A Compass for Colombia Policy

Compass for ColombiaIn 2000, the United States launched an ambitious rates of violent displacement, despite the partial aid program designed to help Colombia combat illicit drugs. The program, known as Plan Colombia or the Andean Counternarcotics Initiative, was also presented as a plan to help our neighbor “regain the citizens’ confidence and recuperate the basic norms of peaceful coexistence,” as well as build “an effective judicial system that can defend and promote respect for human rights.”1 Nine years later, despite military gains, these goals remain elusive. Colombia’s production of cocaine is virtually unchanged. Peace with Colombia’s guerrillas is still a distant prospect. And Colombia continues to suffer horrific human rights problems, including one of the world’s highest demobilization of one abusive armed group. It is time to reevaluate this program and change course.

U.S. policy should use as its guiding compass supporting efforts in Colombia to strengthen human rights and to govern more inclusively. Far from a few changes along the margins, this requires a change of heart. It requires shifting away from a celebratory embrace of a particular administration to a more strategic and calibrated response designed to end impunity and improve life for excluded sectors, especially the rural poor. It entails reshaping aid from a largely military focus to an emphasis on civilian governance. U.S. policy must aim to strengthen Colombia’s institutions, rather than risking broad U.S. policy goals through support of one administration or charismatic leader.

The most potent forces for change are within Colombia, and U.S. policy should consciously support and empower the human rights advocates, victims, judges, prosecutors, government oversight staff, journalists, legislators, union leaders, and Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and other community leaders who are the driving forces towards a more just society. From justice, other goals will advance: towards an end to the conflict, reduced power and corrupting influence of the drug trade, and a more prosperous and stable Colombia. 

To read this report in Spanish, click this link: http://www.ciponline.org/images/uploads/publications/081022comp_es-1.pdf

Para leer este informe en español, haga click aqui: http://www.ciponline.org/images/uploads/publications/081022comp_es-1.pdf