Uribe boasts “Plan Colombia II”; Bush policy unchanged

Earlier this month, a delegation from the Bush adminisation met with President Alvaro Uribe in Bogota to evaluate what Uribe is calling “Plan Colombia II.” The delegation was led by assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs Tom Shannon and assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs Anne Patterson (former US ambassador to Colombia). Also on the delegation were assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere policy Stephen Johnson, assistant attorney general Mary Lee Warren and US AID deputy director Mark Silverman. The Bogota daily El Tiempo called it part of Uribe’s “diplomatic offensive” to assure continued Plan Colombia aid following the changes in Washington. He officially dubs his new program “Plan Colombia Consolidation Phase: Strategy for Strengthening Democracy and Social Development.” It emphasizes alternative crop programs for peasants in drug-growing regions and job programs for the 32,000 ostensibly “demobilized” paramilitary fighters. (El Tiempo, Jan. 26)

But simultaneously, Colombian National Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and chief of staff Gen. Freddy Padilla flew to Washington to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon on Feb. 1, to discuss ongoing military cooperation. (DefenseLink, Feb. 1)

The US anti-war group Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), which opposes US military aid to Colombia, reports in its February update that “in a meeting with human rights groups, Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco reportedly said that Colombia would like to change the percentage of military to non-military aid from the US from the approximately 80+ percent military that it has been since 2000 to a 50-50 mix of military to social and economic assistance.”

Instead, the Bush administration budget request continues the same formula of mostly funds for helicopters, military training and aerial fumigation. More than three quarters of the $586 million requested for Colombia in the Foreign Operations budget are military and police assistance. Taking into account the separate budget request for funds through the Pentagon, which in recent years has been between $120 and $200 million, the administration’s Colombia assistance budget request is more than 80% military and police aid. (FOR Colombia Update, February 2007)

See our last post on Colombia.