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July/August 2001 • Vol 1, No. 3 •

Plan Colombia and Washington’s War On Drugs: The rich get richer and the poor get killed!

by Art LeClair

“The US is experiencing record overdose deaths, record mentions of drugs in emergency rooms, rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and a 50 percent increase in adolescent drug use since 1990. This failure is happening at the same time that police are being successful in achieving their goals—record drug arrests, high levels of drug seizures and drug eradication, and the largest prison population in world history.” So states Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy (CSDP).

CSDP is a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to getting out the truth about US governmental drug policies and offering alternatives to those policies. It also works with various civil rights, civil liberties, public health and drug policy reform organizations to focus on the racially disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs.”

“Defense” is the real funding priority

While the bipartisan House and Senate gut funding for education, health care, drug rehabilitation and virtually all social services, the amount of money they spend on the corporate welfare program called “the defense industry” soars.

It was recently revealed that various levels of federal, state and local government will spend in excess of $38 billion this year alone, as part of their so-called war on drugs. However, the true price tag of any war, including this one, must also include the number of dead and maimed as well as destruction to the environment that results.

When one tries to factor in all the available data relating to this war, the mathematics can become mind-boggling. If this article is successful, the reader will get a sense of the degree of barbarism visited on the peoples of North and South America by US imperialism, under the guise of its “war on drugs.”

I’m not exactly sure when I heard the term “collateral damage” for the first time; I believe it was during Operation Desert Storm. One of the generals whose job it was to “sell” the concept of “clean, surgical” warfare and its “smart” weapons to the folks back home, started talking about “collateral damage.” It became quickly obvious that the general was talking about the murder of innocent civilians, and the destruction of “non-essential” facilities such as hospitals and schools.

Collateral damage

The war on drugs has left in its trail so much “collateral damage,” that it isn’t easy to pick a starting point. So, I will touch on just a few examples of the real costs involved in Washington’s war “to keep the streets of America safe from narcotics.”

A recent example that got wide play in the world media was the shooting down of a single engine civilian aircraft by a Peruvian Air Force fighter jet. Allegedly the Peruvians “mistook” the private plane for a plane carrying cocaine. Instead, it was carrying several missionaries including a mother and her seven-month old daughter, who were killed. This is one example of “collateral damage”.

On April 7, when Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old unarmed Black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer in the predominantly Black, Over-the Rhine section of Cincinnati because he had 12 outstanding misdemeanor traffic violations, he too became “collateral damage.”

So too have the hundreds of young Black men shot down on the streets of American cities because of an overzealous, race driven terror campaign which says: Black man on the streets at night— Drugs, “Shoot him!” “Collateral damage” again.

Every drug addict you see on the street corners of your city, begging for change because the local drug treatment and rehabilitation clinic was closed due to “budget constraints,” just more “collateral damage.” I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Plan Columbia

In order to demonstrate to the world that US government policy is global in scope, those friendly people in Washington have graciously increased the export of “collateral damage” to the needy workers and peasants of Latin America.

The US has already committed to spend a substantial part of the $38 billion mentioned above on what it calls, “Plan Colombia.” The purpose of this plan is to strengthen the Colombian police and army as they escalate a Washington-inspired counterinsurgency war in the hope of propping up another brutal regime, dependent on support from the US.

The purpose is to escalate a Washington-inspired counterinsurgency war and prop up another brutal regime.

As part of Plan Colombia, the US Army will dispatch more troops from its Southern Command in order to train at least four battalions of Colombian soldiers in the various aspects of counterinsurgency warfare. Furthermore, they will assist in establishing a network of military bases throughout the country as well as modernizing the Colombian army with combat helicopters, naval patrol boats and jet fighters.

Under the guise of protecting the peace loving people of the hemisphere, and strengthening native “democratic institutions,” the Bush administration is picking up right where the Clinton war machine left off.

Like Father, Like Son

While George W. Bush has taken the handoff from Bill Clinton, what is unfolding in Colombia and around the globe is the further expansion of the “New World Order” (NWO) established during the administration of George Bush Sr. Taking his marching orders from US imperialism, young George is now going about the business of setting up precinct houses for the police force of the NWO, the armed forces of the United States.

At the very least, these measures represent a direct threat to the workers and peasants of Latin America, as they strive to shrug off the yoke of colonial oppression. Lurking in the shadows, however, is the very real danger of a massive and lengthy US military incursion into the region that is already being compared to the debacle of the Vietnam War.

For decades now, the Colombian people have been fighting against one brutal dictatorship after another. Policy makers in Washington, D.C., are even forced to acknowledge the fact that the current regime has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

Reluctantly, representatives of the Clinton administration had to admit that the same Colombian army which is being beefed up to help implement US foreign policy, has been working hand in hand with the big land owners and their private paramilitary forces, who are the driving force behind the major drug cartels in the country.

While only the fifth largest country in Latin America in landmass, Colombia is the third largest in population with approximately 42 million people. It stands as the world’s second largest supplier of coffee.

Colombia also claims to be the region’s oldest democracy. It would appear that the Colombian ruling class uses the same dictionary as the Israeli Zionists, in terms of defining democracy. To most people, however, neither coffee nor democracy is the “product” most associated with present day Colombia.

The country is famous nowadays for two things, cocaine and violence. For more than twenty years, Colombia has been the world’s largest supplier of cocaine. Originally, coca was trucked into the country from Peru and Bolivia where it was grown, and processed into refined cocaine for export to the United States and Europe. Since the early 1990s, however, the growing of the coca plant has also been concentrated within the country’s borders.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Violence is nothing new in Colombia, but the increase in drug profiteering has brought with it a form of violence previously unseen. The drug cartels and gangs have seemingly turned a huge number of young Colombians into hired killers, or “sicarios.” Concentrating mostly on unemployed city youth, the drug lords have taken advantage of the deepening economic woes of the masses of Latin America, and have street urchins doing their dirty work for them.

As the drug business flourishes, it allows the cartels to build and equip bands of vigilantes who are organized into the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). These paramilitary outfits are better equipped than the country’s military, and their rise has caused a response from the left.

The guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and a smaller group, the National Liberation Army (ELN) have also gained prominence as a counter to the right wing death squads and paramilitary organizations of the country’s capitalist class.

It is the existence of the latter organizations, FARC in particular, which the United States and their clients among the Colombian bourgeoisie, point to as justification for the obscene levels of military funding in Plan Colombia.

Cooked up by a coalition of US and Colombian officials and unleashed in 1999 by Colombian president Andres Pastrana, the campaign was advertised as a plan “for peace, prosperity and the strengthening of the state.” Defenders of the plan argue it will introduce more than $7 billion into the national economy by the end of 2002.

Thus far, however, the only tangible evidence of increased investments in the countryside is the roar of military gun ships overhead, the toxic spray from crop dusters, and the 50 percent increase in deaths of a “socio-political” character over the first year of Plan Colombia.

Human rights activists in Colombia argue that the increase in military aid will prove disastrous for the Colombian people. They fear an escalation in human rights violation by the Army against community activists, human rights activists and labor union organizers.

Amnesty International (AI) reports that at least 112 trade unionists were killed in 2000, and 35 more in the first three months of 2001. “Trade union members and activists are among the main targets of human rights violations including killings, ‘disappearances,’ threats and intimidation, all in the context of the spiraling armed conflict in Colombia;” states a report from AI on January 5 of this year.

Not even school children are spared. On August 6, 2000, six small children were murdered when the Army fired into their school group while they were participating in a field trip.

To say that Plan Colombia was greeted by mixed reviews would be an understatement. While some Colombians welcome US economic aid, few agree on the details of its delivery. Instead of much needed nutritional and health resources, all that is visible pertains to the war.

Colombia’s neighbors aren’t exactly delighted either. Ecuadorian officials are anxiously anticipating the spilling over of the war across its border, believing it to be inevitable.

U.S. Presence Includes Mercenaries

While the estimated 750 Green Beret “advisors” already in Colombia await the arrival of the Army’s Southern Command, they are not the only Americans aiding and abetting the Colombian war machine. Since at least 1997, a large number of U.S. military veterans have been employed as “civilian” pilots, mechanics and other assorted support personnel for the war effort.

These “civilians” are employed by a company called Dynacorp Aerospace Technology, or one of its subsidiaries, Eagle Aviation Services and Technology (EAST). If the name sounds familiar, it should. This is the same company that supplied and flew the aircraft used secretly to run munitions to the Contras in Nicaragua during their anti-Sandinista campaign of the 1980’s.

Today the same people, who reaped millions of dollars in profits helping Ollie North arm the death squads in Nicaragua, are doing so again in Colombia, as well as Bolivia and Peru. The Peruvian Air Force fighter that shot down the plane load of missionaries mentioned above, was directed to do so by a CIA-operated surveillance plane manned by “civilian” employees from the U.S. company!

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP)

“Our struggle is to do away with the state as it now exists in Colombia,” says Alfonso Cano, a member of the FARC’s ruling secretariat. “Preferably by political means, but if they don’t let us, then we have to carry on shooting,” he concludes.

In a statement released in May 2000, the Secretariat of the Central General Staff of FARC-EP stated, “The Narcotics traffic is a phenomenon of globalized capitalism and of the yankees above all. It is not the FARC’s problem. We reject it. But since the US government uses the narcotics traffic’s existence as a pretext for its criminal action against the Colombian people, we call upon it to legalize narcotics consumption. Thus the high profits produced by the illegality of this trade would be suppressed at the roots, consumption controlled, those dependent on narcotics treated clinically and this cancer would be eliminated definitively. For great illnesses, great remedies.”

Now that sounds like a war on drugs!

The statement continues in part, “Peace cannot be understood as just the silencing of the guns while the guarantees are maintained by the powerful to continue exploiting the workers and increasing unemployment...Simultaneously they close public hospitals and make health care a profitable business wherein the illness of a poor person has no place. Education is ever more elitist and the enterprises in the strategic sectors...privatized.” (You can read the entire statement on-line at www.farc-ep.org, their official website; click on documents, then on “OUR HISTORY.”)

While it appears the leadership of the FARC-EP has a pretty clear understanding of the overall situation and sounds prepared to do whatever is necessary to see the struggle through to the end, the future remains in doubt, not just because of the incredible power and resources of imperialism, which are plenty.

On several occasions the FARC has engaged in “peace talks” with the Colombian government. Most recently President Pastrana has even traveled into a FARC-controlled demilitarized zone in order to negotiate the ground rules for the peace talks. We can only hope that the FARC leadership isn’t suckered into a phony “peace” like the one presently collapsing in Northern Ireland.

In the long run, the workers and peasants of Colombia are in the same boat as the rest of us. So long as world imperialism is in power, attempts to overturn even the tiniest part of it will not be tolerated. That’s what the New World Order is all about. Witness the savage bombing of Yugoslavia and Iraq.

The only answer to the problem is the rising up of the world’s working class, the proletariat, the most powerful force on earth. Then and only then will the question of smashing the world’s ruling class be addressed and answered.





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