A Compass for Colombia Policy

Download:(PDF, 3.78 MB) A Compass for Colombia Policy(PDF, 3.95 MB) Un nuevo rumbo para la política estadounidense hacia Colombia


New Report Outlines a Just and Effective Foreign Policy toward Colombia

(English PDF, 3.78 MB) | (PDF en español, 3.95 MB).

During their final presidential debate, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain expressed markedly different opinions on U.S. policy toward Colombia, an important partner in Latin America. Yet the next U.S. president won’t just be debating policy, he will be making it—and in the case of Colombia, he will need more than minor changes along the margins. He will need a new approach.

The Compass for Colombia Policy, written by some of Washington’s top Colombia experts, offers a better way forward for one of the main foreign policy challenges that the next administration will face. This report makes a detailed, persuasive case for a new U.S. strategy that would achieve our current policy goals while ending impunity and strengthening respect for human rights. Instead of risking all by placing too much faith in a single, charismatic leader, the United States must appeal to the aspirations and needs of all Colombians by strengthening democratic institutions, such as the judiciary. In particular, the United States must stand by and empower the human rights advocates, victims, judges, prosecutors, union leaders, journalists and others who are the driving forces towards a more just and peaceful Colombia.

The Compass details seven sensible steps policymakers can take to create a just and effective Colombia policy.

1. Use U.S. Aid and Leverage for Human Rights and the Rule of Law

To address a human rights crisis that continues unabated and a chronic lack of political will to deal with it, the United States must use tougher diplomacy to encourage the Colombian government to strengthen human rights guarantees, protect human rights defenders, and bolster institutions needed to break with a history of impunity for abuses. Colombia’s judicial system is central to the rule of law and must receive strong support.

2. Actively Support Overtures for Peace

The United States cannot continue to bankroll a war without end and, as the civilian population in the countryside continues to endure immense suffering, should make peace a priority.

3. Support Expansion of the Government’s Civilian Presence in the Countryside

Militarily occupying territory is not the solution to Colombia’s problems. The United States should help Colombia strengthen its civilian government presence in rural zones to address lawlessness, poverty and inequality, the roots of the conflict.

4. Protect the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees

The United States can help resolve Colombia’s massive humanitarian crisis by insisting on the dismantlement of paramilitary structures, supporting Colombia’s Constitutional Court rulings on IDPs, and increasing and improving aid to IDPs and refugees.. Since the aids are a short-term solution, financially empowering these refugees and IDPs is the best way, for which something like the Orion Code is an ideal solution because not only they can earn some solid money to favor their situation but also enlighten themselves by understanding the significances of online trading that can help them forever in their lives greatly!

5. Protect the Rights of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities

The United States must pay special attention to promoting ethnic minorities’ land rights and guarantee that U.S. aid projects are not carried out on land obtained by violence.

6. Ensure that Trade Policy Supports, Not Undermines, Policy Goals towards Colombia

The United States should insist upon labor rights advances, especially in reducing and prosecuting violence against trade unionists, prior to further consideration of the trade agreement. The United States must ensure that any trade agreement will not undermine U.S. policy goals, such as reducing farmers’ dependence on coca and ending the conflict.

7. Get Serious—and Smart—about Drug Policy

The United States is overdue for a major course correction in its drug control strategy, which has failed spectacularly in Colombia and the Andean region. The United States should end the inhumane and counterproductive aerial spraying program and invest seriously in rural development, including alternative development designed with affected communities. Drug enforcement should focus higher up on the distribution chain, disrupt money laundering schemes and apprehend violent traffickers. Access to high-quality drug treatment in the United States, which will cut demand, must be the centerpiece of U.S. drug policy.

“The next administration should use diplomatic pressure to hold Colombia to much higher standards on human rights, labor rights, and protection of the rule of law.”–Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund

“The United States must recognize the magnitude of the human rights crisis for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities in Colombia, in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lands and livelihoods to violence. –Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America

“Nine years after the launch of Plan Colombia, the production of cocaine remains virtually unchanged. The United States simply cannot afford to continue to pursue this costly and failed counternarcotics policy. The next President must change course.” –Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy

“In the last decade, Colombia’s conflict has taken 20,000 more lives and displaced more than 2 million citizens. Now is the time to make renewed efforts for peace.” –Kelly Nicholls, U.S. Office on Colombia

For more information:
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, (202) 546-7010; lisah [at] lawg.org
Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Washington Office on Latin America, (202) 797-2171; gsanchez [at] wola.org
Adam Isacson, Center for International Policy, (202) 232-3317; isacson [at] ciponline.org
Kelly Nicholls, US Office on Colombia, (202) 232-8090; kelly [at] usofficeoncolombia.org


Since 1997, this project has maintained a database of U.S. military and police assistance, and related programs, in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Explore our database of U.S. assistance to the region.

Aid: Find out how much military and economic aid goes to each country, and which programs supply the most aid.

Training: Find out which countries receive the most military training, which programs are paying for it, and where it takes place. Or search for specific training events.

Sales: View arms sales to the region, by country and by program, and search for specific types of sales.

Deployments: Find out about U.S. troop deployments to the region – exercises, bases, and humanitarian missions – by country and by program

Ecuador’s New Constitution, Part 2: Sovereignty

Yesterday, we outlined the effect Ecuador’s new Constitution will have on the Armed Forces and the Police. Today, we move on to the topic of sovereignty.

Not only does the new Constitution prohibit the establishment of foreign military bases or installations with military goals within its territory (think the U.S. military base in Manta), it also sets the stage for Ecuador to push for further regional integration and defense cooperation.

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Additionally, as laid out in the new Constitution, sovereignty will no longer be viewed solely from the territorial point of view, but it also be viewed in terms of energy, nutrition and policy.

According to El Comercio, these changes in the Constitution demonstrate that Ecuador seeks to distance itself from the United States’ policies of the global war against terror and the militarization of the fight against narcotrafficking.

Below, like yesterday, is a translation of a description of what these changes in the new Constitution imply and what they mean for Ecuador.
(translated from the article in El Comercio, “Una nueva visión de soberanía”)

A new vision of sovereignty

What does this imply?

A new vision of sovereignty and territorial defense will emerge with the new Constitution. Since the Government rose to power, it said that it would not extend the agreement for the use of the base at Manta by the U.S. military. This promise was celebrated by Article 5 of the constitutional project. In addition, the country will enter into a new logic of sovereignty with a strong regional charge.

The intention is to distance Ecuador from the defense doctrine of U.S. policy that consisted of a hemispheric security vision and that in the recent years has consolidated into a global practice for the fight against terrorism and the militarization of the fight against narcotrafficking. This resulted in major repercussions within the countries that make up the Andean region.

Now, the security agenda will be considered along with political and economic aspects. As a result, within a new Magna Carta it will be established that the country adopts the means to push for regional or subregional integration. This is not a process that has been created in Ecuador, but is also being carried out in European and Asian countries that transformed their nationalist vision and unified into a block in order to negotiate in accordance with their weaknesses and strengths.

As a result the new vision of sovereignty will be multidimensional. It no longer will have only one concept, the territory, and it will instead span themes such as policy and economy.

What does this mean?

The project of the new Constitution presents a transversal model of sovereignty, since it is no longer analyzed only from the territorial point of view, but includes the political, energetic, and even, nutritional point of view. From the territorial point of view the Montecristi proposal establishes the expressive prohibition of the establishment of foreign military bases or installations with military goals within the country.

Also, it signals a more extensive concept of Ecuadorian territory than the Magna Carta of 1998. In article 4 it is expressed that territory is a geographic and historical unit of natural, social and cultural dimensions. This territory makes up the continental and maritime space, the adjacent islands, the territorial sea, the Galapagos Archipelago, the soil, the submarine platform, and the overlying continental, insular and maritime space. Its limits are determined by current treaties. In addition, Ecuador’s territory is inalienable, irreducible, and inviolable. No one may make an attempt against the national unity and encourage succession. Also, the concept that the Armed Forces are charged with protecting the sovereignty and territorial defense of the nation.

But, within the project of the new Magna Carta, a policy of defense and territorial sovereignty will have a new base that pushes for the union of the countries in the region, which will signify a distancing from the defense doctrine of the United States.

Sovereignty in the Project

Art. 4. The territory is a geographic and historical unit of natural, social and cultural dimensions. It makes up the continental and maritime space, the adjacent islands, the territorial sea, the Galapagos Archipelago, the soil, the submarine platform, the overlying continental, insular and maritime space. Its limits are determined by current treaties.

Art. 5. Ecuador is a territory of peace. The establishment of foreign military bases and installations with military goals are not permitted. National military bases may not be handed over to foreign militaries or security forces.

Art. 57. Various rights for indigenous communities and nationalities are recognized. Among them, the limitation of military activities in their territories, according to the Law.

Art. 158. The Armed Forces and the Police are institutions for the protection of rights, liberties and guarantees for the citizens. The Armed Forces has as its fundamental mission the defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Art. 416. In number 5 it is established that Ecuador recognizes the rights of distinct pueblos that coexist within the States, especially in promoting mechanisms that express, preserve and protect the diverse character of their societies and rejects racism, xenophobia, and all other forms of discrimination.

Art. 423. The integration, especially with Latin American and Caribbean countries, will be a strategic objective of the State. Number 6 of this article establishes that there will be a common defense policy that will consolidate a strategic alliance to strengthen the sovereignty of the countries and of the region.

Sovereignty in the 1998 Constitution

Art. 2. The Ecuadorian territory is inalienable and irreducible. It is made of the Real Audiencia de Quito with the modifications introduced in current treaties, the adjacent islands, the Galapagos Archipelago, the territorial sea, the subsoil and the overlying space…

Art. 5. Ecuador may form associations with one or more States for the promotion and defense of its national interests.

Art. 183. The Armed Forces has as its mission the conservation of the national sovereignty, the defense of the integrity and the independence of the State

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The redefined role of Ecuador’s military and police under the new Constitution

On Sunday, Ecuadorians went to the polls to vote on the country’s 20th Constitution, which has been one of President Rafael Correa’s main projects since he was elected two years ago. With 96.26% of the votes counted, the ‘yes’ vote has 64.04% of the vote and the ‘no’ 28.01%.

As has been reported widely in the international press, the new Constitution concentrates power in the hands of the President, gives the President the option of running for reelection – for a total of two consecutive four year terms -, permits civil unions of homosexual couples, puts the powers of the Central Bank into the hands of the executive, and, for the first time in the world of constitutions, grants nature an inalienable right to be protected.

What hasn’t been reported is how the new constitution will affect the military, the police, civilian control, and sovereignty – topics that are of main interest to Just the Facts. For the next few days, we will outline on this blog how the new Constitution will affect these aspects of security and defense in Ecuador, courtesy of a series published by Ecuador’s El Comercio called “With a microscope on the Constitution.”

Today, we will start with the military and the police.

Military and Police have the right to vote
(translated from the article “Los uniformados podrán votar”)

What does this imply?

The constitutional reform project eliminates the concept of the “Public Force” and clearly defines the functions of the Armed Forces as an entity in defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, it defines the authority of the Police as an organism in charge of public order and citizen security. The responsibility to guarantee the legal system of the nation is not included in the new functions of the Armed Forces.

Within political rights, the legislative project determines that the members of the Armed Forces and the Police will have the voluntary right to vote. Nevertheless, it does not signal the control mechanism for order during electoral processes.

Military service will no longer be obligatory under the framework of respect for diversity and rights. Additionally, voluntary recruitment will be accompanied by training programs in different occupational areas.

Those who voluntarily enlist for military service will not be designated for zones of high military risk. In regard to members of the Police, they will have a specialized formation in accordance with human rights. In both cases, a system of merit-based promotions will be established, with criteria for equality and gender.

In application of the principle of legal unity, the police and the military will be judged by the citizen justice system if a crime is committed.

What does this mean?

The institutions of the Armed Forces and the Police will be differentiated, with specific and complementary functions under the framework of respect for democracy and human rights. The legislative project will avoid having the high-command of the military decide what circumstances constitute a threat to the legal integrity of the nation.

The members of the Armed Forces and the Police will have the ability to exercise their political right to a voluntary vote within the electoral process; however, there are restrictions with respect to the possibility of becoming a candidate in a popular election.

Any Ecuadorian citizen will be able to voluntarily enlist for military service. The legislative project prohibits any form of forced recruitment and guarantees the security of the volunteer members, although it does not specify what zones are considered to be of high military risk.

Additionally, the project guarantees the enlistment of both men and women to the Armed Forces and the Police without any type of discrimination.

The Police is defined as an institution to service the community with a focus on crime prevention to guarantee the security of citizens.

If a member of the Armed Forces or the Police commits a crime, he or she will be judged in a court specialized in the subject of military and police and integrated into the judicial system.

The project:

Art. 62. The vote will be accessible to people between 16 and 18 years old, over 65 years old, Ecuadorians who live abroad, members of the Armed Forces and the Police.

Art. 113. Members of the Armed Forces and the National Police who are in active service cannot be candidates for popular election.

Art. 147. It is the power and the right of the President of the Republics to exercise maximum authority over the Armed Forces and the National Police and to designate the members of the High Command of the Military and Police.

Art. 152. Active members of the Armed Forces and the National Police cannot be Ministers of the State.

Art. 158. The Armed Forces and the National Police are institutions that protect the rights, liberties and guarantees of the citizens. The Armed Forces have the fundamental mission to defined the sovereignty and integrity of the territory. Internal protection and the maintenance of public order is the responsibility of the National Police.

Art. 159. The Armed Forces and the National Police will be obedient and follow the chain of command, and will comply with their mission with the strict submission to civil power and to the Constitution.

Art. 160. Those aspiring to a military or police career will not be discriminated against for their enlistment. The law establishes the specific requirements for those cases in which special skills, knowledge or capacity is required. The members will be subjected to a system of merit-based promotion, with criteria for gender equality.

Art. 161. Civil-military service is voluntary. This service will be carried out in the framework of respect for diversity and rights, accompanied by an alternative training . . .

The current law

Art. 27. Popular vote is universal, equal, direct and secret; it is obligatory for those who can read and write, optional for those who are illiterate and for those over 65 years old. Active members of the “Public Force” will not be able to use this right.

Art. 101. Active members of the public force may not be candidates in the popular election.

Art. It is the power and the right of the President of the Republic to exercise the maximum authority over the public force, designate the members of the Miltary High Command . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Latin American leaders speak at the UN General Assembly

This week, many Latin American leaders had the opportunity to speak at the United Nation’s 63rd General Assembly in New York. While the remarks of each president varied, a common thread among the speeches was the success of UNASUR and the future of regional cooperation.

Below you can find the link to a summary of each president’s remarks in English. The linked pages also contain a .pdf of the full speech in Spanish.

Argentina: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Bolivia: President Evo Morales Ayma

Brazil: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Chile: President Michelle Bachelet Jeria

Colombia: President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

Costa Rica: President Óscar Arias Sánchez

Cuba: José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of the Council of State and Ministers

Dominican Republic: President Leonel Fernández Reyna

El Salvador: President Elías Antonio Saca González

Guatemala: President Álvaro Colom Caballeros

Honduras: President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales

Mexico: President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

Panama: President Martin Torrijos Espino

Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo Méndez

Thursday, September 18, 2008

United States: Bolivia does not cooperate with the drug war

Last week, we speculated about whether Bolivia would be placed on the United States’ list of countries who have “failed demonstrably” to cooperate with U.S. anti-narcotics policy and the implications this might have, especially when comparing coca production and eradication and seizure levels of Bolivia with those of Peru and Colombia – top U.S. allies in the region. This week, the White House issued the “Majors List” of narcotics source and transfer countries for 2008, and Bolivia had been added to the “non-cooperating” list, which last year only included Venezuela and Burma.

Below are two charts that lay out both coca cultivation and cocaine production levels in Bolivia since 1994. The U.N data used to create these charts show a 5% increase in coca cultivation and an increase in cocaine production from 94 to 104 tons in 2007. These numbers differ from those cited by Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson at a press conference this week, held upon the release of the 2008 list. In criticizing Bolivian President Evo Morales’ drug policies, Assistant Secretary Johnson said “The expansion of cultivation and lack of controls on coca leaf resulted in a 14% increase in the area of coca under cultivation, and an increase in potential cocaine production from 115 to 120 metric tons.” Regardless, while these numbers do show a rise in the amount of coca and cocaine in Bolivia, the increases are not outstanding, especially in comparison to Colombia and Peru’s cultivation and production numbers.

The addition of Bolivia to the “non-cooperating” list, however, comes at a time of tense relations between the governments of the United States and Bolivia. Just last week, Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador, claiming that he was conspiring with the opposition. The United States retaliated by expelling the Bolivian ambassador the next day.

At the press conference, Assistant Secretary Johnson noted that the addition of Bolivia to the list was not “a hasty decision” in retaliation for the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, but instead cited “the [drug] policies that they are pursuing, capped off by the expulsion, if you will, of the USAID program in Chapare [a coca-growing region in central Bolivia] for alternative development, as well as the assistance program provided by our Drug Enforcement Administration, made the conclusion rather clear.”

Here is a timeline of the deterioration of U.S.-Bolivia relations since last fall.

August 2007: Bolivian Minister Juan Ramon Quintana accuses the United States of using USAID funds to finance opposition groups.

November 2007: The Bolivian government passes around a photograph of U.S. Ambassador Goldberg with John Jairo Venegas, a Colombian accused by Bolivia of being a member of the Colombian right-wing paramilitary squads.

October 2007: In reaction to a campaign supported by President Morales to relocate the UN headquarters, Ambassador Goldberg publicly announced that he wouldn’t also be surprised if Evo Morales asked for Disney Land to be moved.

February 2008: U.S. embassy official Vincent Cooper was accused of asking an American student and Peace Corps volunteer to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia.

June 9, 2008: Thousands of Bolivian protesters marched on the U.S. Embassy to demand that Washington extradite a former Bolivian defense minister who directed a military crackdown on riots that killed at least 60 people in 2003.

The United States recalled Ambassador Goldberg in reaction to the protests.

June 26 2008: The Chapare coca growers unions announced that they will no longer sign new aid agreements with USAID, as a result of the repeated accusations against USAID made by President Morales.

In reaction, the United States removes USAID personnel from the Chapare region, while President Morales praises the coca growers for kicking out the U.S. agency.

August 2008: Due to frustration with the way the U.S. spends money to fight cocaine production in Bolivia, drug czar Felipe Caceres announces that the Bolivia government will “nationalize the war against drug trafficking.” And adds that “we will still welcome cooperation in the future, but the Bolivian government will decide how that money will be spent.”

September 11, 2008: President Morales again accuses Ambassador Goldberg of working with the opposition, and orders the U.S. Ambassador to leave Bolivia. In ‘solidarity’ with Bolivia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also orders the U.S. Ambassador to leave his country.

The United States reacts by expelling the Bolivian Ambassador.

September 16, 2008: The United States adds Bolivia to the list of countries who have “failed demonstrably” to cooperate with U.S. anti-narcotics policy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Violence in Mexico

Drug related violence in Mexico has killed over 2,700 people this year. Just this week, over 30 people have been found dead: 24 of whom were found in a mass grave, bound and shot execution style, and 7 of whom were killed yesterday when a grenade exploded at an Independence Day celebration in Michoacán.

While Mexican press is filled everyday with accounts of violence, kidnappings and murders, the U.S. press, which for multiple reasons should be closely following the increasing violence so near its borders, has only recently begun to report on the topic.

Last week, a Washington Post editorial sought to draw attention to this, comparing Mexico’s violence and death toll to that of the war in Afghanistan:

More Mexican soldiers and police officers have died fighting the country’s drug gangs in the past two years than the number of U.S. and NATO troops killed battling the Taliban. Civilian casualties have been just as numerous, and as gruesome: There have been scores of beheadings, massacres of entire families and assassinations of senior officials. By the official count, kidnappings in Mexico now average 65 a month, ranking it well ahead of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Post continues, claiming that the violence

gets relatively little attention here because Americans are only rarely among the casualties. But U.S. money and weapons are fueling this war. Billions of dollars from American drug users flow to the syndicates, along with thousands of weapons smuggled across the border.

Not only do we need to pay attention because of the role U.S. money and arms trafficking plays in the violence, but we should also be following this closely because of the $400 million in aid, known as the ‘Merida Initiative,’ destined for the Mexican government that Congress approved in June (here is a a breakdown of aid for the Merida Initiative from 2007). A large percentage of this money will arm and equip the Mexican military in its fight against narcotrafficking. Critics like the CIP Americas ProgramAmnesty InternationalLAWG and WOLA have argued that strengthening Mexico’s institutions, especially the police force and the judicial system, and addressing the military’s human rights violations should be the top priorities for Mexico and any aid from the United States.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times published an article on Mexico’s various police forces, citing that a reform has begun, but that there are still inherent problems that make the police a very corrupt institution trusted by few Mexicans.

The weaknesses of Mexican police are vast. Most officers have at most a grade school education. They often have to buy their own guns on wages equal to those of a supermarket cashier. Many times, the average cop has his hand out for a bribe, in part to pay off bosses for the privilege of a job he probably will not hold for more than a few years. Problems are worst at the local levels.

In a video that goes along with this article, the Mexican citizens interviewed all cited lack of education, low wages and corruption as the main problems that must be addressed within the police force before violence will diminish.

The corruption of the police force has translated into many state and local officers working with the drug cartels instead of fighting against them. Last week, the Mexican government confirmed that an active Mexican federal agent had been involved in a highly publicized kidnapping and murder of a 14 year old boy. And the L.A. Times highlighted a shoot off that occurred last week between federal police transporting seven drug suspects and police officers from the city of Torreón intent on freeing the arrestees. “In the trenches of the drug war, cops were fighting cops.”

With 25,000 federal police and over 350,000 state and local officers, it will be difficult for Mexican President Felipe Calderón to overhaul the entire police system. However, until corruption can be rooted out of the local and state police forces, it may prove difficult for U.S. aid to have a significant impact on the increasingly violent drug war next door.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bolivia’s Crisis

Protests and demonstrations in Bolivia grew increasingly violent this week. Opponents of President Evo Morales in the resource-rich eastern provinces are pressing harder with autonomy demands after a recent recall referendum ratified both Morales and regional governors who oppose him. The latest protests have resulted in numerous casualties and significant property damage.

President Morales’ reaction has included lashing out against the United States, including Tuesday’s expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, who had met with one of the opposition governors several days earlier. Venezuela followed suit by expelling its U.S. ambassador, and the U.S. government responded by sending home both countries’ ambassadors to Washington.

The week ended with dramatically worsened relations between Bolivia and the United States and increasing speculation about the possibility – still remote – that Bolivia’s political violence could come to resemble civil war.

Links for More Information:

Analysis of the Protests

Information on Casualties and Damages

Regional Responses to the Protests:

The European Union’s Response:

The Bolivian Response:

The Venezuelan Response:

The United States’ Response:

Potential Resolution or Dialogues:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

U.S. questions Venezuelan and Bolivian counter-narcotics strategies

Every year, the President is required by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to submit to Congress an annual report identifying (a) major drug-producing or transit countries and (b) those countries not “cooperating” with U.S. counternarcotics measures and subject to sanctions. Using the “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report” published by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) every March, the “Majors List” is compiled each year and presented to the Secretary of State for consideration before being approved by the President and sent to Congress.

Of the twenty countries that made the “Majors List” last year, only Venezuela and Burma were found to have “failed demonstrably” to cooperate. While making it to the second “non-cooperating” list stipulates that a country not receive U.S. assistance under the foreign operations appropriations act, the President can reinstate assistance if the “provision of such assistance is vital to the U.S. interests.” Last year, President Bush determined that while Venezuela “failed demonstrably” to cooperate, “support for programs to aid Venezuela’s democratic institutions is vital to the national interests of the United States,” and therefore assistance was not revoked.

This yearly process is going on right now and we should expect to see the list for 2009 sometime next week, which coincides with a recent increase in coverage of the United States’ criticism of Venezuela’s and Bolivia’s drug policies. While Venezuela and Burma are most likely to make the “non-cooperating” list for 2009, Bolivia is a wild card.

Recent U.S. criticism of Venezuela:
According to Reuters, the United States accused Venezuela’s government “of failing to fight back against drug gangs moving huge amounts of cocaine through the South American country.” This criticism stems from the decline in drug seizures from 63 tons in 2005 to 35 tons in 2007 and what the United States has cited as being a “more than 16-fold increase in the amount of cocaine departing Venezuela by air since 2002.” The dispute continued, with President Chavez threatening to kick the U.S. ambassador out of the country and dismissing White House drug czar John Walters’ criticisms as ‘stupid’. According to the an Associated Press article, Chavez insists “that Venezuela doesn’t need U.S. help in fighting drug trafficking” and that Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez said that “Venezuela is cooperating internationally – just not on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s terms.”

Recent U.S criticism of Bolivia:
Under President Evo Morales, Bolivia has adopted a “zero cocaine, but no zero coca” policy, allowing for the cultivation of nearly 30,000 acres of coca for traditional uses, a policy which, according to Reuters, the United States has described as “permissive.” However, the United States has started to critize Bolivia’s drug policy as a result of a recent UN report on coca cultivation in the Andes region, which measures the cultivation in Bolivia increased by 5% in 2007 and covers 71,660 acres.

A recent article in El Espectador shows that despite the increase in drug-seizures in Bolivia from 18 tons in 2007 to 19.5 tons between January and August 2008, the U.S. government “considers that the increase in confiscations only is proportional to the increase in the production of coca” and the New York Times quoted a U.S. official saying “Let’s put it this way: [Bolivia’s] going in the wrong direction,” in reference to Morales’ drug policies.

While coca cultivation in Bolivia did increase in 2007, the UN report shows that coca cultivation also increased by 27% in Colombia and by 4% in Peru, two of the United States’ main allies in the region, while confiscations increased 29% in Bolivia and decreased by 9% in Colombia and 30% in Peru. Bolivia remains far behind Colombia in increased coca cultivation and has improved its capacity to confiscate drugs in route, yet Bolivia is still being scolded by the United States.

Whether or not Bolivia makes it on the “failed demonstrably” to cooperate list, the recent U.S. criticism of President Morales’ drug policies and belittling of Bolivia’s increase in drug seizures so far in 2008 in light of the records of Peru and Colombia makes us wonder if all of this is just because Bolivia wants to pursue a different, yet effective, drug control approach, rather than do everything the United States asks?

You can read more of the recent coverage of the United States’ criticism of both Venezuela’s and Bolivia’s drug policy here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A third term for President Uribe? The debate continues.

On October 16th of last year, Adam Isacson wrote a piece on the blog Plan Colombia and Beyondabout the potential of a third term for Uribe. At the time, the “Party of the ‘U'” had promised to collect the 1.3 million signatures necessary for a petition to amend Colombia’s constitution to allow Uribe to run for again in 2010. In this post, Adam outlined how Uribe running for a third term could actually make the work of CIP, which is often critical of Uribe’s policies, far easier.

Now, almost one year later, the debate continues, the “U” Party has successfully collected 5 million signatures in support of a constitutional amendment and Uribe’s approval ratings have soared over 90% in the wake of recent successes against the FARC (today, an article in El Tiempo noted that Uribe’s approval rating has recently dropped to 78%, due to rising inflation and perhaps discomfort with Uribe’s face-off last week with the Supreme Court).

While Uribe has been tight-lipped on the re-election subject, many stories and op-eds have surfaced in the press offering their thoughts on the implications of a third term for Uribe and for Colombia. In line with Adam’s blog post from almost a year ago, the common opinion, especially among the international press, is that Uribe will be doing Colombia a disfavor if he runs for a third term.

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian published articles last week that touched on the reelection debate and gave reasons why Uribe should not seek a third term.

The Guardian op-ed relates a third term of President Uribe to other “doomed third-term experiments in the region – Peru’s Alberto Fujimori and Argentina’s Carlos Menem spring to mind.” The LA Times editorial meanwhile states that changing the constitution for a second time (it was already amended once to allow Uribe to run in 2006) would “cast doubt on the president’s commitment to democracy, sliding him into the same unsavory category as Hugo Chavez, who makes no secret of longing to be Venezuela’s president in perpetuity.” And, according to the New York Times editorial, “Colombia’s neighborhood has too many authoritarian-minded leaders. . . . The region needs democracy, underpinned by strong institutions. It does not need more strongmen — however popular they may be or indispensable they may consider themselves.”

The opinion that the reelection of Uribe to a third term will undermine the democratic process was reiterated today, in a column published on the website of Colombia’s Semana magazine. Mateo Samper writes that “A democratic country stops being democratic when its leader maintains power indefinitely, whether they are good or bad.”

Samper adds that an Uribe re-election effort would have grave effects on Colombia’s relations with the United States.

Re-election would give the necessary arguments to Uribe’s critics, to say that their fears are justified. That Uribe’s message is authoritarian and that his government neither respects nor protects the political minorities that the AFL-CIO labor federation likes so much, is a notion that will be much easier for them to sell.”

Not only is an attempt to run for a third term deemed a threat to the democratic process, but the Uribe government’s track record is questioned, despite its recent successes against the FARC guerrillas. The LA Times piece continues:

Progress against leftist rebels should not be the sole measure of Uribe’s tenure. Also crucial is his ability to strengthen the governing institutions on which Colombia’s struggling democracy depends. For all its improvement, the country is still rife with corruption and violence, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is not the only culprit; almost a third of the Congress, including members allied with the president, is either in jail or under investigation for links to right-wing death squads and/or narco-traffickers. Uribe’s proposal to strip the Supreme Court of its power to investigate Congress only exacerbates the sense that he and his supporters intend to subvert the democratic process.

The future of democracy in Colombia seems to be the key rallying point behind the calls for Uribe not to run for a third term. However, until Uribe makes his decision to run (or not to run) public, this is all just speculation. A year after the debate began, we are still waiting to hear from the president himself.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Foreign Military Sales in 2007

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists’ Arms Sales Monitoring Program, we now have data about weapons and equipment that the U.S. government sold to the rest of the world through the Foreign Military Sales program in 2007.

Foreign Military Sales (FMS) is one of two programs through which military equipment is sold from the United States to the rest of the world. FMS is the means through which the U.S. government sells items directly to other governments. U.S. corporations can sell directly to other governments as well; those sales are licensed by another program, Direct Commercial Sales (DCS).

A total of $348,056,000 in military equipment was sold to Latin America and the Caribbean through FMS in 2007. Another $846,274,296 were licensed that year through DCS, but the U.S. government does not track how many of those licenses end up being fulfilled and resulting in actual equipment deliveries.

The FMS figure maintains levels reached in 2005 and 2006, when Chile took delivery on high-tech F-16 fighter planes. Purchases from Colombia are the reason why the regional total remains high. Colombia bought $231,384,000 worth of military equipment through FMS in 2007, almost exactly two-thirds of the regional total.

Here is how FMS deliveries have evolved in the region between 1996 and 2007.

And here is how all arms sales, from FMS and DCS combined, have behaved during that time period. Keep in mind that a significant portion of the DCS licenses have not ended up as actual deliveries of equipment.

Finally, here are the top 10 types of items sold to the region through FMS in 2007:

1. Helicopter, UH-60: $148,712,000
2. Aircraft Spare Parts: $42,372,000
3. Aircraft Cargo C-130 Series: $29,805,000
4. Repair and Rehabilitation: $20,225,000
5. Other Weapons and Ordnance Equipment: $14,753,000
6. Other Services: $12,332,000
7. Logistics Management Exp: $8,070,000
8. Training: $6,992,000
9. Supply Operations: $5,522,000

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The military’s growing foreign aid role: a bibliography

Over the past few years, Congress has acceded to several Defense Department requests to use its own budget to provide military assistance, something that it was not legally able to do on its own after 1961, when the Foreign Assistance Act became law.

The result has been a profusion of Pentagon-budget programs that provide military aid very similar to what is already provided through the foreign aid budget. The difference is that these new Defense Department programs have less (or sometimes no) involvement from the State Department; little or no oversight from the congressional foreign relations and foreign-aid committees; fewer legal restrictions on their use, including human rights restrictions; and greater obstacles to obtaining information about their use, due to lighter public reporting requirements.

Examples of such Defense Department programs on the “Just the Facts” website include “Section 1004” Counter-Drug Assistance (begun in 1991, the second-largest source of military and police aid to the region this year), the Regional Defense Counter-Terrorism Fellowship Program (begun in 2003, the fourth-largest trainer of personnel from the region), and the “Section 1206” Train and Equip Authority (begun in 2006, the fourth-largest source of aid this year). (See a full list.)

The Defense Department has made clear its desire to increase these programs’ scope and to make them permanent. The result in the past two years has been an increasing debate about the Pentagon’s greater role in foreign assistance, and about the military’s growing foreign policy role in general.

Here is a bibliography of links to some of the key documents in what is still a very new debate.


  • July 31, 2008: Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on “Defining the Military’s Role Towards Foreign Policy”

    • Rough hearing transcript (voice-recognition, from CSPAN)
    • Audio [MP3] and Video [streaming]
    • [PDF] Statement of Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware)
    • [PDF] Statement of Committee Ranking Minority Member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana)
    • [PDF] Testimony of Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte
    • [PDF] Testimony of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman
    • [PDF] Testimony of George Rupp, CEO and President,
      International Rescue Committee
    • [PDF] Testimony of Reuben E. Brigety II,
      Director of the Sustainable Security
      Program, Center for American Progress
    • [PDF] Testimony of Mary Locke,
      Former Senior Professional Staff,
      Committee on Foreign Relations
    • [PDF] Testimony of Robert M. Perito,
      Senior Program Officer,
      Center for Post-Conflict Peace
      and Stability Operations,
      United States Institute of Peace
  • April 15, 2008: House Armed Services Committee hearing on “Building Partnership Capacity and Development of the Interagency Process”

    • Audio [MP3] Part 1Part 2
    • Statement of Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri)
    • [PDF] Testimony of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
    • [PDF] Testimony of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

Defense Department:

State Department:

Other U.S. Government:

Non-Governmental Organizations and Think-Tanks: