eyes on the U.S.

Plan Colombia, A 15-Year Scam Of Yankee Imperialism

Plan Colombia was never the aid program touted by leaders in Washington and Bogota. But it proved to be excellent business for arms dealers and other shady characters.

Colombian Special Forces in Puerto Asis, Colombia
Colombian Special Forces in Puerto Asis, Colombia
Reinaldo Spitaletta

BOGOTÁ â€" War and peace are both big business.

For whom exactly? In the last 50 years or so, the United States and affiliated elites in Colombia have profited from war here, most notably through the delectable program called "Plan Colombia." The purported aid plan was conceived in 1999 under Bill Clinton's presidency, and implemented in the calamitous days of our then president, Andrés Pastrana (though he was no worse than his predecessors and perhaps less terrible than his successors).

War, as U.S. mercenaries could tell you, has proved to be a big bazaar and gateway to a flourishing market for guns, planes, helicopters, pesticides, radars and even the AK-47 rifles the CIA supplied years ago to one of the country's guerrilla forces.

Plan Colombia (which was initially to be called Paz Colombia or Peace Colombia), has in the guise of aid proved to be nothing more than a handover of our national sovereignty to the yankees on the one hand, and a brilliant opportunity for tremendous profits for foreign firms and a motley crew of intermediaries and professional negotiators.

One commonly hears that the United States has no friends, but only interests, evident in its (ever so humanitarian) "investments" in some of its pseudo-colonies. As the analyst Thomas A. Marks once said, the Americans were in Colombia in order to resolve their own domestic problems, which the Colombians knew perfectly well.

In 1999, President Clinton visited Cartagena de Indias with the aim of hastening the country's adherence to Plan Colombia. The event was carefully stage-managed to give the impression that the "leader of the free world" was risking his life. U.S. agents swarmed into the colonial port, while protests against Clinton's presence were squashed with indecent force and brutality. The city's black population and beggars were hidden away, and everything sparkled as it were, to receive the boss himself.

Colin Powell visiting Colombia in support of Plan Colombia in 2003 â€" Photo: White House

Planes, helicopters and a small army of policemen came in with Clinton, lest he be kidnapped or at the very least, receive a tomato or egg on his face. He ended up dancing the cumbia in one of the city's colonial streets, all within a "psycho-social" campaign to convince the public of Plan Colombia's necessity. Just days before, the CIA had â€" apparently inadvertently! â€" handed over 10,000 rifles to the communist FARC rebels, which would increase their firepower and further justify the Plan.

With mercenaries already active in the country, the United States installed bases and radars and especially in the Amazonian regions, a bountiful source of fresh water and veritable gene bank for the future of humanity. The Plan also paved the way for subsequent free-trade pacts.

Of the first $1.3 billion that arrived in Colombia, Washington diverted a good part to the multinational firms that had paid hefty sums to lobby U.S. legislators to vote for Plan Colombia. A slice of the cake for everyone then. Many companies with interests in Colombia were naturally in favor of the Plan, and of sending war materials; the arrangement proved to be a blessing for firms like Dyncorp (which trained anti-drug missions in Colombia), Dupont (pesticides), Black Hawk (choppers) or Lockheed (early-warning radar systems).

Plan was more a military strategy conceived by the U.S. Southern Command than the disinterested aid presented in media, which seemed more interested in mouthing official postures than seeking out the type of information authorities conceal.

Today, the Plan and U.S. intervention are continuing under the more euphemistic name of Paz Colombia, celebrated by President Juan Manuel Santos and the big firms that stand to prosper from Colombia's resources.

Our country may not be a failed state but it remains in critical condition, with the enormous gap between its rich and poor, very high jobless rates, deindustrialization, increasingly precarious lifestyles and declining public healthcare, education and culture. Peace should never be used to cover up, or increase, a country's miseries.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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