Last week, President Santos of Colombia visited Washington for high-level meetings with the Obama Administration. Most notably he was in town to “celebrate” the wonders of Plan Colombia that the U.S. heavily funded for 15 years with bi-partisan support.
But many organizations that have worked in Colombia with local partners for years, before and during the Plan, note that the celebratory nature of the visit seemed unfitting for a security and counter-narcotics strategy that intensified violence and displacement in the country. (For these reasons we use the term celebratory very loosely.)
Beginning in the year 2000, a U.S. policy and aid package known as Plan Colombia intensified the decades long conflict in Colombia. Over the course of fifteen years, the United States provided Colombia with $9.94 billion in aid, 71% of which went to Colombia’s security forces. While many policymakers emphasize that this facilitated a turning point in the Colombian government’s control of large territories previously held by FARC guerrillas, the human toll of this security strategy is devastating and cannot be forgotten.
While the world watches and waits for the peace accord to be signed, we cannot forget the victims of this conflict; victims from many armed actors, not only the FARC and the Colombian military. A truly lasting peace in Colombia must address the violence and insecurity that these groups are still causing for communities across the country.