The nearly $5 billion U.S. aid package known as Plan Colombia failed to
meet its goal of halving illegal narcotics production in this Andean
nation, says a U.S. congressional report released Wednesday.
The General Accounting Office report does, however, note that the
mostly military assistance helped Colombia markedly improve security,
with kidnapping and murder rates falling and the armed forces greatly
diminishing the leftist rebel threat.
Its release comes as U.S.
officials make it clear that aid for Colombia, an estimated $657
million in fiscal 2008, will be now be trimmed because of the U.S.
A widening scandal over army killings of
civilians to boost body counts that cost Colombia’s army chief his job
this week could, additionally, impact U.S. aid to the nation.
Barack Obama is among U.S. Democrats who have expressed concern over
human rights violations in Colombia’s long-running conflict.
record aerial eradication, coca cultivation rose by 15 percent in this
Andean nation during Plan Colombia’s 2000-2006 run, the report by the
U.S. Congress’ research arm says.
It added that cocaine
production rose by less — 4 percent — because eradication efforts
forced growers to more widely disperse their crops, contributing to
Opium cultivation and heroin production did, however, decline by 50 percent over the period.
think it’s very, very important that a U.S. agency has now said that
the U.S. drug war has failed in Colombia,” said Adam Isacson of the
Center for International Policy, a liberal Washington, D.C. think tank.
remains the source of 90 percent of the cocaine in the United States
and most of the heroin consumed east of the Mississippi river.
GAO report was requested by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden, who
chairs Senate Foreign Relations committee, and offers recommendations
for aid cuts including turning over to the Colombians operation of key
military aviation units.
Its authors recommend U.S. and Colombian
officials “develop a joint plan for turning over operational and
funding responsibilities for U.S.-supported programs to Colombia.”
what period remains unclear, and the report cautions that Colombia’s
security gains are “not irreversible” as long as rebels remain a threat.
ranks of Colombia’s military and police nearly doubled from 279,000 to
415,000 in 2007, the report notes, while the leftist Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia diminished by half to about 8,000 fighters.
Minister Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday that U.S. Democrats are
divided over whether to change the roughly 2-to-1 balance of military
versus economic aid.
He said he hoped pending discussions with
yet-to-be named members of President-elect Barack Obama’s
administration would result in “cuts that are the fewest painful
Plan Colombia was announced in 1999 and was an initiative of then-President Andres Pastrana and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Pastrana told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was worried about potentially crippling aid cuts.
is going to have to think about the fact that we’re combatting a common
enemy, which is narcoterrorism — and that he can’t leave Colombia