Tuesday, November 8, 2016

PF Dec 2016 - Plan Colombia - Con Position

Resolved: The United States should end Plan Colombia

Con Position

Since the Pro will be advocating a total ban of Plan Colombia, they will need to justify their position which will in most cases, point to a collection of failures and tragic outcomes arising from the policy. But the Con side, needs to advocate we should NOT ban Plan Colombia. The most obvious justification for the position, in light of Pro claims of failure, is we should not ban it because we still have work to do.  While this may seem trite, the evidence shows that despite the much publicized failures, Plan Colombia has had some remarkable successes and we will argue it has turned an important corner on the road to stability, peace and economic viability. We need to understand, the objectives of Plan Colombia have been a bit of a moving target, at least for the purposes of political expediency.  However, there are several key and strategically important objectives that have been present from the beginning, and these are being met. Moreover, though I may not do so in this analysis, Con can legitimately argue, that many of the criticisms levied by Pro are not failures of the plan itself, but rather failures of the Colombian government to conduct its operations in such a way as to minimize collateral harms. For example, its fairly easy to claim from the comfort and quiet of a U.S. classroom, the so-called "scorched earth" tactics of the Colombian security forces was excessive and result in numerous human rights violations.  It is much more difficult to assess whether those tactics were in keeping with present capabilities and if the heavy-handed tactics ended up helping more than hurting. After all, internal conflict had been going on for a half-century and there was no end in sight. In fact, there was a reasonable expectation that the Communist FARC may succeed in toppling the government. The Pastrana administration came along at a critical juncture, when the people were already crying out for an end to FARC.

Restrepo (2016):
As the situation in Colombia deteriorated in the late 1990s, U.S. foreign policy experts talked about Colombia being on the verge of state failure, representing a major threat to regional security and to U.S. interests. Importantly, in what would constitute a key ingredient in Colombia’s return from the brink—as Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, has noted—“by 1999, Colombians had reached a collective conclusion that, if the deteriorating conditions remained unchecked, the viability of the nation was in question. In October of that year, more than 1 million Colombians marched against the FARC in a ‘No más’ nationwide protest.”[2]

At the time the U.S. was shaping a kind of "globalization is peace" foreign policy (see The Lexus and Olive Tree and the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention). Clinton, opened the a door to Latin American with the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the prospect of a hostile, communist-leaning government at the door to the South American continent was probably disturbing to some strategists in the U.S. Note, this is speculation on my part, but I think it is logical speculation. Nevertheless, the original goals of Plan Colombia started with Clinton, evolved under Bush, with the War on Terror and democratization and evolved again under Obama and the shift toward conflict resolution. So when Pro says Plan Columbia failed, which variant of Plan Colombia do they mean?

Plan Columbia

The initial purpose of Plan Colombia lays the ground work for the Con position. As started previously, Pastrana came to power at a time when the internal conflict had already taken a horrible toll on the Colombian people. Pastrana looked north to the U.S. for help and proposed a plan.

Beittel (2012):
Plan Colombia was developed by President Pastrana (1998-2002) as a strategy to end the country’s 40-year-old armed conflict, eliminate drug trafficking, and promote development. The initial plan was a $7.5 billion six-year plan, with Colombia providing $4 billion of the funding and requesting $3.5 billion from the international community.147 The U.S. Congress approved legislation in support of Plan Colombia in 2000, as part of the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 2001 (P.L. 106-246) providing $1.3 billion for counternarcotics and related efforts in Colombia and neighboring countries. Plan Colombia was never authorized by Congress. Subsequent funding has been appropriated for Plan Colombia and follow on plans annually. President Bush continued support for the plan under the Andean Counterdrug Program (ACP) aid account. The ACP account funded counternarcotics programs in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and, until FY2008, Venezuela. The U.S.-Colombian partnership, initially focused on counternarcotics, shifted in 2002. Because narcotics trafficking and the guerrilla insurgency had become intertwined problems, Congress granted the Administration flexibility to use U.S. counterdrug funds for a unified campaign to fight drug trafficking and terrorist organizations.[31]

I should note that even though Pastrana lists three goals; conflict resolution, elimination of drug trafficking and economic development, there is no reason to assume they must be completed in a certain sequence. But it goes without saying, solving the internal conflict would be key to enabling economic development and elimination of drug trafficking. Aerial crop eradication was a primary strategy of Colombian President Uribe which led to mass migrations, intense conflict and human rights abuses. The U.S. strategy was different. In fact, Beittel, in her report to Congress, notes, that funds initially earmarked for crop eradication where shifted to human rights training programs in 2008 (Beittel 2012:31).

Whitaker (2016):
Within the U.S. government, the concept of a “war on drugs” was jettisoned years ago in recognition that narcotics trafficking is but one source of profit for organized criminal groups. Instead, U.S. security assistance programs increasingly gravitated toward a balanced approach against organized crime utilizing all available tools to reduce the combined societal harms caused in source, transit, and destination countries. These efforts seek to prevent the vast ecological damage caused by growers and traffickers who clear cut forest and dump precursor chemicals and the violence caused by traffickers as they defend territory and conduct extortion and murder-for-hire. These criminal activities leave behind money in Colombia that fuels corruption and undermines licit economic activity.

Strategists in the U.S. government believed that a strong, democratic Colombia was the key to meeting key U.S. objectives, of reduction in drug trafficking, a democratic and economically stable trading partner, and military ally in a critical geographical location, but they were reluctant to intervene too deeply into President Uribe's popular government which was showing signs of success.

Economist (2016):
The critics missed the point. Plan Colombia was sold politically in the United States as a crackdown on drugs, but in reality it was always first and foremost a counter-insurgency strategy. For Colombia to be a viable democracy, it needed a stronger state able to provide security to its citizens and to tame the illegal armies, which were financed by the world’s cocaine habit. It worked. Colombians backed the strategy—American aid was more than matched by increased domestic spending on security. Under Álvaro Uribe, who followed Mr Pastrana as president, the paramilitaries demobilised and the FARC guerrillas were battered so hard that they agreed, in 2012, to start peace talks with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, Mr Uribe’s successor (and his former defence minister).

Building Toward Success

Another key component of the Plan Colombia initiative focused in the economic stability of Colombia. It had minimal infrastructure and good roads and bridges capable of supporting the transportation of goods as well as troops. Power distributions systems were limited and often attacked by FARC guerrillas. Food production was at sustenance levels and a large portion of the economy was based upon illicit narcotics but U.S. consumption was on the decline.

Whitaker (2016):
The architects and implementers of Plan Colombia always understood that helping Colombia build stronger, more capable institutions was the best way to strengthen governance and deny criminal groups space in which to operate. Preventing cocaine consumption in the United States was never the sole aim of Plan Colombia, but part of a broader plan to reduce production in Colombia and demand in the United States. It is noteworthy that U.S. cocaine consumption dropped by 50 percent in the past decade.

Early in the program, large parts of Colombia were controlled by militants, enriching themselves on illicit crop production and forcing farmers to work for them. But as government military operations began to take back control of the those regions, the U.S shifted focus to alternative crop production. However, the Colombian government policies harmed progress by insisting that farmers immediately eradicate cocoa and switch to other crops with little concern for the fact that it may take several growing seasons to transition away from cocoa, in addition to other policy barriers which limited U.S. assistance and angered farmers.

Beittel (2012):
The two core projects of the USAID strategy that ran between 2006 and 2011 were the More Investment for Sustainable Alternative Development (MIDAS) and Areas for Municipal Level Alternative Development (ADAM). Both projects have generated thousands of hectares of licit crops and jobs. In FY2010, USAID reported that it helped rural families produce more than 95,000 hectares of licit agricultural products and to create more than 150,000 jobs. However, the USAID projects have been criticized for neither reaching those most vulnerable to coca cultivation nor providing adequate income substitution during the comparatively long time needed for alternative crops to mature and generate sufficient and sustainable income. Several assessments of USAID’s alternative development program under Plan Colombia cite the “zero coca” policy of the Colombian government as actually a barrier to reaching those impoverished farmers most vulnerable to coca growing. For example, in one assessment, researchers were told “alternative livelihoods assistance reaches only a small segment of the population in need, i.e. either cultivating coca or vulnerable to coca cultivation.” [34]

Despite these barriers to success, Plan Colombia provided the necessary incentives to turn the Colombian economy to one more indicative of a viable nation, rather than a country on the cusp of being declared a failed state.

Restrepo (2016):
Colombia has made tremendous economic strides during the past 15 years as its security situation has improved. By 2014, Colombia’s gross domestic product, or GDP, had grown to $377.7 billion, compared to $99.88 billion in 2000, making Colombia the third-largest economy in Latin America. Colombia also has seen major reductions in poverty, with the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line, for example, decreasing from 64 percent in 1999 to 28.5 percent in 2014. Extreme poverty has dropped even more precipitously from 23 percent in 2000 to 8.1 percent in 2014. Colombia’s Gini coefficient, the leading indicator of economic inequality, although still high, has narrowed from 58.7 to 53.3 in the past 15 years, an improvement comparable to Brazil’s during that country’s much touted efforts to move millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class.[4]

The Security Metric

The insurgency and counter-insurgency took a huge toll on the nation of Colombia.  Crime rates were through the roof.  Murders, kidnapping, robberies, and violence were the tools for control and intimidation.  Plan Colombia helped slowly and deliberately to chip away at the rebel grip on the nation through infrastructure, military equipment and training, and investments which strengthened the government and allowed it regain control of the country.

Muller (2015);
The gains against the insurgents and the increased control of the state over territory led to an improvement in citizen security. First, homicide rates have followed the intensity of conflict in Colombia, so although homicides rose around the year 2000 as the armed conflict intensified, as the military gained success and pushed the insurgents out of more and more areas, the homicide rates fell.89 Just in case this scenario comes across as a case of an organization fixing a problem it was responsible for creating, it is worth emphasizing that the FARC was the organization that was dedicated to violently overthrowing the democratically elected government and was consciously increasing the violence in pursuit of that goal. Indeed the Pastrana government (1998–2002) had tried during most of its tenure to negotiate peace with the FARC.
Second, as an organization that finances itself through drug trafficking, extortion, and kidnapping, one would expect that as the FARC experienced substantial loses in manpower, territory, and materiel, there would be some effect on its financing activities. A more detailed discussion of crime statistics follows, but the short answer is that we do see a significant drop in these crimes commensurate with the military’s counterinsurgent fight.[22-23]

Shifter extends the impacts of the improving security situation in Colombia. For those who have looked to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (a common Lincoln Douglas debate theme), security is a core requirement to higher levels of self-actualization. More importantly, people get to regain hope and faith in their government.

Shifter (2012):
The positive changes in the security situation are, however, undeniable. Under the rubric of “democratic security,” developed by Álvaro Uribe, Colombia’s two-term president (2002–2010), the presence of the national police was extended throughout the country, to all of Colombia’s 1,300 municipalities.
Thanks to the strengthened capacity of Colombia’s security forces and vastly improved intelligence capabilities, kidnappings declined between 2002 and 2009, from nearly 3,000 to just over 200 annually, and killings were reduced by nearly half in the same period. The size of the FARC insurgency was also halved, from an estimated 17,000–20,000 members to 8,000–10,000.

The counter-insurgency supported by Plan Colombia began to break the strongholds of rebel groups like FARC and demoralized the leadership.

Miroff (2016)
Flush with cocaine profits, by the late 1990s the FARC was at its peak, with nearly 20,000 fighters. It terrorized Colombians with kidnappings, bombings and brazen attacks that came to represent a major threat to the government, controlling as much as one-quarter of Colombian territory. But the FARC's tactics and its criminal reputation earned it little support among the ordinary Colombians on whose behalf it was supposedly fighting. As the state fought back and FARC soldiers grew fearful of increasingly effective military airstrikes, the rebel ranks thinned, with many defecting or deserting. Today the FARC has fewer than 7,000 troops, according to Colombian military intelligence.

The change in the security situation in Colombia is key to events which enabled President Santos to shift the strategy once again to one which focused on negotiation instead of bombs. It was this effort which eventually led to the peace agreement recently voted upon by the Colombian people.  In Shifter's analysis, he claims that despite all outward appearances, the U.S strategists understood well how Plan Colombia could function to achieve U.S. interests in the region.  The drug-war, while it may eventually yield results, was never the primary goal. In fact it is a model for how to achieve policy goals with minimal direct intervention.

Shifter (2012):
But using a different metric, it can be argued that the plan was a win-win for both countries. By heading off what seemed to be the collapse of the Colombian state, and avoiding the ensuing chaos and uncontrolled violence, U.S. foreign policy furthered its goals in the hemisphere of protecting democracy and defending human lives.
It is now clear that supporters of Plan Colombia in President Clinton’s administration, understood this—even though for public consumption, and for political support, the emphasis was largely on drugs. The policy’s bipartisan support—between Democratic and Republican administrations as well as Congress—was fundamental to its success.
Plan Colombia was also a successful demonstration of how the U.S. could achieve security aims with a limited investment of military force. The use of U.S. soldiers and contractors as military advisors generated the most controversy during domestic debates over the plan, as critics worried that American forces would increasingly be drawn by mission creep into a Vietnam-style quagmire in the Andes. But the numbers of U.S. personnel—set in 2004 at 800 for military and 600 for private contractors—were kept within legal bounds. The U.S. maintained an essentially supportive function.

A Lasting Peace

The leading argument in support of not banning Plan Colombia is found in the fact that Plan Colombia has undeniably lifted Colombia from near failed-state status to a much more secure and viable nation ranked among the most productive on the South American continent. However, the work is not yet complete.  It was Plan Colombia which made the Santos peace settlement possible and it was the failure of the vote which justifies its continuance. The vote was close, but some dissatisfaction remains, especially among the Uribe faction of voters. But even if the peace agreement had been approved by the voters, no one was ready to shout victory.  There are other rebel groups and the drugs are still being processed but these are among the justifications for the Con position.

Restrepo (2016):
Just as confronting Colombia’s security crisis required partnership with the United States, so too will consolidating and sustaining peace. Doing so will require overcoming the U.S. habit of prematurely declaring victory in the Americas and moving on to a new challenge. Continued support to Colombia, however, does not mean identical support. Just as the nature of U.S. support has evolved during the past 15 years, support going forward must keep pace with changing realities.[8]

While Runde was looking forward in this source and was unaware the peace deal would not be approved, he rightly understood that Plan Colombia was the one of the main reasons for success.

Runde (2014):
With the reelection of President Juan Manuel Santos, it is likely that Colombia’s peace talks will conclude in the next calendar year. After nearly 50 years of armed conflict, Santos may finally reach an agreement with the leftist insurgent group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). As Colombia’s largest bilateral provider of economic and security assistance, the United States has played a significant role in getting Colombia to where it is today: a growing economy looking toward peace in the near future. Much of this success is due to Plan Colombia, the joint effort of the U.S. and Colombian governments that began in 2000 to address the country’s security issues. In order to ensure a thriving post-conflict Colombia, the United States will need to commit to a sustained engagement for three to five years following the completion of the Peace Accords. Though the benefits of peace for Colombia and its neighbors are clear, peace in Colombia will also provide significant economic and security dividends for the United States and other countries in the region. 

It's not over. Now is not the time to ban Plan Colombia. The U.S. must continue its support role.

Restrepo (2016):
Colombia’s security institutions, for example, will need support as they transition to new roles and missions—in Colombia and beyond. This will be particularly true as the National Police, with its approximately 180,000 members, bears more responsibility across the Colombian territory and as Colombia’s armed forces move toward a more supporting role, with a growing focus on international engagements. In offering support, however, the United States needs to be cognizant of its limits and be open to Colombia broadening its security partnerships, as one key to Plan Colombia’s success was its focus on areas, such as technology and equipment, where the United States had unique competitive advantages.[8]

For all these reasons and more we urge a Con ballot.

For links to the Intro and Pro positions or for more information about Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.


Beittel, JS (2012), Colombia: Background, U.S. Relations, and Congressional Interest, Congressional Research Service, Nov 28, 2012, accessed 11/4/2016 at: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL32250.pdf

Economist (2016), A new plan for Colombia, The Economist, Jan 23, 2016, accessed 11/4/2016 at: http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21688936-juan-manuel-santos-seeks-support-peace-washington-new-plan-colombia

Miroff N (2016), The staggering toll of Colombia’s war with FARC rebels, explained in numbers, The Washington Post, August 24, 2016, accessed 11/4/2016 at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/08/24/the-staggering-toll-of-colombias-war-with-farc-rebels-explained-in-numbers/?tid=a_inl

Muller G 92015), How military actions affected citizen security during Plan Colombia, Calhoun, Institutional Archive of teh Naval Postgraduate School, Jun 2015, accessed 11/4/2016 at: http://calhoun.nps.edu/bitstream/handle/10945/45909/15Jun_Muller_Graydon.pdf?sequence=1

Restrepo D (2016), The United States and Colombia: From Security Partners to Global Partners in Peace, Center For American Progress, Feb 2, 2016, accessed at: https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/01064932/Colombia-brief.pdf

Runde DF (2014), Preparing for Peace in Colombia: An Economic and Security Imperative for the United States, Center for Strategic & International Studies, June 24, 2014, accessed 11/4/2016 at: https://www.csis.org/analysis/preparing-peace-colombia-economic-and-security-imperative-united-states

Shifter M (2012), Plan Colombia: A Retrospective, America's Quarter, Summer 2012, accessed 11/4/2016 at: http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/3787

Whitaker K (2016), It’s Not Just Counter Narcotics: Plan Colombia’s Balanced Approach Made It a Success, The World Post, June 16, 2016, accessed 11/4/2016 at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-whitaker/its-not-just-counter-narc_b_10509068.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=WorldPost

Monday, November 7, 2016

PF Dec 2016 - Plan Columbia - Pro Position

Resolved: The United States should end Plan Colombia

Pro Position

Plan Colombia is a policy, defined as a foreign aid package, with mixed and often continuously evolving objectives. Nevertheless, despite how it may be projected in other parts of the world, including the U.S. and Colombia, Plan Colombia has always been about the war on drugs and expanding U.S. presence and influence in South America. After all, Colombia does border Panama, a place of supreme strategic importance due to its canal, and Colombia borders Venezuela, with its oil resources and possessing a U.S.-hostile government which the Obama administration, declared a threat to U.S. national security. This is important context for the Pro position. For Colombia, there seems to be one primary objective; the end of the so-called Colombian War waged mainly between the Colombian government and several rebel, paramilitary groups, most significantly FARC and ELN who have battled one another and the government for control and influence in Colombia. There seems to be little doubt that much of the power of the insurgency is derived from the production and sale of cocaine. Ending the conflict seems to have involved several strategies including strengthening the capabilities of the Colombian military, and denying the paramilitary groups, their chief source of income; drug-money. The Colombian war has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, massacres, kidnappings for ransom, murders, and many charges of human-rights abuses.

The Pro argues that as of this date, following sixteen years of committing U.S. tax dollars, Plan Colombia has failed to meet any of its objectives on both sides of the Caribbean Sea. While the production of Colombian cocaine has seen some decreases due to intense eradication efforts and thousands of arrests, cocaine is still flowing out of the country and is now increasing again. Moreover, despite the much praised and anticipated peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC, the people of Colombia have voted against the deal, killing any hope for peace for the time being.

Failure to Stop Cultivation

Much of the war on cocaine was focused on eradication supported by the idea of providing incentives for farmers to switch to other cash crops. The effects of dropping tons of herbicides on the Colombian countryside was devastating to the population.

Schaffer & Youngers (2015):
Since 1994, Colombia—with the financial support and encouragement of the United States—has sprayed coca with the herbicide glyphosate. In March of this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, concluded that glyphosate “probably causes cancer,” leading Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to call for an end to aerial spraying with the chemical. For a government to deliberately spray its citizens and their crops with a chemical considered likely to be carcinogenic is just plain wrong. Beyond that, it is also abundantly clear that fumigation—along with many forms of forced coca eradication—only exacerbates the problems of poverty and exclusion that lead many poor farmers to cultivate coca, perversely deepening their reliance on coca growing and ensuring renewed plantings and ever-more environmental devastation.

Mejía extends the impact of government eradication efforts and confirms the toll on the environment and human health in general. The evidence further shows the eradication program has undermined confidence in the government.

Mejía (2016):
Other studies have shown that aerial spraying has a negative impact on the environment, causing deforestation, pollution of water sources, and harm to amphibian populations. Additionally, the use of glyphosate negatively affects human health, with exposure leading to skin problems and miscarriages. Moreover, studies have found that its use can reduce citizen confidence in state institutions.[9]

Moreover, the authorities may have underestimated the resourcefulness of the growers' abilities to mitigate the eradication efforts.  The farmers and growers adapted a multitude of strategies to protect their primary livelihoods.

Mejía (2016):
The ineffectiveness of aerial spraying in reducing coca cultivation is explained by the fact that coca growers have developed various methods to protect coca crops from herbicide: (1) spraying molasses over the foliage of the coca plant prevents herbicide from penetrating the leaves and destroying the plant; (2) if coca growers cut the stem of a coca bush a few hours after an aerial spraying mission, the herbicide does not have enough time to kill the plant, which can quickly recover and produce again within just three or four months; and (3) even if the plants are killed by aerial spraying campaigns, coca growers often have additional seed beds prepared, ready to be planted.[9]

Finally, after many years of intensive aerial chemical bombardment, the government has stopped flying its chemical-spraying aircraft over the countryside, but eradication remains a primary objective which is now carried out on the ground.

LaSusa (2016):
In areas targeted for fumigation during Plan Colombia, Márquez said, "The coca wasn't eradicated. The people were eradicated. Because it has killed the subsistence crops, because it has contaminated the water we drink, because it has destroyed our territories."
For years, US officials strongly defended the controversial program, despite its failure to substantially reduce the supply of cocaine in the international market and despite serious humanitarian concerns about the practice. The Colombian government recently suspended aerial spraying of herbicides, but glyphosate is still being used in manual eradication efforts.

When we look at the net effects of the spraying program on cocoa cultivation in Colombia, what is the bottom line?  Here are the numbers.

Brodzinsky (2016):
After some reduction of coca crops in the 2000s, they are growing again. The area under coca cultivation in Colombia rose 44% in 2014 to 69,000 hectares or 175,000 acres, according to the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which monitors the crops by satellite. Potential cocaine production soared from 290 tonnes in 2013 to 442 tonnes in 2014, up 52%. This year’s report, which will show 2015 figures, is expected to show an additional increase.

Pro contends that not only has the eradication program failed to have any lasting impact on the cultivation of cocoa in Colombia, it is likely we will be hearing about the environmental and health impacts for years to come.

Failure to Protect Humans

Colombia's internal unrest and conflicts began long before cocaine became a major cash crop. Colombia has endured decades of war as factions have struggled for power. The conflicts have been marked with atrocities on all sides and human rights abuses which grew all the more intense in the years following the implementation of Plan Colombia under which the Colombian government launched a U.S. backed counter-insurgency.

Carasik (2016):
The crackdown was also accompanied by egregious human rights abuses. Since the plan’s inception, more than 1,000 trade unionists and at least 370 journalists have been killed; at least 400 human rights defenders were murdered, with many more activists tortured, disappeared, kidnapped or detained; and nearly half a million women were subjected to sexual violence from 2001 to 2009.

As international attention shifted to Colombia, it didn't take long for the public to take notice as human rights groups acted to expose the horrible toll of the plan. Remarkably, despite U.S. concerns for human rights, the Colombian government's own security forces were often the target of accusations.

Carasik (2016):
To burnish claims of the plan’s success, security forces killed more than 5,700 civilians from 2000 to 2010, many lured to their deaths by the promise of jobs. Military members later staged combat scenes to make it appear as if the deaths were caused by warfare. Impunity has been widespread. Out of some 3,500 killings investigated by Colombia’s prosecutor general, only 402 resulted in convictions, mostly of low-level forces. Last year, Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre announced that 22 generals are being investigated, but their long overdue prosecution is far from certain. In fact, some top officers associated with the scandal have been nominated for promotions.

Recently, after wide-spread concern and attention upon the atrocities, the U.S. and Colombia are citing improvements. They are claiming a turn-around of sorts, with falling crime rates, and talk of peace. But some see this as a white-wash to cover-up a more tragic reality.

LaSusa (2016):
Various politicians and commentators have cited generally declining murder and kidnapping rates as achievements attributable to Plan Colombia. But much less public attention has been paid to the more than 6 million Colombian citizens victimized since the program began - including more than 4 million people displaced from their homes and more than 3,500 civilians murdered by Colombian security forces, who disguised many of the victims as guerillas in order to inflate the tally of "enemies" killed.

Carasik reveals a massive human toll to the war which now looks like it will continue since the peace agreement was rejected.

Carasik (2016):
But glowing reviews of Plan Colombia obscure its ineffectiveness and the devastating human costs of the country’s militarization. The crackdown has led to massive upheaval, with more than 4 million people internally displaced since 2000. Of those, most were women and children, with Afro-Colombian and indigenous people disproportionately affected. The staggering number — about a tenth of the country’s nearly 50 million people — adds to those previously dispossessed, leaving Colombia second only to Syria in terms of internally displaced people. The National Unit for the Integral Attention and Reparation of Victims has registered more than 6 million people seeking restitution for harms inflicted during Plan Colombia’s operation.

Pro contends the human cost paid for Plan Colombia outweighs any benefits which Con may try to claim. We must end Plan Colombia today and begin to direct our aid toward restoration of human rights.

Failure to Bring Peace

This past October Colombian voters reject the much praised peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC. However, it seems that voters were not ready to accept a deal which would cover decades of atrocities and human rights abuses with a deal granting amnesty in exchange for confessions. In this deal, perhaps the "cost" of peace was too high.

Crisis Group (2016):
Myriad explanations are given for the vote. In areas with higher concentrations of the 52-year armed conflict’s victims and/or higher poverty rates, the “yes” vote tended to be stronger. But commuted sentences without jail for convicted FARC fighters who confess their crimes, even though their liberties would be restricted; a guaranteed ten seats in Congress; and the economic reintegration package for ex-combatants, with livelihood payments for two years, generated a sense, especially in big, formerly conflict-affected cities such as Medellín and Bucaramanga, that members of an illegal armed group would receive overly generous benefits. The fear that the country would “be handed over to FARC” or converted into chavista Venezuela was influential in higher-income brackets.

Despite assurances from both sides the commitment to peace remains, we can be sure for now Plan Colombia will also remain in place.  But even if the peace accord was approved, would Colombia's internal strife have ended?  There is no reason to believe it would when as the song-writer Glenn Frey proclaimed in his 1984 hit song, Smuggler's Blues, "it's the lure of easy money; it's got a very strong appeal". There are plenty of other militant groups waiting for FARC to move out of the way so they can seize control of the illegal narcotics business.

Woody (2016):
Even if the FARC totally fulfills its commitment to disarming and leaving behind its illegal activities, there are a plethora of criminal groups that could pick up the slack. Criminal bands, commonly referred to in the county as BACRIM, are active throughout Colombia, and reports indicate that they are salivating at the prospect of assuming the FARC's role in the drug trade.

It is claimed that many of these BACRIM are much more vicious, perhaps more willing to do what it takes to seize control. Further, there is no doubt that many suddenly-unemployed FARC members will join forces with the groups waiting in the wings.

Woody (2016):
There is also a likelihood that many FARC elements, either dissatisfied with the peace deal or enticed by criminal profits, will remain in the drug trade, consolidating the market share vacated by those FARC groups that do demobilize. A FARC group in remote eastern Colombia has already declared its refusal to disarm.
Other FARC members may make the jump to one of Colombia's many criminal organizations, continuing the same activities under new management. Many do already, according to Alcibiades Escue, the mayor of a town in southwest Colombia.
"By day they wear the FARC insignia and by nightfall they've switched to the ELN," Escue told Reuters, only partially in jest.
Pro contends that after sixteen years, despite billions of dollars in aid and support, Plan Colombia has failed to yield peace and security in Colombia.

Failure to Stop Smuggling

Curtailment of the flow of cheap cocaine into the country was a major policy of the United States. Even in the earliest years of the program it was clear Plan Colombia was failing to meet its objectives despite significant financial commitment.

Arsenault (2014):
As of 2013, the US was providing Colombia with more than $310m in annual military and economic aid, according to the Washington Office on Latin America, a significant decline from previous years. But it's still enough to make Colombia the largest recipient of US military aid in Latin America.
The Plan's initial official objective, to reduce by half the amount of cocaine produced in Colombia in the first five years, failed, said Juan Vargas, a professor at the University of Rosario in Bogota who studies Colombia's conflict.

Even after years of spraying and an all-out, horrific war on the cartels, cocaine smuggling was shifted to other Central American organizations.

Arsenault (2014):
The plan decreased the amount of Colombian land used in coca cultivation, but the price and purity of drugs on US streets - key figures for measuring the effectiveness of counternarcotics operations - remained virtually unchanged.
In the 1990s, large-scale Colombian crime gangs, including the infamous Medellin and Cali cartels, dominated the world's cocaine market by producing industrial quantities of coca on large plantations and controlling distribution to the US and Europe.
Plan Colombia helped change that, fracturing the large cartels. The biggest beneficiaries of this move, however, were Mexico's vicious gangsters.
In the 1990s, Mexican cartels were hired by Colombian criminals to help move product across the US border. Following the fracturing of Colombian syndicates, Mexican mafias became the dominant criminal forces in the hemisphere, outsourcing production to diffuse groups in Colombia and other South American countries.

The U.S. should realize they are playing a game of whack-a-mole. We spend money and commit vast resources to whack one criminal organization and several more rise to take its place.

Stewart (2013)
U.S. counternarcotics officials report that today the Mexican cartels are the largest players in the global cocaine trade and are steadily working to grab the portion of cocaine smuggling not yet under their control. But the efforts of the Mexican cartels to increase their share of the cocaine profit are not confined to the production side; they have also expanded their involvement in the smuggling of South American cocaine to Europe and Australia and have established a footprint in African, Asian and European countries. Furthermore, they have stepped up their activities in places like the Dominican Republic and Haiti in an attempt to increase their share of the cocaine being smuggled through the Caribbean to the U.S. market. As seen by recent operations launched by U.S. law enforcement, such as Operation Xcellerator, Operation Chokehold and Operation Imperial Emperor, the Mexican cartels have also been increasing their presence at distribution points inside the United States, such as Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas, in an effort to increase their share of the cocaine profit chain inside the United States.

The Pro urges the end of Plan Colombia. After years of spending and presumed commitment to the cause of reduced trafficking and a secure Colombia, we have made little to no progress. The time has come to admit failure and begin a new direction.  I leave the final word to Amnesty International who have documented the horrible toll of Plan Colombia since inception.

Amnesty (undated):
Year after year US policy has ignored the evidence and the cries of the United Nations, Colombian and international non-governmental organizations and the people of Colombia. Plan Colombia is a failure in every respect and human rights in Colombia will not improve until there is a fundamental shift in US foreign policy.

For all these reasons and more, we urge a Pro ballot.

For links to the Intro and Con positions or for more information about Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.


Amnesty (undated), U.S. Policy in Colombia, Amnesty International, accessed 11/6/2016 at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/countries/americas/colombia/us-policy-in-colombia

Arsenault, C (2016), Did Colombia's war on drugs succeed?, Al-Jazeera, 22 May 2014, accessed 11/3/2016 at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/05/did-colombia-war-drugs-succeed-201452264737690753.html

Brodzinsky S (2016), After 30 years on the frontline, Colombia looks beyond the failed war on drugs, The Guardian, 18 April 2016, accessed 11/3/2016 at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/18/colombia-united-nations-assembly-war-on-drugs

Carasik L (2016), Washington should avoid repeating Plan Colombia’s failures, Al Jazerra, America, February 9, 2016, accessed 11/3/2016 at: http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2016/2/washington-should-avoid-repeating-plan-colombias-failures.html

Crisis Group (2016), Reassembling Colombia’s Rejected Peace Deal, Crisis Group, Statement, 6 October, 2016, accessed 11/3/2016 at: https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/andes/colombia/reassembling-colombia-s-rejected-peace-deal

LaSusa M, Human Rights Activists Dispute "Success" of "Plan Colombia", Truthout | News Analysis, 25 February 2016 accessed 11/3/2016 at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34951-human-rights-activists-dispute-success-of-plan-colombia

Mejía D (2016), Plan Colombia: An Analysis of Effectiveness and Costs, Brookings Institute, 2016; accessed 11/3/2016 at: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Mejia-Colombia-final-2.pdf

Schaffer A, Youngers CA (2015),Twilight Hour of Coca Fumigation in Colombia Shows its Injustice, Ineffectiveness, WOLA, Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas, 30 Sep 2015, accessed 11/3/2016 at: https://www.wola.org/analysis/twilight-hour-of-coca-fumigation-in-colombia-shows-its-injustice-ineffectiveness/

Stewart S (2013), Mexico's Cartels and the Economics of Cocaine, Stratfor Enterprises, Jan 3, 2013 accessed 11/3/2016 at: https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/mexicos-cartels-and-economics-cocaine

Woody, C (2016), Colombia's peace deal has a cocaine problem, Business Insider, Aug, 27, 2016; accessed 11/3/2016 at: http://www.businessinsider.com/colombia-farc-peace-plan-drug-production-and-trafficking-problems-2016-8

Sunday, November 6, 2016

PF Dec 2016 - Plan Colombia - Introduction

Resolved: The United States should end Plan Colombia


The initiative known as Plan Columbia was originally instituted as a kind of anti-drug program aimed at reducing or eliminating the production and export of cocaine from the South American country of Colombia.  Cocaine use and abuse was a growing problem in the U.S. in the 1980s and was fueling an underground economy which was supported by corruption, violence, gangs, and exploitation. At the time, most of the cocaine coming into the U.S. was believed to have originated in Colombia, a nation in which the central government was weak and ineffective due to poverty, poor infrastructure, civil unrest, and powerful anti-government factions battling for overthrow of the unpopular government. Most of the production and transportation of cocaine was managed by powerful, criminal gangs; the co-called cartels which not only violently resisted government attempts to stop them but also fought one another for control of the cocaine market. In the late 1990s, President Andres Pastrana assumed power of the government of Colombia and reached out to the U.S. for help in stabilizing the government by strengthening its military and revitalizing the Colombian economy. At the time, FARC, the most powerful of several Colombian militant guerrilla groups were conducting various terrorist acts aimed at taking down the central government. Meanwhile, Colombian farmers were being pressed into serving the interests of the cartels and had little incentive to grow any products other than cocoa plants. The U.S. quickly took the lead in fashioning the policy which became known as Plan Colombia. Of course the U.S. was mainly interested in ebbing the flow of cocaine across its borders and so forged an agreement which focused heavily on supporting Colombian military and police armament and training for counter-narcotics operations. The initial aid package was passed by Congress in the year 2000. Plan Colombia has continued to evolve over the years to satisfy the changing political and strategic objectives of the U.S. and its relationship with Colombia.

Through the last sixteen years, Plan Colombia has driven an array of military operations, resulting in huge numbers of casualties. A massive program of aerial spraying of herbicides has destroyed thousands of acres of cocoa plants with associated claims of environmental and human health effects. Charges of humans rights abuses on both sides of the anti-drug war and counter-insurgency wars have been exposed. Yet despite these harms, there is also evidence Plan Colombia has been very successful in breaking the power of the cartels, limiting the impacts of anti-government militant groups, and shifting the Colombian economy away from cocoa.


The United States
Once again, it should not be necessary to define United States. While the United States is a federation of fifty states and can be expanded to include the territories, military installations, etc, under the jurisdiction of the federation. In this context we narrow the definition to mean the government of the country known as the United States.

This word is very often defined as a word used to express an obligation but it can be more loosely defined as a strong suggestion. The Pro position will favor an interpretation that 'should' suggests the resolution is saying, Plan Columbia MUST be terminated; no exceptions.

In this resolution, end is a verb. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it simply as to finish or stop. Again, we do not need to define the word since every English-speaker on the planet should understand its meaning in this context. It is unlikely that any team would try to take a position there may be degrees to what is meant by 'end'. For example, will a team argue only some unpopular or particularly problematic aspect of Plan Columbia should be terminated? Unlikely.  We assume, the resolution intends every program, action, or spending measure allocated under Plan Columbia be terminated.

Plan Colombia
Amnesty International says, Plan Colombia is, quote, "the name for the US aid package since 2000, was created as a strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace, mainly through military means.", end quote. I think this definition is sufficient for the purposes of this analysis of the resolution since each side will tend to focus on specific aspects of the plan and its various provisions.

The Resolution

This resolution calls for the end to Plan Colombia. We are not given any clues as to why. Thus the Pro debater is forced to justify the call for ending the program based on criteria which must be determined by research. Moreover, there is no implied framework in the resolution.  Unlike a resolution which explicitly calls for an "on balance" weighing of harms and benefits, this resolution leaves it entirely up to the debaters to establish a framework for the judge to make her decision. This is somewhat complicated by the fact the rules of Public Forum debate permit either side to speak first. Thus, it is possible both sides could be urging different and competing evaluative standards for the judge. Of course, this kind of debate is not unique in Public Forum debate. It has happened before that resolutions are worded in such a way and most of the time the judge ends up sorting through claims made at the contention level and fashioning her own decision calculus by which to decide a winner. On the Pro side, it may be assumed the U.S. should end Plan Colombia because in a comparative advantage framework, the harms of militarization, spraying chemicals, and human rights abuses, outweighs the benefits of a more secure Colombian government or reduction in Colombian sourced narcotics in the U.S. Pro may also take another approach whereby the claim is made that Plan Colombia is simply no longer needed. It has achieved its goals, and should be ended. And while counter-plans are not considered legitimate in Public Forum debate, it may be argued Plan Colombia should be ended because other proposed programs or aid packages can be more effective. 

On the con side, the basic position is Plan Colombia should not be ended. Of course, since Con must also advocate a position, it follows Con must justify its position. For example, the Con framework may be the benefits of Plan Colombia outweigh the harms. A variation of that framework would argue that ending the program will result in harms which outweigh any advantages gained by voting Pro.

We shall examine both sides of this resolution separately in the Pro and Con positions.

For links to the Pro and Con positions or for more information about Public Forum debate, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page.