometime soon. Other papers are following suit. The Los Angeles Times plans to open a Bogota bureau next week, and the Washington Post is moving its Caracas bureau chief there as well. The big three will join the Miami Herald, the Houston Chronicle, and several wire services that have been in Bogota for years."
Even the Wall Street Journal recently established an Andean bureau in Caracas. The imminent escalation of militarized drug war hostilities in the Andes is no secret in the newsrooms of the United States: but it remains AWOL on the pages that the public reads. Not a single of these newspapers or wire services have yet reported on Plan Colombia's expensive new turn.
The State Department can't be accused of keeping the news secret: It held a press briefing on Colombia policy last Monday, in part to try and change the subject as four Colombian governors came to Washington with an inconvenient story to tell.
The governors arrived to inform the U.S. public that aerial eradication of coca plants, paid for by U.S. funds, is damaging food crops in their hungry nation and must be ceased. Among the messengers was Colombia's first indigenous governor, Floro Alberto Tunubala of the state of Cuaca, elected last October as an outspoken opponent of Plan Colombia. (President Andres Pastrana's Conservative Party lost all 30 Colombian states in that vote, a fact that also went unreported in the U.S. media).
With this announcement, backed by 0 million dollars in additional funds to the now regionalized Plan Colombia package, the Bush Administration has removed all doubt: It will continue with the Clinton Administration's military intervention and herbicide spraying project, in the name of the war on drugs.
The Bush administration now ups the ante considerably in terms of U.S. taxpayer dollars committed. The opposition to Plan Colombia by the European Parliament, as voted early this year, signaled that the U.S. now stands alone in paying for this intervention. Washington simply writes a larger check, even as the administration seeks tax cuts at home.
The Colombian war is being regionalized into other nations - Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Panama - not by accident, but by intentional strategy. It's a high-stakes attempt to force neighboring countries - so far reluctant - to support the militarized drug war in Colombia, by spreading the violence and narco-trafficking into their borders.
The drug war goes military, on the verge of living up to its bellicose title. The U.S. media has taken up positions in the trenches, and yet the U.S. public remains uninformed that, in this hemisphere, the drug war is about to go "boom."
Former Boston Phoenix political reporter
Al Giordano will publish a longer report on
these developments later this week in
The Narco News Bulletin . He receives email