Plan Colombia: "Success." (Editorial concerning the supposed achievements of
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
Corporación Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo"
October 1, 2007
"Plan Colombia has been a success for Colombia, a success for the region,
a success for United States," recently assured newly appointed US ambassador
William Brownfield, a position -without a doubt- shared by the Colombian
government, which is expending untold effort to ensure the continuation of
In 1999, the War on Drugs, which is the primary focus of Plan Colombia, was
formulated to diminish by 50% the area cultivated with plants used for
purposes and substantially lower the flow of cocaine to United States, (and
consequently diminish consumption), which justified the militarization of
Colombia and the narcotization of the conflict.  We are still a long way
from employing such flattering conclusions.
The word in Spanish for success is éxito (from the Latin exitus, meaning
result or solution). Let us take a glance at the context in which this word
When Plan Colombia began, there were 163,289 hectares planted with coca. In
2007, there were still 157,200 hectares. During the Álvaro Uribe Vélez
administrations, approximately 800,000 hectares have been fumigated, while
over the last two years 3,300 eradicators -distributed in 109 mobile groups
operating in 20 departments- have eradicated 109,000 hectares, according to
official figures from Social Action. The previously described means that all
of this "effort" has only represented the effective decrease of 6,000
In 1999, coca was present in 12 of the 32 [administrative regions]
in Colombia. Presently, coca is found in 23 departments.  The department
Nariño, neighboring the department of Putumayo, has had the greatest
in cultivated area (in keeping with the logic of the balloon effect),
almost 10% of the national total.
From 1999 to 2006, 11,563 cocaine-processing laboratories were destroyed,
while the persecution of the chemical precursors used in this process was
minimal and almost exclusively focused on gasoline, a vital resource for the
lives of thousands of families in rural areas who are not even necessarily
involved in the planting of coca.
From 2002 to 2006, more than 600 tons of cocaine was confiscated. 
Nonetheless, over the last four years, the price of cocaine has lowered 36
percent on US streets.  This means supply has remained constant and
production capacity is greater than that presumed by authorities determining
antinarcotics policy. 
In addition to the unquestionable inefficacy of the methods implemented in
forced eradication (since 1978, no less), other elements must also be
considered concerning this policy’s impact on human rights. For instance,
if the Colombian government has employed effective mechanisms to
said impact,  the current situation with Ecuador has brought to light a
fairly complete picture of the violations to the rights of persons and
communities subject to these policies. Aerial fumigations, carried out
a mixture of the product called Round Up (commercial name for gyphosate
herbicide) and a surfactant called Cosmoflux with other additives," 
directly impact the rights to health, food, environment, access to justice,
and not being forcibly displaced. 
For its part, forced manual eradication does not represent an alternative to
the humanitarian collateral effects of the fumigation. The mobile groups are
made up of persons not from the area of operation. These persons are also
reintegrated members of paramilitarism, which produces fear among the
population. Furthermore, these mobile groups only begin to work after
out land-based military operations with police and army protective security
rings, which damage the licit food economy.  In 2007, in the departments
of Putumayo and Nariño, where forced manual eradication is most undertaken,
two mass displacements have already taken place as a consequence of these
Nonetheless, other antinarcotics activities have also affected human rights
and the environment. In August 2007, troops from Battalion No. 3 Cabal de
Ipiales – Nariño, incinerated several tons of chemical precursor and, as a
result, contaminated the Cultún River, which hundreds of persons living in
rural communities along its shores depended on for their subsistence. More
than 20,000 fish, and several cattle, died and the health of the local
population was put in grave danger. As is common in these cases, the army
troops did not follow proper procedures for the destruction of these
With these briefly described situations, Plan Colombia, as a public policy
the war on drugs, can hardly be sustained to be a success. Nonetheless, if
were, the question must be raised: what kind of success and for whom?
Looking at reality, we see how the success of Plan Colombia is found in a
military setting and benefits the national and international war industry.
This is why it is not disproportionate to assert (once again) the success of
Plan Colombia essentially lies in its failure. While the War on Drugs fails,
it will only become even more necessary.
 Term used by the UNDP.
 Vargas, Ricardo. Cultivos Ilícitos en Colombia: Elementos para un
Balance. Fundación Seguridad y Democracia, Bogotá, September 2005.
 Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca Colombia. United Nations Office against
Drugs and Crime, June 2007.
 Logros de la Política de Consolidación de la Seguridad Democrática –
Colombian Ministry of Defense, Bogotá, September 2007.
 Precio de Cocaína en Calles de EEUU ha Bajado 36 Por Ciento en los
Años. El Tiempo newspaper, Bogotá, April 25, 2007.
 In this regard, Ricardo Vargas has carried out several studies. Ob. Cit.
 For instance, through undertaking scientific studies (certainly fairly
controversial), which deny the impact on health and environment; through
non-compliance with its duty to implement an epidemiological oversight plan
the sprayed areas; through procedures hindering the registration of persons
displaced by fumigations; as well as through other procedures hindering
reparation for the damage to the licit assets of the affected persons. (See
Resolution 0017 of May 12, 2006, of the National Narcotics Council.)
 United Nations. Ob. Cit.
 Informe Comision Cientifico-Tecnica sobre Impactos de las Fumigaciones
Plan Colombia. Acción Ecológica, Ecuador,
<http://www.accionecologica.org <http://www.accionecologica.org/> >.
 Aura María Puyana, independent consultant.
 "Protests, mobilizations, and stoppages of the main roadways, marked
of the most complex weeks -insofar as public order- in the history of
Indigenous peoples from the Awá community and campesinos from Policarpa,
Cumbitara, Leyva and El Rosario, among other areas in the north of the
department, traveled to the rural community of El Remolino along the
Panamerican and El Diviso on the way to Tumaco. Principally, the protests
related to the aerial and manual eradication campaign of the crops used for
illicit purposes undertaken by the national government in this part of the
country. The most critical moment was when hundreds of campesinos began to
leave their homes to set themselves up on Panamerican Highway with the
singular purpose of using the stoppage as the only way to be heard by the
national government." Nariño Afectado por Bloqueos de Vías y Desplazamiento
Masivo de Personas. Nariño Governor’s Office,
 Desastre Ambiental por Insumos de Coca. El Tiempo newspaper, Bogotá,
August 31, 2007.
"No podrá haber paz mientras subsistan diferencias tan profundas,
desproporcionadas e irritantes en la suerte de las personas y de los
– José Alvear Restrepo
"Peace is not possible as long as such profound, disproportionate, and
aggravating differences exist in the fate of persons and peoples." – José
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