Taking stock of 15 years of aid to help pacify Colombia

To help its South American ally win the last armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere, the United States  began financing in 2000 the so-called Plan Colombia. Fifteen  years and 10 billion dollars later,  and  as the  third  year of peace negotiations between guerrillas and the Colobian government  in  Cuba rolls, the Obama administration and President Juan Miguel Santos gathered in Washington to draw  a balance of the controversial success of the US aid package, and to assess Colombia's request for a new chapter, Paz Colombia.

The war waged in the jungles of Colombia between the Armed Forces and far-left guerrillas that lasted a record fifty years and counting dates back to the 60s. FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces), ELN (National Liberation Army) and other groupings initially set off to defend the farmers against the privatization of natural resources by US and Colombian corporations. Soon, though, the conflict involved right-wing paramilitary groups activated by drug traffickers, by sectors of the military and by landowners.

Colombia was producing 80% of the world’s cocaine. In remote areas, poverty forced many subsistence farmers to abandon their traditional crops and to switch to cultivating coca for the guerrillas, who exchanged the produce for dollars and weapons.  The nation  was on the brink of becoming a failed state. Kidnappings had risen to 3,000 a year.

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