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6/18/08

Plan Colombia: Where did all the money go?

I've done the sums: The total is U$6.775Bn

This chart shows the amount of aid given every year to Colombia by the USA in the initiative usually called "Plan Colombia", the grand idea to rid the world of cocaine and all that nasty stuff.

Well guess what? Yup, it hasn't worked. The UN today reported that Colombian cocaine production was up 27% in 2007, and analysts called the jump "a surprise and shock". For the whole story, here's the link to the full report (a PDF weighing in at a chunky 5.5MB).

Depends what you mean by surprised I suppose, cos to say that Plan Colombia has a record of underachievement is a bit like saying there's a slight bias to the right in English media coverage of LatAm. Back in the last year of the Clinton administration when Plan Colombia was relaunched on the world (it's not just Dubya, y'see), the stated aim of the project was to rid the world of half the 300,000 acres of Colombia covered in coca plantations in the space of five years. Here we are seven years later and that 300,000 number hasn't dropped at all; in fact it's risen to 448,743 acres.

Yep, read that again. In the time that the United States of America has thrown U$6.775 billion (with a B) at Colombia, that planned drop of 150,000 acres under cultivation has turned into a rise of 150,000 acres! Wild, no?

Now there no doubt that the US handed the money over, and there's no doubt intentions are good on this issue. So what happened? Where did all that money go? We're told non-stop by that Uribe dude that the number of FARC soldiers has been cut by half and its area of influence has shrunk dramatically. If so, who's growing all the extra coca? I'd take a wild guess at those right right wing paramilitaries that filled the vacuum as the FARC were pushed back, wouldn't you? But as we're told they don't exist any more, that can't be right....can it?

A final thought; the USA has been quick to lay the blame at Venezuela's door recently, saying that Chavezlandia is providing the passageway and therefore it is guilty of everything. I could write a whole fairly unoriginal rant on this ridiculous logic, but I think I'll leave it to Colonel Nestor Reverol, president of the Venezuelan National Anti Drugs Office, who nailed a great line on The Washington Post in April;

"We're between the biggest producer of cocaine and the biggest consumer of cocaine, and we're the problem?"