As Colombian Government edges ever closer to inking a peace deal with armed rebel group the FARC, what will this new phase mean for the country’s 15-year-old agreement with the U.S.: Plan Colombia.
An agreement between the two countries which has seen Colombia’s northern neighbor pump some $10,000 million into conflict resolution since 2000, targeting criminal groups, armed crime and the notorious ‘War on Drugs’.
Supported under the Clinton administration, who pledged up to $1.3 billion in foreign aid, in addition to the $330 million previously earmarked, the Bush presidency placed a spanner in the well-oiled aid works, reducing the totals initially pledged.
The U.S. currently pledge $300 million each year to Colombia, with President Barack Obama and Santos set to sit down and revise totals for a new ‘Plan Colombia 2.0’ following the signing of the peace deal on March 23.
“After having helped Colombia to create the necessary conditions for a peace deal, the U.S. should now help Colombia to meet with this huge promise that peace will bring,” State Secretary John Kerry commented.
Closer to home, Santos told daily El Heraldo that the plan “has been a very useful and efficient tool from the U.S. to help with Colombia’s fight against drug trafficking, strengthening its institutions, the armed forces, the results can be seen.”
Despite the FARC’s total capacity dropping by 68 percent from their peak activity in 2002, the guerrilla still remain one of the richest and most powerful insurgent groups in Latin America, with some 7,000 active members.
Colombia has also witnessed a marked drop in the country’s murder rates from 28,837 reported in 2002 to 12,673 in 2015. Kidnappings have also dropped from 2,882 in 2002 to 210 during 2015, while enforced displacement has dipped from 711,000 to 76,000.
Coca production still paints a more difficult picture, El Espectador reports, with crop totals falling from 170,000 hectares in 2001 to 112,000 in 2014, according to U.S. government estimates. In the country’s rural Putumayo department, coca crops dropped from 60 million hectares between 2001 to 2002 to around 6,000 hectares in 2004, according to W radio. While these totals are estimates, certainly Plan Colombia appears to have paid off.
Nevertheless, the country remains the world’s largest producer of coca.
A new phase
The signing of a peace accord also raises new problems for Santos’ government. Will victims truly receive compensation? Will fair trials be arranged for once FARC members? And what of the group’s proposed move into politics?
If Colombia is indeed looking to sever ties with the U.S., it appears that the country will still have to wait a bit longer. During this new phase, what kind of aid can Colombia expect to receive?
“We need to review the details from the new plan and discuss which is the best manner in which we can help. I hope that by this, the next president of the U.S. and the new Congress will understand the need to keep building on the successes reached during these 15 years of U.S. participation in Colombia.” Patrick Leahy, a senior U.S. politician and Senator of Vermont told El Tiempo.
Success aside, it looks like a serious cash injection remains on the cards as Colombia prepares for peace and an updated version of a well-worn plan.
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