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ColDrugsWarRamirez2005

ColDrugsWarRamirez2005 - P" 3‘24 ‘fk 4 Colombia...

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Unformatted text preview: P" 3‘24 ‘fk 4 Colombia: AVicious Circle of Drugs and War DRUGS AND DEMOCRACY IN LATIN AMERICA Maria Clemencia Ramirez Lemus, Kimberly Stanton & john Walsh rug control issues have long been central to the agenda of U.S.— Colombian relations. Indeed, the U.S. public identifies Colombia, more than any other country, with the “war on drugs." In the Andean region, Colombia is now the focus of US. international drug control policy. When Colombians were consolidating their preeminent role in cocaine traf- ficking during the 1980s, Bolivia and Peru served as the major sources of coca, the plant from whose leaves cocaine is produced. In the mid—1990s, though, Colombia also emerged as the world’s leading coca producer and a major producer of opium poppy, the raw material for heroin. By 2003, Colombia supplied an estimated 90 percent of the cocaine and a significant The Impact of US. Policy edited by . . . . proportlon of the herom consumed 1n the Umted States. Y ers Colombia is often described as one of the oldest democracies in Latin Coletta A- Dung America, yet it is also a country racked by more than forty years of internal armed conflict. The cost of political exclusion for the majority of the popu- lation was the growth and consolidation of insurgent guerrilla movements, two of which are still engaged in armed insurrection against the Colombian state: the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberacion Nacional, or ELN). In addition, right—wing paramilitaries, illegal armed groups with origins in Colombia’s U.S.-aided counterinsurgency strategy, compete with the guer- rillas for control of territory, resources, and support. Since the mid-1990s, the paramilitaries have been loosely organized under the umbrella of the United Self—Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC). Evidence indicates that they continue to receive train- ing, intelligence, and logistical support from members of the Colombian security forces. The FARC, the ELN, and the AUC are currently on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations due to their sys- tematic use of tactics that target noncombatants.l And they benefit, in dif- ferent ways, from the resources provided by the illicit drug trade. Colombia’s history since the 1970s is marked by repeated attempts to Eileen Rosin 5% LYNNE RIENNER PUBUSHERS BOULDER LONDON IOO Ramirez Lemus, Stanton & Walsh Colombia Population 42,800,000 , ;g_ 1 GDP U.S.$82.4 billion, V'GD‘Ppercapitay' ' ~ - -- .U.s‘.$1,9_1f5’ ” Share of Income , . ,_ ' Poorest 10 percent of population __ , 10.8%: _ :;;, ' - RicheSt 10 percent of population ‘ i i 46.5%)? ,i _ i‘ - Ratio of income of richest 10% to poorest 10% 57.8 times , ‘ Percentage l1v1ng 1n poverty (<$2/day) __ __ , 25.5%;' Percentage living 1n extreme poverty (<$1/day) ’_ 144W; Public perception of corruption among public . { officials and politicians (0=m0re,10—less). , "33.71 Sources: UNDP, Human Development Report 2004 World Bank, rte ality atin America: Breaking with Histary?, Transparency Intern ‘ Perceptions Index 2003. " ' i",Nates: Population and GDP data from 2001; share of 1ncome data 2000 go en data 1990—2001 ' " _, . , 4 ,_ .- come to terms with the scourge of drug trafficking and the threat of insur- gency but without addressing effectively the underlying structural problems that feed both phenomena. These include the absence of land reform or a strategy for rural development that would ensure sustainable livelihoods for Colombia’s small farmers and limit the attraction of growing coca. Although political participation is more open, only recently have new polit- ical movements begun to weaken the hegemony of the Liberals and Conservatives, after years in which serious opposition candidates were sim- ply assassinated. And justice remains elusive. Impunity is nearly absolute, both for common crimes and for violations of human rights and internation— al humanitarian law committed in the context of the armed conflict. The Colombian military has committed direct violations of human rights, including massacres, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances, and it has been complicit in or has tolerated these same abuses when com- mitted by the notorious paramilitary forces. U.S. foreign policy has played a key role in shaping Colombia’s inter- nal responses to its problems. Colombian leaders have sought U.S. engage— ment as well as economic and military assistance. However, the nature of Colombia IO | U.S. engagement and the composition of aid packages have been shaped far more by the political agenda in Washington than by Colombian interests and preferences. In spite of the fundamentally political nature of the prob— lems Colombia confronts, the United States has viewed the country prima— rily through a security lens, privileging engagement with the armed forces and the police—a trend that has accelerated in the post—September ll envi- ronment. The U.S. government provided increasing levels of counterdrug assis- tance to Colombia beginning in the late 1980s and into the 19905, initially to combat the Medellin, Cali, and other drug cartels. In the mid-1990s, as coca production began to soar, the United States increased funding for aeri- al eradication, where coca crops are sprayed with a potent herbicide intend- ed to kill the crops. Highly controversial in Colombia, aerial eradication has led thousands of poor farmers to flee the areas being sprayed, often leading to coca production in new areas. Though a thorough and objective evaluation of the program’s impact has yet to be carried out, numerous reports point to the negative consequences for people’s health, food crops and cattle, and the environment. Nonetheless, aerial eradication remains the centerpiece of U.S. counterdrug efforts in Colombia. Although for years the primary U.S. ally was the Colombian police, the bulk of U.S. assistance began flowing to the Colombian military after July 2000. The U.S. Congress approved a massive U.S.$l.3 billion aid initiative termed Plan Colombia after an earlier initiative with the same name by the president of Colombia at the time, Andrés Pastrana. The U.S. package included US$860 million for Colombia, with the rest going to neighboring countries potentially threatened by Colombia’s internal conflict and its booming illicit drug trade. Of the aid destined for Colombia, the vast majority was—and continues to be~—provided to the security forces. Human rights conditions placed on U.S. assistance have largely failed to end recipient forces’ complicity in human rights violations. The rationale put forward by U.S. policymakers for the growing role of the Colombian military in what was, at the time, still considered a counter— drug mission, was guerrilla involvement in the drug trade, The “narcoguer— rilla” tenninology—though in use for many years previously—became the dominant discourse. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. policy- makers shifted their language again. Colombia’s guerrillas became “nar- coterrorists,” and the U.S. Congress authorized the use of counterdrug assets for counterterrorist purposes. Through a variety of programs and forms of assistance, the U.S. government now provides direct support to the Colombian counterinsurgency effort. Yet four years after the approval of Plan Colombia, the country is no closer to overcoming its structural problems, drug trafficking continues unabated, and peace remains a distant dream. 102 ' Ramirez Lemus, Stanton & Walsh ' Prelude to Plan Colombia Colombia is a country racked by more than forty years of internal armed conflict, rooted in a period of intense nationwide strife known as La Violencia. Between 1947 and 1953, some 300,000 Colombians died during struggles over land rights and in armed clashes between the two main polit— ical parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives. The violence receded fol- lowing a 1953 military coup. Six years later the civilian elite regained for- mal control under a power-sharing agreement in which elections continued to be held, but the two parties alternated the presidency between them- selves. The agreement expired in 1974; in the meantime, however, the exclusion of other groups from the political process had contributed to the development of a number of insurgent guerrilla movements. Several of the groups, including the once-predominant M-19, disarmed and joined the electoral process in 1990. Two groups are still engaged in armed insurrec- tion against the Colombian state: the 17,000-strong FARC, and the ELN, with perhaps 3,000 members. Cold War and Counterinsurgency During the Cold War, the United States fostered a close relationship with the Colombian military that it has maintained to the present. At the height of the East-West conflict during the 1960s, the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson considered Colombia a key front in the effort to stop the Cuban revolution from spreading throughout the Western Hemisphere. They lavished counterinsurgency assistance on the Colombian armed forces—including aid that supported the 1964 attack on Marquetalia, an armed peasant commune. That attack led to the formation of the FARC. U.S. assistance for Colombia’s military continued at moderate levels throughout the Cold War, complemented by training programs. The Colombian paramilitary groups of today also have their origins in the 1960s, when U.S. military advisers first recommended the organization of “indigenous irregulars” as a fundamental component of Colombian counterinsurgency strategy.2 The legal basis for state sponsorship of para— military organizations, officially called “self—defense forces,” was a 1965 decree law that had enshrined the U.S. Doctrine of National Security in Colombian law and allowed the government to “mobilize the population in activities and tasks” to restore public order. (The doctrine, described more fully in endnote 1 in Chapter 2, defined threats to national stability and development very broadly, and implicitly legitimized the use of any meas- ures deemed effective against such threats.) Self-defense groups became part of military doctrine: the army was “to organize in military form the civilian population, to protect itself against the action of guerrillas and sup- port the execution of combat operations."3 From the mid-1960s on, the armed forces actively sought the involvement of businessmen, landowners, Colombia 1 03 and political leaders in the creation and financing of such groups.4 Today the loosely organized paramilitary network, the AUC, is said to number about 13,000. Over time, both the guerrilla and the paramilitary forces became major. players in the drug trade. As described in more detail below, key paramili— tary groups have been, from the outset, closely linked to drug traffickers. In the 1980s, the FARC began taxing coca production by small farmers in ter— ritories under its control. Over time, the drug trade became a major source of financing for the FARC, as its role expanded to include control of labo- ratories, marketing, and trafficking, at least in some regions.5 In the mid- 1990s, the paramilitaries decided to challenge FARC control of coca terri- tory and markets, and they gained increasing resources from the illicit drug trade as well. Statements by paramilitary leaders suggest that they currently earn 40—70 percent of their income from the drug trade. Beginnings of Colombia’s Drug War Colombia’s war against drugs had its origins in the late 19705, when eradi- cation programs in Mexico pushed the cultivation of marijuana to Colombia’s Atlantic coast. Beginning with the administration of Jimmy Carter (1977—1981), the United States pressed Colombian authorities to eliminate illegal drug crops and to pursue drug traffickers within a law enforcement framework that included the possibility of extraditing Colombian traffickers to the United States. Colombia’s first aerial eradica- tion campaign took place during the government of Julio Cesar Turbay (1978—1982), when thousands of acres of marijuana were sprayed with the chemical herbicide paraquat. Turbay also signed a 1979 extradition treaty that was quickly ratified by the U.S. Senate and went into effect in 1982. During the 1980s, the Medellin and Cali cartels, which managed the marijuana trade, expanded their business into processing Peruvian and Bolivian coca and then trafficking the cocaine they produced. The power of these family-based criminal networks grew quickly and dramatically. As the cartels consolidated control over a billion-dollar drug industry, their leaders sought political power through legal and illegal means—all backed by the threat of violence. Colombian authorities pursued the cartels because of their drug trafficking, and the authorities strongly resisted cartel efforts to penetrate the state. In August 1983, President Belisario Betancur (1982—1986) appointed Rodrigo Lara Bonilla as minister of justice. Lara Bonilla launched an intense campaign against the cartels. On March 10, 1984, in a major joint operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Colombian govemment captured ten metric tons of cocaine and destroyed 101 coca-processing laboratories.6 Six weeks later, Lara Bonilla was assassinated on the orders of the Medellin traffickers. l04 , Ramirez Lemus, Stanton &Walsh In response, Betancur declared “total war” against the cartel. He gave up his principled opposition to extradition and refused offers from cartel leaders to give up their drug businesses in exchange for, among other things, a promise that they would not be extradited to the United States. The traffickers, who came to be known as the “extraditables,” then unleashed a series of brutal attacks that left hundreds of judges, police investigators, journalists, and other public figures dead. The victims includ- ed presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, assassinated in August 1989.7 The killings did not prevent Betancur or his successor, Virgilio Barco (1986—1990), from proceeding with extradition. When Colombia captured Medellin cartel leader Carlos Lehder in February 1987, he was immediately extradited. But extradition went forward by means of “a complex and judi— cially dubious process,”8 as the executive branch sought ways around court decisions—some made as a result of threats and intimidation by the traf- fickers—that voided the extradition treaty. With extradition at risk, the United States asserted that Colombia was not doing enough against the illicit drug trade. On the day that Galan was murdered, however. Colombia’s Council of Ministers restored extradition by administrative decree, and the action was subsequently upheld by the Colombian Supreme Court.9 Shortly thereafter, the United States sent an additional US$65 million in counterdrug aid.lo By February 1990, four— teen extraditions had taken place, although a subsequent evaluation of these found that they had no effect in reducing drug trafficking.11 When Colombia adopted a new constitution in 1991, extradition was prohibited. The bruising experience with extradition shaped a proposal by the gov- ernment of César Gaviria (l990—l994) in which drug traffickers who turned themselves in, and confessed to a crime that allowed a judge to open a case against them, would be spared extradition and benefit from a reduced sentence. Backed by increased resources provided through President George H. W. Bush’s Andean Initiative, the strategy produced the surrender in January 1991 of three Ochoa brothers, leaders of the Medellin cartel. Pablo Escobar, the notorious head of the Medellin cartel, turned himself over in June 1991.12 (He escaped from jail in July 1992 and was later killed in U.S.-assisted operations in December 1993.) By the end of Gaviria’s presidency, the Medellin cartel had been virtually dismantled. The government of Gaviria’s successor, Ernesto Samper (1994—1998), was marked by a crisis in U.S.-Colombian relations due to allegations that the Cali cartel, which benefited from the dismantling of the Medellin organization, had financed his presidential campaign. Samper was eventu- ally cleared in a formal investigation by the Chamber of Representatives that began in June 1994, but the investigation provoked a severe crisis within the government. The United States canceled Samper’s US. visa and decertified Colombia for lack of cooperation in drug control, although it Colombia 1 05 continued to provide counterdrug aid. Ironically, in part because of the scandal, Samper pursued a highly aggressive and punitive counterdrug pol— icy. Investigations by the police and the attorney general’s office led to the arrests of five leaders of the Cali cartel in the summer of 1995. By September 1996 all the Cali leaders were imprisoned.‘3 A year later, seek- ing to improve the relationship with the United States, the Colombian Congress amended the constitution to restore extradition. However, the breakup of the two largest cartels by the mid—1990s did not lead to a long-term decline in Colombian drug trafficking. Rather, it presaged a new phase in the drug war; the cartels were quickly replaced by smaller organizations that lacked the capacity to operate transnationally, and coca production in Colombia increased dramatically. In December 1994, Colonel Leonardo Gallego, head of the counternarcotics police, described the south—central province of Guaviare as “a sea of coca.”14 Colombia’s National Narcotics Directorate (Direccion Nacional de Estupefacientes, or DNE) reported a total of 43,000 hectares of coca in 1994, 67,200 in 1996, and 79,500 in 1997, at which point Colombia became the largest producer of coca in the Andean region.15 Samper responded to the expansion of coca production by increasing aerial eradication, or fumigation, as it has come to be known. Large-scale fumigation of coca began in the province of Guaviare, at that time the zone of greatest coca cultivation. From 1995 through 1997, pilots sprayed more than 38,000 hectares. The total area sprayed increased to more than 65,000 hectares in 1998, when operations were extended to the neighboring province of Caqueta.l6 By the end of Samper’s presidency, as drug traffick- ing continued apace, the counterdrug strategy had shifted decisively toward attacking the cultivation of coca, which in practice meant targeting peasant producers. Fumigation became the centerpiece of the US. aid package negotiated by President Andrés Pastrana (l998—2002), known as Plan Colombia; it remains at the heart of US. and Colombian counterdrug efforts. - Plan Colombia In the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the heyday of Colombia’s infa— mous drug cartels, US. military assistance to Colombia increased signifi- cantly over Cold War levels. By 1991, Colombia had surpassed El Salvador as the region’s largest recipient of military and police aid. In this period the primary beneficiary of counterdrug aid was the Colombian police. As late as 1997, as much as 90 percent of the aid went to the police for interdiction efforts and for fumigation of illegal crops. With the initiation of Plan Colombia, however, the Colombian military surpassed the police as the pri- mary beneficiary of US assistance. After the FARC handed the Colombian armed forces important defeats l06 . Ramir'ez Lemus, Stanton & walsh in the mid—1990s, some U.S. policymakers sought consideration of coun— terinsurgency aid. Winning support for this proved politically difficult given the controversial U.S. involvements in Vietnam and Central America. However, by reframing Colombia’s internal armed conflict as being inte— grally connected to the issue of drug control, U.S. policymakers were able to garner support for Plan Colombia. Designing Plan Colombia Andres Pastrana was elected president in 1998 on a platform that pledged control of the drug trade as we...
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