María Clemencia Ramirez




Upon the end of the Cold War, the Drug War came in to replace the pretext used to guarantee U.S. Armed Forces’ hegemony in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In Colombia after 9/11, the Drug War and the anti-terrorist war, or counter insurgent war, progressively began overlapping.  With Alvaro Uribe’s ascension to power on August 7th 2002, the U.S. Congress −under Presidential Directive of August 2, 2002− removed restrictions so that Colombia could use antinarcotics resources in a unified battle not only against narcotics trafficking but also against organizations classified as terrorist, such as the ELN, FARC and AUC.  This process of expanding militarization, together with Colombia’s loss of autonomy regarding anti-drug policies, comes to undermine the Colombian state’s sovereignty.


Democracy and the Drug War:  The Andean Regional Initiative, launched by the Bush administration on May 16th 2001, is put forth as regional cooperation against drug trafficking and its stated aim is to secure democracy for the Region. The fact that the Drug War has become not only a counter-insurgent war but also an anti-terrorist war −furthermore defined as a struggle against those crimes that might generate social upheaval which can unbalance a political and institutional regime− distorts the programs aimed at strengthening democracy, human rights, alternative development, and the rule of law. Instead of contributing to consolidating democracy and respect for human rights, these programs bear the mark of expanding militarization and US intervention in the country’s domestic affairs.


Democratic stability and trade bargaining: The anti-narcotics struggle has been incorporated into regional trade negotiations. By using the War on Drugs as leverage, the US seeks to speed up the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (ALCA in its Spanish acronym), geared to favor U.S. interests as of the crisis following 9/11 and global recession.


Judicial reforms: Reforms to the judiciary have been framed, firstly, within a neoliberal perspective of justice, namely, an authoritarian-focused pacification process as an essential requisite for markets to operate smoothly. Secondly, they are proposed as of the idea of promoting a counter-narcotics political agenda which strengthens Colombia’s penal apparatus to the point that the right to a due process is often disregarded. This tendency can be observed in the programs to strengthen the judicial system developed since 1986 and those which are now being implemented under the Plan Colombia.


Considering the framework of growing militarization and repression of U.S. anti-drug policies, programs funded under the Plan Colombia are on the whole destined to fulfill Drug War requirements rather than satisfy Colombia’s domestic needs.


* Research developed through the WOLA-sponsored project:  “Dangerous Exports: the Impact of US Foreign Anti-Drug Policies on Democracy and Human Rights in Latin America” and presented at the Cartagena Thematic World Social Forum, June 16/20 2003.


Translated from Spanish by MM Moreno

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