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This report finds that U.S. assistance has dropped near the lowest levels in more than a decade—about US$2.2 billion foreseen for 2014. But dollar amounts are deceptive. While U.S. diplomatic efforts are flagging, other less transparent forms of military-to-military cooperation are on the rise. For example, the report finds that Special Operations Forces, whose budgets are not being cut as they re-deploy from Iraq and Afghanistan, are visiting Latin America more frequently for joint training in war-fighting skills, intelligence gathering, and other military missions.

Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine, and humanitarian emergency since the mid-1960s, and since 2000 has been by far the number-one recipient of U.S. military and police assistance beyond the Middle East. About four years ago, faced of governing territory under illegal armed groups’ underwent an important shift in strategy. 

 

Over the course of 2011, we traveled to three of Colombia's Consolidation zones: the Pacific coast port of Tumaco, the La Macarena zone in south-central Colombia, and the Montes de María zone near the Caribbean. In each zone, we interviewed leaders, community members, military and civilian Consolidation officials, human rights defenders, analysts and others. This publication lays out our organizations' principal findings, concerns and recommendations following our research visits to the three zones.

Colombia is the only country in the Americas to have significantly reduced insecurity measures in the past 10 years, but Colombia offers no model for Mexico. Some tactics may apply, but the strategy does not. The experience of "Plan Colombia" since 2000 is more of a cautionary tale.

 

American citizens enjoy a legal concept that many na- tions do not. Domestically, the United States has a clear separation between the uses of its military and the uses of its law enforcement agencies. U.S. law gener- ally restricts the military from use against its citizens. While this separation does not guide U.S. operations in battleground environments like Iraq and Afghanistan, it remains very strong at home.

On July 13, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law a $1.3 billion package of mostly military aid, known as “Plan Colombia,” that made Colombia by far the biggest U.S. aid recipient outside the Middle East. Now, ten years later, Colombia often gets described as a “success” in Washington. Officials and analysts point to improvements in several measures of security in the conflict-torn South American country. They give the credit to U.S. assistance and to President Álvaro Uribe, who took over in 2002 and implemented a hard-line security policy.

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Recent Reports

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