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.
BOGOTÁ — 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.
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Colin Powell visiting Colombia in support of Plan Colombia in 2003 — 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 — apparently inadvertently! — 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.