Since the introduction of narcotics in the United States, American society has felt the effects of drug use in all aspects of daily living. As drug use heightened to new levels in the 1980’s the Bush Administration chose to declare a “war” on drugs. Never before in our history had crime been combated with war. This war led to the militarization of the United States’ tactics for overcoming illegal drug use in the U.S. Instead of choosing to combat drug use by putting greater effort into reducing demand the Bush Administration chose to decrease illegal drug supply. This required reducing drug supplies from Latin America, an area where most of the illegal drugs are produced and trafficked. The Clinton Administration has chosen to maintain the drug “war”. The administration has not changed the distribution of funds that are used for combating the drug problem. The drug war has continued to demonstrate limited success, yet militarization has increased along with spending.
Since the beginning of the drug “war” Latin American nations have been targeted by the United States. Latin American nations are believed to be the among the major illegal drug producers in the world. Illicit drug cultivation has more than tripled in the last four or five years. Today, Colombia is the world’s leading source of cocaine and the leading cultivator of coca, the raw material for cocaine (Reuters). In 1986 Washington passed the International Narcotics Control Act which required foreign countries to cooperate with U.S. efforts in drug-enforcement. The countries could not be “certified” by the U.S. unless they complied with U.S. demands. The executive order given by the President is passed through Congress, where it is negotiated and then ratified. Certification means a continuation of aid from the United States and gains U.S. favor in international financial situations. Most Latin American countries oppose the process but agree to the laws demanded (Casteneda). Colombia is included in the group of nations seeking re-certification every year. In 1996 Colombia did not receive certification, but was given a “vital national interest waiver”. In 1997 Colombia again failed to be certified by the U.S. because it was believed that the Colombian government was not doing everything in its power to combat narcotics. The penalties for decertification included the prohibition of more than $1.5 billion in U.S. trade financing and investment guarantees. “Decertification” also means that the U.S. is obliged to vote against multilateral loans for Colombia in international financial institutions.
Yet the law specifically allows U.S. funding for counter-narcotics programs to continue, and has no direct affect on these programs (OICJ). In 1999 the Clinton Administration decided to lift the sanctions against Colombia and grant it partial certification. President Bill Clinton’s statement read “By the virtue of the authority vested in me by section 490(b)(1)(B) of the Act, I hereby determine that it is in the vital national interests of the United States to certify the following major illicit drug producing and/or major illicit drug transit countries: Cambodia, Colombia, Pakistan and Paraguay” (Weekly Copilation of Presidential Documents). The Administration felt that Colombia’s counter-narcotics efforts have made significant improvement since 1998 and with the new presidential administration in Colombia it is felt that improvement will continue. Colombian law enforcement has increased seizures, arrests and countered private aircraft in drug trafficking. Eradication of crops has greatly increased in efforts to combat coca cultivation. Areas of concern for the U.S. have remained the judicial process and the extradition of “drug lords” to the U.S (CNN). The certification was only partial however because the administration believed that Colombia’s counter-narcotics efforts still faced serious deficiencies (CNN). The certification of Colombia means greater ease for access to U.S. aid to counter-narcotics efforts. In addition to aid, Colombia would experience fewer economic disadvantages because of certification. Critics of the certification process claim that it damages a nation’s dignity. It is also seen by many Latin American nations to be unilateral, hypocritical and arbitrary. It is felt the certification is subject to U.S. sentiment towards the country and serves U.S. national interests.
There have been few strong attempts to repeal the 1986 International Narcotics Control Act. Latin American countries have not attempted long-term lobbying or diplomatic measures to put an end the certification process. Despite opposition to the program, most Latin American nations are content with being certified. Fighting for repeal may take years and make many yield “decertification” by Congress. Latin American countries have chosen to accept the benefits of certification over the possible costs of fighting to repeal the process (Casteneda). Colombia now receives more U.S. security assistance than any other country in the hemisphere. The assistance has traditionally been in the form of military assistance. Much of the aid received by Colombia has been military hardware and training for soldiers. Money has also been spent on Blackhawk helicopters, boats, weapons and surveillance systems. It is this militarization of financial aid to Colombia, which has led to such severe human rights violations. Over the past decade the U.S. has contributed over one billion dollars to combat drugs in Colombia with little success. The U.S. has provided more than $600m to the Colombian military and national police in the past seven years (WOLA). Illicit drug production and trafficking continues to rise annually and Colombia continues to be the world’s leading coca producer (WOLA). Colombian president Pastrana visited the U.S. in October of 1998. Part of the purpose of his visit was to request more help from the U.S. for counter-narcotics operations. With the election of Andres Pastrana to the Colombian presidency U.S. foreign policy has been even more aggressive in the fight against narcotics. At the
White House arrival ceremony Pastrana remarked: “We seek both to negotiate and to strengthen our armed forces. We need an army to preserve the peace and an army to protect democracy and an army that defends human rights and the rule of the law. We believe that in the end there is no such things as democracy without respect for human rights (CNN).” Colombian President Pastrana has requested a plan for $3.5 billion in aid to support counter-narcotics efforts to be distributed over the next three years. Central to this request is an increase in military aid, to $500m annually for the next three years, up from $289m in FY1998 and $70m in FY 1997 (INL). President Pastrana requests for increasing funding for the drug war have only further backed the Clinton’s Administrations efforts to do so. In FY98, the U.S. Government, provided Colombia with $43 million in support of counter-narcotics operations, an additional $14 million for helicopter upgrades, and approximately $21 million in aviation support and $41 million in equipment and services drawn from U.S. stockpiles (INL). The 1998 aid package included the equipping of the Colombian helicopter fleet with 20mm cannons, to be used in crop eradication. In the past aid has been listed in the U.S. government’s “category 4”, for non-hostile operations. The 1998 package was classified as “category 2”, for military operations short of war (Economist). In FY99, it is expected that U.S. funding will reach $203 million (including $96 million for six Black Hawk helicopters) making Colombia the third largest recipient of U.S. assistance after Israel and Egypt (INL). The Colombian National Police have been provided with training for anti-narcotics aviators, mechanics, and logisticians. It has also been furnished with parts and fuel for the CNP’s anti-narcotics air division consisting of 42 helicopters and 17 fixed wing aircraft, some of which are U.S., owned (INL). The Pentagon claims that the Colombian government now wants to out-and-out buy 14 U.S. Blackhawk military helicopters at a cost of $221m with no official decision having been made to this point (CNN). On December 1, 1998 the U.S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen and Colombian defense Minister Rodrigo Lloreda announced the signing of a cooperation agreement between militaries. The agreement enacted a bilateral “working group” of Colombian and U.S. defense officials and the formation of an army battalion devoted solely to counter-narcotics operations (WOLA). A large share of the U.S. funds is to be spent implementing four new “counter-drug” battalions. The purpose of these battalions is to provide increased security to police counter-narcotics action in certain guerrilla held areas (Economist). Presently 75 U.S. Army Rangers are overseeing the training of nearly 1000 Colombian battalion troops (WOLA). The Republican-lead U.S. Congress has been a long-standing advocate of providing additional military helicopters and military trainers to Colombia (CNN). Republicans have been at the front of proposing legislation to send aid to Colombia. House of Representatives Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton, and Senator Jesse Helms have developed aggressive policy to aid Colombia in combating cocaine production (Congressional Quart. Weekly Report). In October of this year President Clinton released a statement which called for the redistribution of funds from the Department of Defense, from the Department of Justice, Department of State and Department of Transportation. These funds in the amount of $72.55 m were to be used “for the purpose of providing international anti-narcotics assistance to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Panama.” According to Clinton, the funds were redirected because “it is in the national interest of the United States” (Weekly Comp. Presidential Doc.). In October of 1995 Clinton had declared the situation in Colombia a “national emergency” under the National Emergencies Act. Every year since, President Clinton has extended the act for another year.
In October the President again extended the national emergency, as it was felt that the situation in Colombia continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the U.S. (NACLA). White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey testified in front of a U.S. congressional subcommittee saying: “In Colombia, the melding of guerilla movements, or in some cases paramilitary groups, an international drug trafficking organizations has created an unprecedented threat to the rule of law, democratic institutions and the very fabric of society” (CNN). McCaffrey has called for as much as $1 billion in emergency funds for Colombia and other countries (CNN). The Clinton Administration claims to practice the policy of ensuring that assistance funds are not provided to government forces accused of committing human rights violations. This policy is found in Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act. The President has officially stated that no assistance would be provided to “any unit of any foreign country’s security forces if that unit is credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights unless the government of such country is taking effective measures to bring the responsible member of that unit to justice” (Weekly Comp. Presidential Doc. ). Although the U.S. claims that it will not support human rights violators, evidence suggest that U.S. aid is actually contributing to warfare and human rights violations in Colombia. The militarization of the drug war has led to the displacement, murder and suffering of thousands of Colombians. The policy of the Clinton Administration in Colombia has been subject to many criticisms.
The main concern critics have is the relationship between U.S. funding and human rights violations committed in Colombia. Several organizations ranging from the Colombian National Police to anti-guerilla paramilitary groups have been responsible for thousands of deaths in Colombia. These groups receive U.S. aid both directly and indirectly There are several arguments against U.S. aid to Colombia. One major argument says that the U.S. is further militarizing Colombia in order to serve its own purpose of maintaining stability there. This assumption buries the idea that the Colombian government uses anti-narcotics funds for other purposes, which include combating Marxist guerillas and supporting paramilitary forces to combat the guerillas as well. Another argument says that the U.S. has created the idea of “narco-guerillas” to justify its military aid increases over the past decade. South America’s longest running guerilla war has killed over 35,000 Colombians over the last decade (Amnesty International). In Colombia’s internal conflict, the organizations involved have limited direct confrontations and instead attack the opposition’s alleged sympathizers- usually unarmed civilians. Guerrillas, paramilitaries and national security forces have all been responsible for massive human rights violations. Yet it is the government forces and paramilitaries which have utilized U.S. foreign assistance (WOLA). The largest guerilla organizations in Colombia are FARC and ELN. Although FARC taxes coca cultivation and cocaine production in southern Colombia their connections to drugs is not what U.S. foreign policy claims and does not justify counter-narcotics policy.
General McCaffrey has continuously referred to Colombian insurgents as “narco-guerrillas” and has suggested that it is “silly at this point” to try to distinguish between counter-narcotics efforts and the war against insurgents. The conceived concept of “narco-guerillas” justifies U.S. funding and militarization of the counter-narcotics efforts (WOLA). With the justification that fighting the guerillas is part of the “war on drugs”, Colombian security forces and paramilitary forces have conducted operations in FARC controlled regions of Colombia. The new counter-narcotics battalions are scheduled to operate in the southern coca-growing region, an area under FARC control, and contribute to counterinsurgency efforts (WOLA). Paramilitary forces are armed civilian forces that are in conflict with right-wing Marxist guerilla groups. It is estimated that paramilitary forces carry out over 70% of human rights violations (WOLA). Although declared illegal in 1989 paramilitary forces united in 1996 to form the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Amnesty International). These paramilitary groups carry out counterinsurgency operations throughout Colombia. Several groups have been labeled “death squads” as a result of their reputations for atrocities and murders. Many are linked to the Colombian government and the Colombian National Police (WOLA). The attack on the Village of Puerto Alvira last May is an example of the most recent violence by paramilitary forces. The attack left nearly twenty villagers dead and several others “disappeared.” Also in May, paramilitary forces raided several poor neighborhoods in Barrancabermeja and nearly a dozen people were killed while over two dozen were “disappeared.” It is believed that the groups responsible for this violence have been United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. These are only a few of the many examples of the violence committed by paramilitary organizations (Amnesty International).
The Colombian National Police continue to practice severe human rights violations and deal with paramilitary forces. Colombian army forces carry out counterinsurgency operations themselves under the anti “narco-guerrilla” guise. Two army generals have been retired because alleged human rights violations yet other violators remain protected. Examples include Brigadier General Jaime Humberto Uscategui, now head of Colombia’s War College. In July of 1997 paramilitary forces attacked and massacred the town of Mapiripan leaving nearly 40 peasants dead. Uscategui served as commander of the army’s Seventh Brigade during this period and ignored calls from witnesses to the killings allowing the massacre to go on (WOLA). Human Rights groups and some political analysts argue that the Clinton Administration is seeking to get a stronger position in how the internal war in Colombia is fought by setting up the counter-narcotics battalions (CNN). The battalions will be used to give the U.S. a more direct position in the internal conflict against Marxists rebels. The Washington Office of Latin America has specifically criticized current U.S. International Drug Policy. Several factors break down U.S. policy economically exposing the most basic flaws. First supply side logic is fundamentally flawed. Supply is targeted to increase prices and dissuade drug use. Yet by increasing prices new producers are drawn into the market and supply increases increasing supply. Suppression tactics in one area of production leads to the growth of production in another.
The result has been a cycle of increased supply and cheaper narcotics (WOLA). This tactic cannot economically succeed. Secondly, U.S. International Drug Policy fails to address poverty and inequality in Latin America. These issues are at the root of the drug cultivation. Peasant farmers cultivate coca because it is guaranteed to sell as opposed to legal crops, which do not have as strong of a market. These peasants earn just enough to survive cultivating coca and remain poor. U.S. policy targets these poor farmers through eradication programs and does not take into account the low level of living the farmers are experiencing. Aerial fumigation has wreaked havoc on peasant crops. The U.S. has cut developmental assistance programs by two-thirds in the 1990’s while tripling counter-narcotics programs (WOLA). The coca-cultivating farmers have been left without developmental support while their crops are destroyed in anti-drug campaign. The Clinton Administration has not veered far from other administrations in its foreign drug policy. The administration continues to fight the “war” on drugs with increased aid and involvement in the Colombian military. Through political and economic pressures, such as certification, the U.S. has forced Colombia to meet its requests. The militarization of anti-drug effort has led to increased violence in Colombia’s internal war. Human rights violations have been part of the history of the war between the Colombian government and the right-wing guerillas fighting it. Increased aid to the government has found its way into the hands of violent paramilitary forces while national security forces step up violence as well. The U.S. government must look at its morality in supporting human rights violators in the name of fighting drugs.
Thousand of Colombians have been lost their homes and their lives in a battle that does not involve them. With a new administration entering the White House there is hope of finding a better way of winning the “war” on drugs. Bibliography: Amnesty International, Annual Report: Americas-Colombia [organization homepage] (cited 6 Dec. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/arm23.htm “Arm-twisting in Latin America” in The Economist [online magazine] (29 Mar. 1997); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.economist.com/tfs/aarchive_tframeset.html Jeff Builta, Office of International Criminal Justice, Clinton Administration Names Drug States [database online] http://oicj.acsp.uic.edu/pubs/CJI/120309b.htm Casteneda, Jorge G., “Decertify Certification,” in Newsweek, [online magazine] (15 Mar. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/issue/11_99a/printed/int/dept/wv/ov6211_1.htm “Clinton Administration Lifts Colombia Sanctions.” in CNN, [magazine online] (26 Feb. 1998); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/02/26/drug/ “Clinton to seek more aid for Colombian drug fight.” in CNN, [magazine online] (10 Nov. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.cnn.com/colomia.usa.aid.reut/ “Colombia military chief urges broader U.S. commitment.” in CNN, [magazine online] (2 Oct. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/americas/9910/02/BC-COLOMBIA-GENERAL.reut/ “Drugs, Latin America and the United States” in The Economist, [online journal] (7 Feb. 1998); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.economist.com/tfs/aarchive_tframeset.html “Guerrillas, drugs, votes and Clinton” in The Economist, [online journal] (7 Mar. 1998); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.economist.com/tfs/aarchive_tframeset.html “Hasterd Leads the Charge In Colombian Drug War”, Congressional Weekly Report, [online journal] (11 Sept. 1999); available from Lehigh University Expanded Academic ASAP @ http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/ “Pastrana’s many battles” in The Economist, [online journal] (27 Nov. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.economist.com/tfs/aarchive_tframeset.html “Colombia: Policy, which policy?” in The Economist, [online magazine] (20 Feb. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.economist.com/tfs/aarchive_tframeset.html INL Country Programs-Colombia, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs [database online] (23 Apr. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.state.gov/www/global/narcotics_law/fs_colombia.html Tate, Winifred. “Washington boost Colombia’s military”, NACLA Report on Americas, [online journal] (Jan.-Feb. 1999); available on Lehigh University Expanded Academic ASAP @ http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/ “U.S., Colombia applaud anti-drug successes as Washington considers new aid.” in CNN, [magazine online] (8 Oct. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9910/us.colombia/reut/ Washington Office of Latin America, URGENT ACTOIN ALERT: Oppose Military Aid to Colombia: Danger of Escalating Involvement in Counterinsurgency War [organization homepage] (cited 6 Dec. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.wola.org/uadrugs.html Washington Office of Latin America, Current U.S. International Drug Policy [organization homepage] (cited 6 Dec. 1999); available from World Wide Web @ http://www.wola.org/policyguide.html Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Memorandum on certification for illicit drug producing and drug transit countries [online database] (2 Mar. 1998); available on Lehigh University Expanded Academic ASAP @ http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/ Youngers, Coletta. “U.S. entanglements in Colombia continue”, NACLA Report on Americas [online journal] (Mar.-Apr. 1998); available on Lehigh University Expanded Academic ASAP @ http://web7.infotrac.galegroup.com/