The Colombia Plan Essay, Research Paper
Take a product, Coke; sell it around the world; make billions; and, you have a great corporation: Coca-Cola. Take a product, coke; sell it around the world; make billions; and, you have a horrible country: Colombia.
Everyone knows that the original Coca-Cola contained extracts of coca leaves, the same used to produce cocaine. So, early Coca-Cola had some of the cocaine drug in it. Coca-Cola still uses an extract of coca leaves in Coca-Cola for flavor, but the drug has been taken out. Even the famous Coke bottle design is based on the coca bean. ( The Coca-Cola Company. Encarta Encyclopedia. 2000.)
However, cocaine (and its derivative crack cocaine) is illegal, addictive, dangerous and destructive. In an effort to control the problem in the United States and Colombia, the American government recently approved and is now implementing, with the cooperation of the Colombian government, the Colombia Plan. In my opinion, the Colombia Plan is a mistake. In order to see why its wrong, everyone should understand what the Colombia Plan is, why it was developed, good aspects of the Plan, and bad aspects of the Plan.
The Center for International Policy reports that the Colombia Plan involves spending roughly 1.6 billion dollars to fight the cultivation, processing and transportation of drugs in Colombia, the world s largest cocaine producer. Almost one billion dollars of this amount is going to the military and police. About $180,000,000 will go to help Colombia s neighbors, including Panama, deal with the anticipated repercussions of the Plan on these countries. Around $280,000,000 are going to U.S. agencies and for intelligence operations. The balance of the money, $220,000,000, will be spent on the so-called social aspects of the Plan: Alternative development, $68.5 million; Aid to the displaced, $37.5 million; Human rights, $51.0 million; Judicial reform, $13.0 million; Law enforcement /rule of law, $45.0 million; Peace, $3.0 million. The three million dollars for peace will go to provide conflict-resolution training seminars to government negotiators. (Center for International Policy: www.ciponline.org/ colombia/aid/aidsumm.htm.)
Both the United States and Colombia have a lot at stake. Andres Pastrana became President of Colombia in August 1998. (Background Notes:Colombia, January 1999. U.S. Department of State. http://www. state.gov/www/background_notes/colombia_0199_bgn.html.) His goals were to find a peaceful solution to the civil war in Colombia, to eliminate or at least reduce the drug trade and to solve Colombia s severe economic problems, especially unemployment. Pastrana has failed in all departments and his popularity has plummeted. The Colombia Plan seemingly can help solve these problems: the rebels depend on drug money for financing and much of the area under cultivation is under their control; also, by cooperating with the United States, Pastrana is hopefully paving the way for other assistance to solve the economic problems.
The United States desperately wants to solve the cocaine problem: its policies within the U.S. have largely failed. As the case of the actor Robert Downey so vividly illustrates, rehabilitation programs are generally futile. Also, while the use of powder cocaine is a problem, because it is so expensive it tends to be used recreationally by affluent people. The real problem is crack cocaine, the derivative of cocaine that is smoked rather than inhaled directly. Crack is more powerful, more addictive, and far less expensive; it can be sold in $5 pieces called rocks.
Crack quickly spread in the American inner cities and soon its sale and distribution were controlled by well-organized, heavily armed street gangs numbering thousands. Furthermore, crack addicts desperate for drug money have become a criminal scourge of their own. As the government tried to put a lid on crack use, it passed sentencing laws which gave mandatory sentences of five to ten years to anyone possessing even a small amount of crack. (United States Sentencing Commission. Special Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy. February 1995.) Predictably, the prisons are now filled to capacity with thousands of drug offenders, but the problem persists. Having failed to control demand in the U.S., America now wants to eradicate the supply in Colombia.
The positive aspects of the plan are that it is an effort to fight crime and to reduce drug abuse. Cocaine, because it is so lucrative to sell, brings with it corruption and violence. The countryside and cities of Colombia are not safe in large part because of cocaine. It finances drug cartels and the rebels, two ruthless, violent organizations. In the U.S., inner cities have become war zones where no one is safe because of the gang violence that goes hand in hand with the sale of crack. An entire generation has been lost in the inner cities because of crack and gangs. Moreover, the ravages of drug addiction are terrible to the addicts, their families and society.
The negative aspects of the plan are that the Colombia Plan is heavily involving the Colombian military in what was formerly a police activity. Essentially, fighting crime is the responsibility of the police . By injecting the military into the problem, the United States is running the risk that there will be an escalation of the Civil War. Unquestionably, the rebels will fight to defend their source of financing and may retaliate by attacking more civilian targets. The military in Colombia cannot defeat the rebels; most of Colombia is now under rebel control. Inevitably, the United States will have to become more involved by sending more money, more advisors and eventually troops: another Vietnam.
The other problem is that with the military involved fighting may extend into neighboring countries requiring more aid to those countries: Plan Bolivia, Plan Ecuador, Plan Panama and so on. Also, there will be refugees crossing the borders that will require assistance.
Worst, as cocaine cultivation is fought in Colombia, it will simply move to other safer havens.
I am against the Colombia Plan because I think that it is wrong for the United States to condition aid on military involvement knowing that, with the strength and determination of the rebel forces and their vested interest in protecting the drug trade, it will almost certainly lead to an escalation of the Civil War.
Furthermore, I am afraid that once America commits itself financially to a military cause, especially one that so profoundly affects the U.S., the next step will be American military involvement, either to fight drugs or to prop up the government of its newfound friend, Andres Pastrana.
Why then did the U.S. choose to put itself on the losing side of the oldest Civil War in South America? As Alexander Pope said, Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. (Essay on Criticism)