Letter to Presidential Candidate Joe Biden

Dear Former Vice President Biden,

I am concerned about your ideas on what U. S. policy toward Colombia and the rest of Latin America should be. I plan to vote for you as President in our upcoming November 3 election. But based upon your expressions of opinion during your term as Vice President in the Obama Administration about what the U.S. role in Latin America should be, I am very concerned that your policies may be short-sighted and harmful both to our country and to Latin America.

As a member of the Obama Administration you made a suggestion in the New York Times Opinion Pages on January 25, 2015 that was so lacking in basic knowledge that it takes one’s breath away. You ignored the fact that the Obama Administration acceded to a coup d’etat in Honduras—President Obama first correctly called the overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya’s government a coup d’etat, but backtracked on his statement when the State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected the characterization of the expulsion of President Zelaya as a coup—which has led to massive death and destruction to that country. You proposed as a solution a “Plan Colombia” for Honduras and its neighbors El Salvador and Guatemala. You called for “systemic change” in these three countries, which you said “we in the United States have a direct interest in helping to bring about.”

This updated statement of the Monroe Doctrine matches the term used by Secretary of State John Kerry when he spoke of Latin America as the United States’ “backyard” back in 2013, thus using a demeaning term which is universally rejected by responsible Latin American governments. In that case Secretary Kerry received an entirely appropriate reproach by President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who threw the U.S. Government’s Agency for International Development (USAID) out of Bolivia in response to Secretary Kerry’s remarks. It is clear that you had internalized the approach to Latin America which President Clinton enunciated upon visiting Colombia in the company of Gary Drummond of the Drummond Corporation, which has extensively polluted parts of Colombia near its coal mines there.

            It is, in fact, particularly inappropriate to call for a Plan Colombia for any Latin American country, as is readily apparent when one considers the real effects of Plan Colombia on Colombia itself. In establishing Plan Colombia, the United States Government under President Bill Clinton set forth two basic goals: 1) to assure access to Colombia’s natural resources for U.S. companies at very advantageous terms and 2) to open markets in Colombia for U.S. agricultural and manufactured products. A third goal was to carry forward the so-called “war on drugs” by providing billions of dollars for a coca crop-spraying program, using glyphosate (Roundup Ultra, manufactured by Bayer/Monsanto) to kill the coca crop in rural Colombia. To guarantee that the first two goals could be profitably carried out for U.S. businesses, Colombia was expected to eliminate or suppress any effective opposition to these U.S. policy priorities. The Clinton Administration’s formula for doing so was called “Plan Colombia”.

            The results of the implementation of Plan Colombia have been catastrophic for the Colombian people. When a Colombian Presidential candidate came along in 2002 with a plan to implement military and paramilitary suppression of any opposition to the neo-liberal development plans being promoted by the United States for Colombia, he soon became Washington’s darling. It didn’t matter that the candidate, Alvaro Uribe Velez, was on a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency list of persons involved in the drug trade, and was reliably reported to have enabled and assisted drug lord Pablo Escobar’s airborne drug transportation by approving rural landing strips for his use when Uribe was the head of Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Department. Implementation of Plan Colombia by the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez (2002-2010) resulted in mass displacement of Colombian small farmers and others in rural areas and small towns, as Uribe’s government supported paramilitary forces which expelled people from their lands. The result was that more than 8 million people were forced out of their homes and thousands were killed. Colombia became the country with more internally displaced persons than any other country in the world. And the “War on Drugs” campaign led to displacement and ruin of food crops, as Roundup was indiscriminately sprayed over food crops, undermining the food supply for thousands of rural Colombians. Meanwhile, coca production was hardly affected; in statistical terms the spraying has been a monumental failure. And the U.S. eagerly supported Uribe, with President George W. Bush even awarding him the U.S. Government’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

            Plan Colombia did not, as you suggest, save Colombia from being a “failed state”. On the contrary, Plan Colombia took the country closer to being a “failed state”, one in which the government’s policies do not benefit the great majority of its people and social protest is criminalized and violently repressed. It is a grossly inappropriate model for U.S. policy toward Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—or anywhere else on the planet. I ask that you modify your views, reject the notion that Plan Colombia was helpful to Colombians and their country, and develop a United States Government policy that supports benefitting most Colombians, not the narrow corporate self-interest of United States businesses.


                                                            John Laun

                                                           Co-Founder and Program Director

                                                            Colombia Support Network

                                                            Madison, Wisconsin

This entry was posted in Editorials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.