La guerra sólo puede ser evitada si ambos eventuales adversarios la rechazan. No mediante el hecho de que “por lo menos” uno de ellos sea lo más pacífico posible

Bertolt Brecht, Escritos políticos



Brief introductory reflections 


For the past two decades Colombian diplomacy has been bound to peace (and to war). Current "peace diplomacy" currently being deployed by President Pastrana (1998-2002) constitutes further indication of the close linkages between domestic and foreign policies,; linkages which are particularly relevant nowadays due to the protracted and degraded nature of Colombia's civil strife.  Although "peace diplomacy" is not the exclusive and exclusionary element to have fashioned Colombia's foreign policy during the past 20 years, it has been a necessary and essential component of Colombia's interaction with the international community. 


The scope and limitations of this fresh attempt at relating international diplomacy and domestic peace can be better understood by examining these linkages within a theoretical framework, and from the perspective of current Colombian foreign policy[1].


Invariably, States which experience civil strife, irrespective of the nature of the regime[2], often refer to Peace to underscore the fact that their efforts abroad are geared towards resolving their domestic conflicts.  Never has any government at any given time thought of referring to its foreign policy  as "war diplomacy".  Colombia is no exception.  


In this sense, it is essential to state precisely what is meant in this essay by "peace diplomacy", that is, deliberately gearing a country's international relations towards the specific goal of seeking external support for eliminating internal conflict[3]. This definition does not necessarily mean that peace diplomacy is centered, domestically and at an international level, on terminating a country's civil strife through dialogue, negotiation, and agreement.  This diplomacy could as likely seek to legitimate greater use of force by State agents in order to attain political or military victory over armed opponents.  Peace diplomacy could also be focused on obtaining passive backing for internal peace efforts and keeping undesirable external factors out of the country's civil strife. 


The first alternative will be called "Negotiated Peace Diplomacy".  The second alternative, or that of resolving conflicts through greater use of State force to vanquish opponents politically and/or militarily, will be termed "Forced Pacification Diplomacy".  The third alternative of resolving the conflict by isolating external factors will be called "Neutralizing Diplomacy".   


Theory and practice


Theoretical approaches to international relations all presume a linkage between domestic and foreign affairs and, with greater or lesser emphasis, propose a certain level of interaction between domestic structures and the world system.  Nonetheless, there are very few studies detailing the relationship between national and international politics[4].


If diplomacy's typical realm is that of relations and politics among States, and achieving domestic peace is one of the State's fundamental responsibilities, then classical realism[5]  and structural realism[6] can be good starting points for assessing the Colombian case. Mastanduno, Lake and Ikenberry combine these schools of thought to explain States' internal and external behavior[7].


These authors perform their analyses within the framework of classical realism according to which, the international system, essentially conflictual,  is dominated by States competing for power in a unitary and rational pursuit of national self-interest. While classical realism does not thoroughly develop the following view, it holds that the chances of success of a country's domestic policies depend on the degree of correspondence between the nature of the State's domestic policies and its international objectives.   On the other hand, the theory of structural realism, also used by these authors, holds that unitary State activities are to be explained within the framework of an international system which lacks a higher authority, and where the dominant basic principle is anarchy.  Thus, structural realism puts the accent on international systemic changes and their impact on State actions.


Mastanduno, Lake and Ikenberry set forth their model as follows:

·        The ultimate goal of all States, irrespective of size, location, nature and capabilities, is survival.

·        The international goal of all States, central or peripheral, is the attainment of power and wealth.

·        The internal goal of all States, strong or weak, is controlling national resources and securing domestic legitimacy.


To these ends, States can:


·        At a domestic level, mobilize resources to boost economic growth and tap societal resources as a means of maximizing their relative power. Resource mobilization implies generating greater wealth and a long-term investment in power, whereas extracting resources means acquiring power and consuming wealth in the short-term.

·        At an international level, States can try to obtain international resources and endorsement. While the former refers to material goods, the latter means looking for political support abroad[8].


The authors propose three fundamental hypotheses:


The authors propose three fundamental hypotheses:


·        “As the long-term power of the nation-state declines, the state will increase its internal mobilization;”

·        “As external threat increase, the state will increase its internal extraction;” and

·        “As domestic political instability increase, the state will pursue external extraction and validation.”[9]


Thus, following Mastanduno, Lake and Ikenberry's third point, this study hypothesizes that as of the end of the 1970s, the need to counter mounting and widespreading political instability prompted the Colombian State, both through its Liberal and Conservative governments, to seek additional economic resources (further capabilities) and political backing (further endorsement).   A logical corollary of this hypothesis is that foreign resources and endorsement would help the Colombian State to:  a) overcome this critical situation; b) to enhance institutional stability;  and c) advance in the resolution of its domestic war.


Turbay and Forced Pacification Diplomacy


The first of Colombia's peace diplomacies, though not directly referred to as such by the government, was undertaken during President Julio Cesar Turbay's administration (1978-1982).   This Liberal politician believed that Colombia's armed conflict had become internationalized inasmuch as external actors, variables, and phenomena were adversely impinging on the country's institutional stability[10].


At the time, Colombia's domestic context was marked by the proliferation of rural insurgencies, by the M-19 guerrilla group's growing expansion into urban centers, the passage of the National Security Statute (Estatuto de Seguridad Nacional), and by increased military autonomy in maintaining a disturbed public order.  As regards Colombia's neighboring international environment, the Caribbean Basin was defined by Cuba's militancy in the name and advancement of armed revolution[11], by a Sandinista Nicaragua[12], a Marxist Granada, an up-in-arms Salvador, and by the end of moderate Democrat Jimmy Carter's term, and the beginning of aggressive conservative Ronald Reagan's administration. 


Bogotá and Washington's converging anti-Communist views, and the generalized fear on the part of Colombia's political, economic and military elites of Soviet expansion into the Caribbean merged with the Colombian State's feeling of vulnerability as of Nicaragua's territorial claims and Havana's firm (though not decisive) backing to Colombia's armed insurgents (namely, the M-19 in its frustrated 1981 “Invasión del Sur”).  The conjunction of all these factors led Colombia to embark on a dynamic and proactive hemispheric diplomacy, particularly at a Carribean level[13]. An outstanding dynamism, if compared to Colombia's traditional low-profile standards in international politics[14].


According to Malcom Deas,

“... much of Colombia's former diplomacy was praiseworthy and much of it realist, however, by 1982 the country felt dangerously alone. Part of the danger came from Central America, and Nicaragua's territorial claims to the islands and keys was the least important issue. Colombia could become a target for the insurgency movement expanding from Central America.  Both the guerrilla and the armed forces watched Central American developments closely. A guerrilla victory in El Salvador would undoubtedly have a powerful effect on Colombia;  in this sense, Colombia was the biggest 'domino' but the least remarked upon in the region.”[15].


The Turbay administration conducted its foreign affairs through Forced Pacification Diplomacy, combining confrontation and submission: political confrontation with counterparts who might threaten to heighten Colombia's internal war, and ideological submission towards the United States in order to ensure continued domestic manu militari against the guerrilla with Washington's blessing;, and without any serious condemnation from the White House[16] and Congress.


No other moment offers more Forced Pacification Diplomacy initiatives, acts, gestures and pronouncements: Colombia's persistent obstruction in 1979[17] of Cuba's candidacy to the UN Security Council; severed diplomatic relations with that country as of 1981;  the decision to lend troops to the Sinai peacekeeping forces at a difficult moment in the Middle-East peace process, and when only Fiji had sent a contingent[18];  fiery criticism of the 1981 French-Mexican Declaration that recognized the FMLN-FDR as a representative force in the Salvadoran conflict;  the 1981 participation in Operation Ocean Venture (together with troops from the U.S., NATO, Argentina, Venezuela and Uruguay) —operation then considered a mock invasion of Granada (finally invaded in 1983)—;   meetings in 1982 between Colombian and U.S. military  establishments to discuss the possibility of  setting up a special base on the San Andrés island; Colombia's participation that same year (together with the U.S., Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras) in the Central American Democratic Community, which undertook the diplomatic defense of the Salvadoran government and attack of the Nicaraguan government.  These are all unerring signs of  Forced Pacification Diplomacy.[19]


During his presidency, Julio Cesar Turbay received political[20], military[21] and material[22] backing from Washington;, especially from the Reagan administration. At the time, Colombia was not the object of pointed criticism regarding human rights violations[23]  neither by the United States nor Western Europe[24]. The country continued to receive U.S. federal funding, official development assistance from Europe, loans from private banks and multilateral institutions[25], and U.S. and European investment capital. 


Officially, external pressures towards a negotiated settlement to Colombia's internal conflict were apparently not powerful and determining enough alter the course of Colombia's Forced Pacification Diplomacy.  Nonetheless, towards the end of the Turbay administration, international isolation in all likelihood did not come came, not as the price for the country's increasingly besetting state of social and political violence, but as of the position assumed by this Liberal president in the Malvinas (Falkland) War[26].

            In conclusion, at a local level, President Turbay responded to the country's growing political instability with a series of coercive measures;, and, at an international level, he conducted the Colombian affairs through Forced Pacification Diplomacy.  Turbay sought and obtained sufficient foreign funding and political endorsement to perpetuate the domestic status quo and sustain an increasingly fragile State.  Even though his administration attained further foreign extraction and endorsement, it was unable to overcome institutional stability and, much less, to subdue the country's political violence and  armed conflict.


Betancur and Negotiated Peace Diplomacy


That which characterized President Belisario Betancur's administration (1982-1986), from the very beginning of his tenure was Negotiated Peace Diplomacy. His foreign policy was a relevant, and even necessary, if wanting, complement to his domestic search for dialogue and peace with the guerrilla factions.  Nonetheless, his foreign policy did not serve as a substitute for his initiatives to pacify the country.  Nor was it an instrument meant to legitimate his personal convictions, or to convey his attempts to achieve domestic peace to the international community.  


Betancur immediately rerouted Colombian foreign policy in an unforeseen manner. His simultaneous proposals at both the national and international level were audacious and unprecedented. At a local level, he sought to enter into peace talks and to grant a general amnesty, while embarking, at the international level, he embarked on a search for peace in Central America through the Contadora Group[27];. hHe affiliated Colombia to the Non-Aligned Movement (NOAL)[28] and became more detached from the United States[29].


The linkages between Colombia's internal conflict and the external Central American conflict were obvious [30]. However, unlike Turbay's international diplomacy, Betancur's[31] underlying motives and spirit were the search for negotiated peace, both at home and abroad, as opposed to a military solution to Colombia's internal war and foreign diplomatic containment.


His references to the linkage between international politics and the domestic conflict were reiterative and forceful in tone.  In a message from the island of San Andrés on April 9, 1983, Betancur declared: “... at this juncture in Colombian history,  it is fitting to take note of the intricate union between the internal phase (which we continue to seek through a generous and encompassing amnesty), and the international peace we are striving to attain for this tormented region [Central America].”[32]  When addressing the National Defense University (Escuela Superior de Guerra) on May 6, 1983, the president maintained:

“... on occasions we have stayed away from the Caribbean decision -making scene, which is our just and natural environment ... we believe peace is indivisible, and we are aware that it is not attainable if acting only within national borders; peace is generally endangered outside of its domestic scene, in a perilously interconnected world.  We seek and will continue to seek peace, solidarity, and a peaceful solution in any scenario suitable for interrelationships between human beings and nations.”[33]


Additionally, this Conservative statesman actively addressed the Latin American foreign debt issue, which he closely linked to the search for a balanced economic development, the eradication of poverty, and the achievement of political and institutional stability. Towards this end, he put forth the idea of a sort of  "Marshall Plan" for developing nations which was, broadly speaking, to be financed from a minimal portion of arms-race resources, tourism, and world commerce.”[34]


Moreover, Betancur's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy did not limit itlsef to Colombia's foreign policy towards Central America.  On different occasions and in diverse contexts his “peace diplomacy” preferentially focused on other countries.  This was the case during the U.S. invasion of Granada in October 1983, where Colombia intervened on behalf of the Cuban contingent so that it be allowed to leave the invaded island. This, among other factors, led Fidel Castro to write two letters to the National Liberation Army (ELN) asking them to free the president's brother, Jaime Betancur, which they eventually did;, and to a mild withdrawal of belligerent Cuban support for the M-19[35].


In October 1983, Betancur strove to establish direct dialogue with the commanders of the M-19 in Madrid, and he later tried to personally contact the representatives of this armed movement in Mexico City in December 1984.  Eventually, the  Prosecutor General of Public Office Holders/Incumbents and Citizens' Interests Defender (Procurador General) Carlos Jiménez and the Colombian Ambassador in London, Bernardo Ramírez, held another unsuccessful meeting with the M-19 in Mexico in March 1985[36].


All the same, his presumptive “Cuban Ace” and “European Ace” did not help Betancur to achieve peace nor to keep Colombian affairs from gravitating towards the United States.  As political negotiations became diluted and the narcotics traffic's domestic power reasserted itself, Washington's specific weight in peace and drug concerns also increased. When in 1984 U.S. Ambassador, Lewis Tambs, coined the term “narcoguerrilla”[37] to define a type of transcendental alliance between narcotics traffickers and guerrilla groups, the limits to Betancur's internal and external peacebuilding strategies became obvious. In fact, the inescapable question was bound to rise:  is the government negotiating with  an armed group, is it doing so with a political insurgent group or with a criminal and Mafia organization? 


Despite attempts by the government to discriminate between guerrilla and narcotics traffic, this became increasingly difficult as of 1985.  Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara's assassination in 1984 moved Betancur to bow to U.S. pressure and to initiate extradition proceedings.  Colombia's economic crisis drove the Betancur administration towards the United States inasmuch as Washington was crucial to obtaining the billion dollar Jumbo loan in 1985[38]. Lastly, the M-19's storming of the Palace of Justice led the president to adopt the “heavy-handed” language so prized by U.S. officials. 


Indeed, the president referred to the M-19 as a a “terrorist movement”, bearer of a “terrorist project”, that opted for actions characterized by “a crescendo of delirium and terrorism which exceed all limits.”  He furthermore, underscored the fact that the narcotics traffic and terrorism are:

“... the most deleterious phenomena in contemporary society ... And although they are two different phenomena in genre, they often overlap and collaborate insofar as narcotics and weapons often cross paths ... It was not by chance, that the terrorist [Ivan Marino Ospina of the M-19] issued statements regarding the Bilateral [U.S.-Colombian] Extradition Treaty [U.S.-Colombian] and the legitimacy of attempts on American nationals. Nor was it by chance, that both terrorists and narcotics traffickers concurred in targeting the Supreme Court.”[39]


Towards the end of his term, Betancur's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy became blurred.  Without taking foreign policy to the extreme of adopting Forced Pacification Diplomacy, this Conservative president retained a tenuous “peace diplomacy”, particularly in Central America.  Abroad, Betancur's peace efforts were received coolly and with discomfort.  Meanwhile,  his domestic endeavors were regarded with disdain and mistrust by the United States. Secretary of State George P. Schultz's comments regarding Betancur are, without a doubt, revealing.  According to Schultz, the Colombian president had been exceedingly “condescending” with the guerrilla because he was hoping to “win the Nobel Prize for Peace Price”.[40]


Colombia's renewed repressive momentum in its official stance towards the narcotics traffic, a foreign profile on the downgrade, and the adoption of a hard-line military policy towards the guerrilla during 1985 and 1986 received Washington's full support. The U.S. never cast any doubts on the government's legitimacy in spite of growing signs of institutional crisis. It strongly supported the Colombian eExecutive's structural adjustment policies, procured further resources for the war on drugs and continued to sideline the humans rights issue[41]. Europe, in its turn, continued giving Colombia its political and economic backing and assistance[42]. Nonetheless, more and more member countries and official instances of the European Community voiced their uneasiness and objections to the growing flagrancy of human rights violations in Colombia.


Thus, the legacy of Betancur's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy proved to be ambiguous.  The independent stance he adopted at the beginning of his term boosted the credibility of his endeavor to hold peace talks, reconcile and pacify the country.  Mounting turbulence in the Caribbean Basin, however, threatened to  “Central-Americanize” the Colombian conflict during the mid 1980s.  Furthermore, his legacy was compounded by the implacable “narcotization” of Colombia's U.S. agenda, and by the bearing, which gradually became more and more relevant, of human rights issues on Colombia's relations with the European Community. 

            In short, Betancur's Government had to face an increasingly unstable domestic juncture and a highly critical international scenario. In order to deal with the situation, in contrast to his predecessor, this Conservative statesman embarked on a policy of Negotiated Peace Diplomacy. His strategy was operative insofar as, regardless of burgeoning doubts abroad regarding Colombia's critical narcotics traffic and human rights situation (which, respectively, caused greater unease in the United States and in Europe), he managed to procure foreign funding and political endorsement.  Colombia continued receiving foreign extraction and endorsement. Nevertheless, during these four years the country's institutional structure went even deeper into crisis while an answer to Colombia's political violence and armed conflict was once again postponed.   


Barco and Neutralizing Diplomacy



President Virgilio Barco's administration (1986-1990) initiated its activities abroad by developing a Neutralizing Diplomacy. Contadora had already withdrawn from Central America, and Central Americans themselves, with heavy influence from Washington, were promoting solutions to the subregional crisis.  Colombia, now a member of the Rio Group (made up of the four Contadora members and the four Support Group members), backed attempts at achieving peace in Central America, and detached its conflictual experience from that of this region[43]. Similarly, by creating the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Human Rights, President Barco joined attempts at showing the international community in general, and Western Europe in particular, the government's willingness to come to terms with the deplorable human rights situation and to try to put an end to abuses through cooperation, and not by imposing sanctions. Moreover,  by coinciding with the United States on the illicit drugs issue, paradoxically, Barco was able to differ on other political dimensions of the bilateral agenda[44].


In order to gauge Barco's Netralization Diplomacy, it is highly relevant to understand Cuba's place in Colombian foreign policy. The Barco administration maintained the contacts formerly established by Betancur and expanded  Colombia's good relations with the island, despite the fact that formal diplomatic ties had been suspended as of 1981. Bogota and Havana converged on series of issues and in different scenarios[45].


This was the case at the end of the 1980s with regional stability in the Carribbean Basin, which was basic to both countries. Accordingly, their respective foreign policies promoted a peaceful settlement to the conflicts in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and they both bitterly criticized the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. Within the framework of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Colombia sought, by abstaining or voting against the United States, to prevent sanctions against the Cuban regime for the human rights situation on the island. Within the instance of the UN Security Council, where Cuba and Colombia coincided in 1990, both countries together with Yemen and Malaysia, formed the Group of Four, through which they harmonized their standpoints regarding the Gulf War after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.


Bogota and Havana's closeness proved to be decisive towards bringing about two phenomena which were to influence Colombia's domestic and foreign policies: it facilitated Cuba's role as an important moderator in negotiations with a highly weakened M-19, and it contributed to keeping Colombia from being severely criticized by the international community, in spite of its disastrous human rights record[46].


The peace talks and accord with the M-19 from 1989 to 1990, and the fact that any other party, apart from the Liberal and Conservative Parties, was to run in the 1990 elections, after the assassination of three presidential candidates, allowed for minimal institutional stability in the midst of the narcotics trade and the "dirty war" against the leftist movements. Western Europe viewed Colombia's plight sympathetically. It grasped that Colombia's delicate situation —in which multiple violences overlapped— gave the country an exceptional nature: even though, it was not an authoritarian regime, there were massive human rights abuses, unacceptable by any standard; and since the State was not powerful and did not have great coercive capability, nonpolitical violence was rampant. Barco's drastic counternarcotics policy and Western Europe's benevolent outlook account for European trade preferences in 1990[47].


The United States, in view of Barco's vigorous and abiding counter narcotics struggle, gave Colombia decisive political, military and economic backing.  Indeed, the first presidential counternarcotics summit held in Cartagena in 1990 and attended by the presidents of the United States, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia[48]; massive U.S. counternarcotics aid[49]; significant increases in military assistance[50]; and Washington's vital support towards obtaining for Bogota the one billion dollar Concorde loan in 1987 and 1988 and the US$1.6 million Challenger loan in 1989 and 1990 [51]; as well as the proposal to the U.S. Congress in 1990 of the Andean Trade Preferences Initiative (finally approved in 1991), were all signs of U.S. commitment to Colombia's fragile and eroded institutional legitimacy[52].


As opposed to Turbay's Forced Pacification Diplomacy, and Betancur's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy, Barco's Neutralizing Diplomacy was relatively functional insofar as a compromise was reached with the M-19 regarding arms decomissioning and political reinsertion, but it was wanting as concerns outlining sound and lasting peace initiatives for Colombia. 


The three types of “peace diplomacies” carried out by these administrations no doubt contributed to sustaining a precarious State, both politically and economically.  They were, however, unable to build it up. The State's continued ability to secure foreign extraction and validation did not translate into an increased ability to overcome internal institutional instability and to make some progress towards resolving an armed conflict which was increasingly becoming an irregular war.


Gaviria and Neutralizing Diplomacy


President Cesar Gaviria's administration (1990-1994) continued his predecessor's Neutralizing Diplomacy, although at times he seemed to shift from Negotiated Peace Diplomacy to Forced Pacification Diplomacy. As a matter of fact, the beginning of his term, labelled “revolcón” (the "Shake Up");, the convening of the National Constituent Assembly;, and having initiated negotiations with the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) the PRT and the Quintin Lame indigenous armed movement, could have contributed to giving the impression that, in order to complement his domestic actions, Gaviria would undertake Negotiated Peace Diplomacy. Likewise, at the end of his four-year term,  when talkswith the Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar —CGSB (made up of the FARC, the ELN and a splinter EPL group) were broken[53], when the counterinsurgency military offensive was launched[54], and when the different domestic violences reached unforeseen heights, one would imagine that the government would deploy a Forced Pacification Diplomacy[55]. However, this did not occur: Gaviria undertook a Neutralizing Diplomacy, which went through different stages, and varied in content.[56]


Gaviria's Neutralizing Diplomacy focused on demarcating the Colombian conflict from the conflict in the Caribbean Basin, and to contributing to peace in the area. Thus, Colombia, together with Mexico, Venezuela and Spain, formed —under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, and with U.S. approval—  the El Salvador Support Group, which contributed to the signing of a final accord in 1992.  Within the context of a broad initial agreement in January 1994 between the government of Guatemala and the UNRG guerrilla, the parties requested the presence of Colombia, together with that of the United States, Norway, Spain, Venezuela and Mexico, among the "Group of Friendly Nations" participating in Guatemala's peace process. The Colombian government, furthermore, turned to the OAS and the UN to restore to power Haiti's elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown in September 1991. Lastly, the renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1994, strengthened recent political ties between Bogota and Havana, particularly with regards to domestic peace and human rights.


This Liberal government's Neutralizing Diplomacy was also evinced by peace talks with the guerrilla:  Caracas, Venezuela in 1991 and  Tlaxcala, Mexico in 1992,  were the scene of dialogues with the CGSB.  All the same, the Gaviria administration did not seek the active participation of Mexico and Venezuela as moderators,or mediators or their good offices in what was still considered solely a Colombian conflict[57].


As with its two predecessors, towards the end of its term, the Gaviria administration's foreign agenda became "renarcotized"  after Pablo Escobar escaped from prison.  Likewise, its image on the international scene was tarnished due to the dramatic human rights situation. While the former is clearly evidenced in Colombian-U.S. relations, the latter was manifest in Colombian-European relations.  Meanwhile, both at a worldwide and Latin American level, the Colombian case began to be viewed with growing concern: countries became extremely preoccupied lest they should reproduce the Colombian experience[58].


Although the government received official backing from the United States[59] and the European Union, there was growing concern regarding the factuality of the rule of law in Colombia.  And, notwithstanding official backing from the most industrialized countries, condemnations of human rights abuses were more and more frequent and increasingly forceful among government officials. This Liberal president's Neutralizng Diplomacy prevented open external intromission in Colombia's peace and war affairs but by 1994, the Colombian State's external room for maneuver were sorely limited.


In short, one could conclude that, even if in terms of foreign extraction and validation the tendency was towards a qualitative and quantitative reduction, the Colombian State was still considered fairly legitimate and received recognition from its own citizens and from the community of nations. Nevertheless, the State's evident inability to overcome what was already a mounting domestic war, signaled its potential collapse. Neutralizing Diplomacy thus manifested its drawbacks: it temporarily halted the internationalization of the war but was unable to effectively guarantee the nationalization of peace.


Samper and Negotiated Peace Diplomacy


President Ernesto Samper's Government (1994-1998) aspired to conduct  Negotiated Peace Diplomacy.[60]  From 1994 to 1995, his "peace diplomacy" was more closely linked to human rights issues than to negotiations with the guerrilla.  Hoping to make the conflict more humane, the eExecutive proposed the Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions to the Colombian Congress;, created an interagency commission to investigate and clear up the Trujillo massacres of 1988 and 1991;, acquiesced to opening an Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), among others.  Nevertheless, the human rights issue, as pointed out by Gustavo Gallon, soon wavered from cooperation to hesitation.[61]


In deed, while Colombia was establishing instances, agencies and bureaucracies dedicated to protecting human rights at home and promoting human rights abroad, violations were on the rise and sanctions were sorely lacking. As of this, demands from abroad for concrete actions increased requesting that Colombia ensure its credibility in this matter. Furthermore, the fact that the State was not promoting the protection of human rights as a matter of public policy was no longer acceptable as it was in the 1980s; it was now taken as a sign of a crumbling State. 


During the second half of his four-year term, Samper's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy focused on peace talks with the guerrilla. However, as his conciliatory and gestures of détente towards the FARC multiplied, the guerrilla appeared to be less interested in holding peace talks; and as he sought greater external support for his initiatives to establish contacts and bridge the gap with the FARC, this guerrilla group seemed unwilling to involve the community of nations[62]. Additionally, while the internal war intensified, there was still no true clarity as to whether the government aimed at providing the space required for the right-wing paramilitary groups to participate in future negotiations, or  whether the FARC was a narcoguerrilla with which it was impossible to talk[63]. As the government showed manifested a growing inclination to politicize the status of paramilitarism and criminalize the insurgency's behavior, inadvertently Colombia came to be considered a Gray Area Phenomenon. In other words, it represented a critical threat as of the fact that important swaths of its territory were in the hands of organizations which were “half criminal, half political” and that the national government's legitimacy was being eroded[64]. This places the country at the heart of a potential low-intensity conflict.


At the same time, during his last year in office, this Liberal president attempted to enlist the aid of as many countries a possible towards his peace efforts: Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Spain, and Germany, among others. At a rhetoric level, or that of formal and generic declarations, it was easy to accompany Colombia.  However considering the fact that there was still no clarity as to the guerrilla willingness to accept the good offices of these counterparts, and no precision as to the role that Bogota intended these friendly nations to play[65], the international component of an eventual peace process became vague.


The failure of Samper's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy was not so much due to Colombia's publicly known, decades-old tragic human rights situation, nor was it due to the obvious inconsistencies in Colombian diplomacy towards those countries interested in contributing to bringing peace to the country; it was more due to the fact that, for the first time in three decades of internal war, the United States deliberately opted for delegitimizing a Colombian government.

The constant reminder and presence of narcotics funding in Samper's presidential campaign opened the way for Washington's “disciplinary diplomacy”[66] towards Bogota. Stigmatizing statements by North American officials and legislators who referred to Colombia as a narcodemocracy; the fact that the U.S. canceled the entry visas of Ernesto Samper and several other Colombian civilians and officers; the nasty, disqualifying, and aggressive terms used by U.S. diplomats to refer to Colombian legislators, judges, businessmen, prominent persons, police and army personnel; the refusal to fully certify Colombia for four consecutive years[67] due to alleged insufficient counter-narcotics cooperation; the disrepute of Colombian institutions and authorities in the eyes of their North American colleagues —among many other signs and facts— go to show that, the problem of legitimacy in Colombia, as perceived by the United States, was not necessarily a personal and circumstantial issue, but more likely a collective and structural phenomenon.


Support in the form of foreign assistance and credit was maintained, though to a smaller degree when compared to former times and to that appropriated for other countries in the region during the 1990s.  Already scant, political endorsement from the United States became even more remote, while in Europe those who championed the Colombian cause, both at a State and non-governmental level, became scarcer. The resounding deterioration of human rights increasingly alarmed both the European Union and the United States.  Extended corruption and the enormous growth of organized narcocriminality now not only worried Washington; the European capitals also became concerned.  In such a manner, Colombia's domestic war ended up making North Americans, Europeans and Latin Americans uneasy.


This Liberal president's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy —full of gestures and with little substance— barely contributed to preserving dwindling foreign extraction and validation. Institutional instability became even more pronounced, and the possibility of overcoming the country's civil strife became even more remote.  What is more, Colombia began to suffer a genuinely devastating large-scale humanitarian emergency.  Abuses of human rights and of international humanitarian law by State agents and para-instutitional groups constituted the predominant mark of an irregular war. All of this has  generated a human tragedy out of all proportion to any other on the American continent during the 1990s,  and barely equaled in the world at the beginning of the year 2000.


Pastrana and  Negotiated Peace Diplomacy


President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002) initiated his administration by conducting a high-profile Negotiated Peace Diplomacy[68]. Neutralizing Diplomacy was not applicable since, by 1998, it was impossible to bar the incidence of external factors, actors and variables on Colombia's armed conflicts.  In fact, Colombia could not contain the internationalization of its domestic conflict; at most, it could attempt an internationalization which favored peace instead of a negative internationalization of its internal war[69]. Moreover, Forced Pacification Diplomacy was not a practicable option since Pastrana's October 1997 "Peace Mandate", together with high voter turnout for the 1998 presidential elections, made peaceful settlement to the conflict a public must.


Pastrana's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy was formally announced within his peace proposal of June 8, 1998.  Points 6, 10 and 15 of his peace plan hold that:

“... I consider the international community's participation in all of the stages of the process of crucial importance: as facilitators of prenegotiation conditions, as proponents of formulae for reaching mutual agreements to clear the way for formal negotiations, as witnesses of the accords reached, and to monitor compliance of commitments. However, this cooperation with the international community, which should be autonomous and sovereign in nature, must be the result of an accord reached among the disputants, that which presupposes a clear willingness to come to terms since only the conflicting parties can make peace, not the international community... As elected president, I will visit the heads of state of the industrialized nations who have indicated their willingness to come to our aid, especially the United States, to establish with them the way in which they are going to cooperate with us to initiate the economic and social redemption of those zones most affected by the conflict ... Intimately tied to the social problem and to that of violence is the illicit crops issue ... Developed countries should help us to execute a type of ‘Plan Marshall Plan ’ for Colombia, which should allow us to carry out large investments in the social and agrarian sectors, and in regional infrastructure ...”[70]



In summary, this strategy integrates two fundamental tenets: the uttermost participation of the international community in an eventual peace process, and the need for the guerrilla's proactive concurrence in the search for foreign cooperation.  It founds a presidential diplomacy whose main emphasis is on the United States, and which links peace to drugs.  Lastly, it seeks the procurement of massive foreign funds to attack the social and economic underpinnings which allow for the development of illicit crops.


Even prior to taking office, this Conservative president was already conducting "peace diplomacy" on his trips abroad;  and, as of taking oath on August 7,  he provided his "peace diplomacy " with new impetus. In a speech delivered to the UN General Assembly on September 23, 1998, Pastrana underscored the following: 

“On the path to peace, the international community's concurrence will complement our domestic efforts. We will provide for the defense of fundamental rights ... We will take into consideration valuable experiences in conflict resolution elsewhere ...  Peace in Colombia will require vast investments ... To this end, we will create a "Peace Fund" ... We will also seek contributions from the international community ... All of these actions will constitute what we have termed peace diplomacy.  It will be a diplomacy with social and economic content ...”[71] 


In this sense, the Foreign Ministry has been entrusted with the administration's "peace diplomacy"[72]. Aside from being in charge of securing foreign political support for the peace process, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is also to mobilize the international community's financial backing.  This is due to the fact that the government's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy “is based on the concept that peace should have social and economic content.”[73].


With regards to the United States —principal point of reference for this Negotiated Peace Diplomacy— this Conservative leader has managed to mend Colombian-U.S. relations which had steadily deteriorated during the Samper administration.  The relationship between the two executives improved noticeably.  Be that as it may, it is essential to state precisely the type of structure which prevails in the current relationship between the two countries. 


Briefly speaking, one could mention two typical models.  On the one hand, there is the "honeymoon" schema, which supposes a total turnabout in the existing relationship at both State and governmental levels, a significantly harmonious management of bilateral and multilateral issues, a noteworthy emphasis on cooperation as a means of resolving the numerous problems which exist between the two countries,  the fostering of greater commercial and financial opportunities for both countries,  and unlimited U.S. military backing  for the Colombian armed forces. 


On the other hand, there is the schema of  "putting things on hold", which can be characterized by two simultaneous phenomena.  Firstly,  the United States offers Colombia a reprieve or trial period during which it expects to fathom the genuineness and depth of the new .... (determine just how genuine and profound is the new) administration's domestic change with regards to drug matters (applying extradition, increasing eradication through aerial spraying, further disarticulating narcotics networks, etc.). Washington is backing Bogota's peace initiatives but it is holding judgment on their relevance, effectiveness and scope.  After eighteen months into Pastrana's term, everything seems to indicate that the latter schema has prevailed.


Rumors and speculations which occasionally arise regarding greater U.S. intervention in Colombia's internal affairs do not contradict, however, the above assessment.  Routine diplomacy between the two countries came to an end years ago. In other word, the circumstances whereby Colombian affairs were traditionally addressed by mid-level officials and a few politicians interested in the country, with the U.S. Congress playing a fairly marginal role, no longer holds. In this latter stage, strategists, have become increasingly important: high-ranking government officials and officers in the executive branch, and the "hawks" in Congress.  These attempts at confining Bogota did not just begin with Pastrana, they date back a while. Under this policy the country is subjected to close scrutiny while Washington gauges the different scenarios and contingency plans for an eventual turbulent political transition in Colombia. Formally, Bogota is free to act, under monitoring by Washington.  In this context, if confronted with an uncontrolled internal implosion, the United States would not discard a manipulated external intervention[74].


Thus, the framework within which Pastrana's "peace diplomacy" is conducted is characterized by appropriate backing from the united States. This endorsement, although already made explicit, is still relatively cautious.  Scant internal progress in the dialogue and negotiation process tends to generate further skepticism on Washington's part, both among moderates and hard-liners.  U.S. backing is mostly expressed in military terms (personnel, training, information and resources), not economic (funding for what has been called the Peace Fund): Washington's contribution is the "stick" component in the peace talks with the guerrilla groups, while Colombia's decision to offer the FARC a “clear-out” zone is the "carrot" component.  Colombia is the third-largest recipient of U.S. security assistance, after Israel and Egypt; aid for Colombia in 1999 stood at $289 million[75]. 


At the same time, Latin America and Europe have increased their formal support for peace in Colombia. Nonetheless, the country's current situation is perceived as a threat to the region (an even the world)[76]. Hence, there is no certainty as to whether Colombia's counterparts are considering the option of participating dynamically in the peace process or intervening forcefully in the country's domestic war[77].


As of this, and during the period already covered by the Pastrana administration, it is highly unlikely  —both due to Colombia's domestic conditions and to diverse international circumstances— that Colombia will have access to greater economic resources from abroad. Meanwhile, everything seems to indicate that the State will continue receiving elemental and uncertain foreign backing and more U.S. military aid[78]. Current Negotiated Peace Diplomacy can hope to procure a certain degree of foreign endorsement (political) and extraction (economic). Furthermore, Colombia cannot continue mobilizing this rhetoric at an international level, if at a national level a peaceful settlement is not seen to make genuine progress.


Lastly, escalating indirect U.S. intervention in Colombia,  continued Latin American diplomatic silence on Colombia's civil strife and on foreign interference, greater military than economic foreign support for the government greater at the military than at the economic level, widespread armed conflict in Colombia and stalled political negotiations with the guerrilla groups could lead Pastrana's Negotiated Peace Diplomacy to relive the process undergone by the Betancur and Samper pacification diplomacies: although these two presidents sincerely sought peace, they were unable to resolve the country's profound institutional crisis.


Assessment and Suggestions


            In this paper, my starting point for discerning Colombian “peace diplomacy” was Mastanduno, Lake and Ikenberry's realist notion according to which, the ultimate goal of all States, irrespective of size, location, nature and capabilities, is survival.  I also focused my analysis as of their realist hypothesis which holds that “al aumentar la inestabilidad política interna, el Estado buscará más extracción y validación externas.”  I furthermore pointed out the logical corollary to this hypothesis, namely that foreign resources and endorsement would help the Colombian State to:  a) overcome this critical situation; b) to enhance institutional stability;  and c) advance in the resolution of its domestic war.  This seems the only plausible interpretation of Mastanduno, Lake and Ikenberry's hypothesis, since it would not be realistic to suppose that continued instability can actually allow for the State's long-term survival.


In this sense, it was noted that the Colombian State was fairly successful in terms of procuring the foreign resource extraction and political endorsement needed to enhance its chances of survival.  For two decades both Liberal and Conservative administrations conducted different types of “peace diplomacies”, whose results, while not thorough, were nevertheless operative insofar as preserving power at home and recognition abroad. Even so, the original situation  —national instability— was not settled.  Quite the opposite, public order disturbances became even more pressing and the country's civil strife more widespread than ever.  The different administrations had fragmentary achievements and failures as regards the linkages between internal and external politics.  Nevertheless, the country suffered an overwhelming exacerbation of its diverse violences.  Thus, although on the international scene the Colombian State managed to preserve some sort of fragile legitimacy, internally, and in spite of enacting the 1991 Constitution,  it achieved no legitimacy.


Essentially, the failure of “peace diplomacy” —which languished out of its inability to contribute the elements required to settle the war— lies in two primary factors. Firstly, the State neglected to comply with the demand for substantial changes required to found solid peace efforts abroad (and at home). Attempts at peacebuilding not accompanied by changes in the existing social and political conditions and by a redistribution of economic power have been highly hazardous and costly.  Colombian diplomacy has always projected the ruling class'  unwillingness to share power and reformulate the system's rules of the game.  Foreign policy as regards internal pacification seemed geared towards showing that, in the case of Colombia, simple adjustments would suffice to improve the regime. Those foreign interlocutors of greater relevancy, however, think that the Colombian system requires a thorough overhaul.  Thus, the breach between the way the Colombian ruling class perceives what is required to build domestic peace, and the way the international community sees it, is becoming wider than ever.  Likewise, while the instances and instruments required by the State to channel international contributions towards peace are petering out, the influenced exerted by external phenomena and forces is becoming notorious. In spite of its “peace diplomacy”, the Colombian State has been losing autonomy on the international arena and in the management of the internal variables which have a bearing on the war.


The second element which has led to the failure of Colombian “peace diplomacies” is related to the fact that foreign policies linked to peace were primarily the reflection of governmental policies, and not the result of an international strategy on the part of the State. What did prevail were countermarches, turnabouts and inconsistencies as well as an isolated, personalistic, and  capricious handling of the issues as opposed to an endeavor to conduct a coherent policy based on a solid consensus capable of incorporating overall national interests.  Even if it is not sensible to assume the existence of a monolithic State which expresses itself in unison on all issues and fields, it does appear that the propagation of multifarious voices, on an issue as crucial as is peace for Colombian national security and well-being, is an unsustainable and self-defeating conduct. These three models of “peace diplomacy” indicate that, rather than a global policy towards resolving the country's armed conflict, what was carried out were initiatives for securing survival.  However necessary these survival-securing initiatives might seem from a realist point of view,  they nonetheless do not suffice to guarantee the long-term continuity of the State and true domestic pacification.


What should be done towards the future so that the Colombian nation might benefit from a coherent “peace diplomacy”  whose true specific goal is to attain foreign support in order to terminate the country's civil strife?  I suggest two complementary options:  firstly, designing a renewed State diplomacy wholly centered on the search for peace and secondly, a citizens' diplomacy designed with the same purpose in mind,: peace. 


In the first instance, what would be required is a real national consensus on foreign policy; Statal, and not governmental strategies on the international scene; a diplomacy conscientiously guided by the will to promote democracy[79], human rights, institutional revamping, and trueveritable transparency, accountability, and integrity in all of these processes; clear-cut precisions regarding the scope of foreign participation in the domestic war; and a conduct abroad consistent with defending the national interests of the majority, of Colombians.


In the second case, I have assumed Cathryn Thorup's conceptual definition of citizen diplomacy according to which:   

“... the actions of the citizens of one country —and those of the non-governmental groups which they conform— regarding a third country imply the usurpation of those roles considered the sole domain of government actors. Comparatively, while domestic interest groups traditionally operate within a specific national context, citizen diplomacy acts at an international or transnational level.”[80]


The principal components of this diplomacy could be focused on turning abroad and: conveying a more detailed and unbiased view of Colombia's delicate situation; seeking social and political allies for a peaceful settlement to the country's armed struggle; exploring contacts with those groups or movements which might exert positive pressure on the guerrilla groups inciting them to initiate genuine peace talks; carrying out activities which give top priority to defending, indistinctly, the human rights of all Colombians; mobilizing prominent persons in all spheres, the arts, culture, science, education and humanities, with the intent of evincing the fact that the search for peace in Colombia is heartfelt and resolute. These are some among the many endeavors which are urgently required.


Colombia can still avoid the catastrophe of a widespread armed conflict. Although foreign policy cannot attain that which domestic policy is incapable of achieving, a reformulated "peace diplomacy" may contribute to the advancement of democracy, human rights and reconciliation.

* Ph. D. in International Relations from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Currently Professor at the Universidad de San Andrés, Victoria, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Formerly Associate Professor of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, in Santafé de Bogotá, where he was a Research Associate at the Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales (IEPRI).  Translated from Spanish by María Mercedes Moreno.


 An attempt in this sense, written ten years ago, can be found in the chapter on foreign affairs and domestic policy entitled  “Relaciones exteriores y política interna”, in Rodrigo Pardo y Juan G. Tokatlian, Política exterior colombiana: ¿De la subordinación a la autonomía? Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes/Tercer Mundo Editores, 1988.

[2] Studies regarding the nature of institutional regimes and political violence are scarce. Muller and Weede's study of this relationship could be of considerable interest towards analyzing the Colombian case from a rational-action perspective. According to these authors,  (back-translation) “la estructura del régimen complica o facilita el comportamiento de los individuos porque afecta las oportunidades de acción colectiva pacífica y violenta, la probabilidad de éxito que se espera en cada tipo de actuación y los costos esperados en cada caso. Bajo un régimen altamente represivo es probable que las oportunidades para la acción política colectiva de cualquier tipo sean pocas, que la probabilidad de éxito sea insignificante y que los costes sean altos...Bajo un régimen no represivo, es probable que las oportunidades para la acción política colectiva de cualquier tipo sea alta, que la probabilidad de acción colectiva pacífica sea por lo común más alta que la de la violencia y que los costes de la acción colectiva pacífica sean mucho más bajos que lo de la violencia. Es probable, por lo tanto, que los actores racionales prefieran la acción colectiva pacífica a la violencia. Bajo un régimen semirrepresivo, es probable que existan hasta cierto punto algunas oportunidades para la acción colectiva, que la probabilidad de éxito de la acción colectiva pacífica sea por lo común insignificante y que, por consiguiente, se prefiera la acción violenta”.  See Edward N. Muller and Erick Weede, “Cross-National Variations in Political Violence: A Rational Action Approach”, en in Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 34, No. 4, 1990, p. 646. References to Colombia's democracy highlight its defective, unfinished and/or violent nature: formal democracy, illiberal democracy, restricted democracy, incomplete democracy, exclusionary democracy, blocked democracy, limited democracy, genocidal democracy, eunuch democracy, and  narcodemocracy, are, among others, the expressions used by scholars and observers of Colombia's state of affairs. Do these characterizations convey, implicitly or explicitly, the semi-repressive nature of the Colombian regime? Does Muller and Weede's conclusion apply to the Colombian case?


[3] As regards the formal aspects of an international contribution to peace in Colombia, these vary in ways as well as in means.  Broadly speaking, there are four types of international action which take place in successive stages. Good offices are lent when prominent persons, influential groups, renown agencies and/or friendly countries approach the parties and propose alternatives for bridging the gap and generating commonalties. Basically, good offices are there to keep up communication channels between the antagonists, and to contribute to establishing certain basic rules of the game.  Mediation not only focuses on bringing the conflicting actors together, it also seeks to suggest alternate agreement options.  Fundamentally, mediation implies high foreign participation, it is encompassing and official. Verification centers on active and detailed monitoring of the agreements reached.  In short, verification leads to in situ missions to corroborate that the accords reached are not broken, and that the guarantees agreed to are duly respected. Lastly, reconstruction processes include assistance funding, and/or divers resources and capabilities provided by different sources for post conflict environments.  Essentially, reconstruction processes address the economic, social and political sustainability of the accords.


 See, among others, Kenneth N. Waltz, El hombre, el estado y la guerra, Buenos Aires: Editorial Nova, 1970; Peter Gourevitch, “La ‘segunda imagen invertida’: Orígenes internacionales de las políticas domésticas”, in Zona Abierta, No. 74, 1996; Robert D. Putnam, “Diplomacia y política nacional: La lógica de los juegos de doble nivel”, en in ibid.; Matthew Evangelista, “Domestic Structure and International Change”, in Michael Doyle and G. John Ikenberry (eds.), New Thinking in International Relations Theory, Boulder: Westview Press, 1997 and Thomas Risse-Kappen (ed.), Bringing Transnational Relations Back In: Non-State Actors, Domestic Structures and International Institutions, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.


 See Hans J. Morgenthau, Política entre naciones. La lucha por el poder y la paz, Buenos Aires: GEL, 1986.


 See Kenneth N. Waltz, Teoría de la política internacional, Buenos Aires: GEL, 1988.


Michael Mastanduno, David A. Lake and G. John Ikenberry, “Towards a Realist Theory of State Action”, en in International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 4, 1989. According to the authors: “Since states are organizations that participate in both international and domestic political arenas, it is not surprising that the pursuit of goals in one arena influences actions in the other. States may both respond to international events through domestic actions and attempts to solve domestic problems through international actions. This is an observation few analysis would disagree with but one which has yet to be systematically incorporated into general theories of international (domestic) politics”.


 Ibid., pp. 461-465.


 Ibid., pp. 465-466.


 In his opening speech at the Thirteenth Conference of American Armies held in 1979 in Bogota, Turbay pointed out that, “... it is no longer possible to draw a clear dividing line between the local insurgency, those to whom individuals marginalized by their adversaries from any power option would turn, and the seditious activities of supranational mercenaries, who solely abide by  foreign ideologies." See,  Consigna, November 15, 1979. 


 Cuba furthermore chaired the Non-Aligned Movement (NOAL) from 1979 to 1982. During its administration, Havana tried, unsuccessfully, to reach a consensus within the movement towards considering and accepting the Soviet Union as a "natural ally".  Yugoslavia, under Tito's leadership at the time, held the thesis, which finally won, that the movement should stand at an equal distance from both Moscow and Washington.


 On February 1980, Managua published a White Paper on the San Andres and Providencia Case, incomprehensibly nullifying the 1928 Esguerra-Bárcenas treaty which had settled the Colombian-Nicaraguan boundary.  Bogota responded with its own “White Paper”.


 See Juan G. Tokatlian andy Klaus Schubert (eds.), Relaciones internacionales en la cuenca del Caribe y la política de Colombia, Bogotá: FESCOL/Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá, 1982.


 According to Chernick, “... under Turbay, Colombia's pro-American stance became highly visible, thus constituting the only exception to the country's traditional low-profile international diplomacy.” See Marc W. Chernick, “La política exterior de Colombia y su impacto sobre el proceso de paz y reconciliación nacional (1982-1986)”, in Documentos Ocasionales CEI, No. 5, September-October 1988, p. 24. 


 Malcolm Deas, “El proceso de paz colombiano, 1982-1985 y sus implicaciones para Centroamérica”, en ibid, p. 12.

[16] Although towards the beginning of his presidency in 1978 Turbay was criticized by Washington because some of his relatives allegedly —according to the Bourne Memorandum— had ties to the narcotics traffic, all bilateral incidents were soon overcome.  Washington and Bogota strengthened their ties around the narcotics issue thanks to Colombia's ratification of a new bilateral extradition treaty, The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), with the U.S. signed in September 1979 with the U.S. and , The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) which entered into force in August 1980, to the Bilateral Counternarcotics Cooperation Agreement signed between July and August 1980, and to the Joint Military Intelligence Security Agreement ratified in December 1981.


[17] As of the suggestion made by Washington from May to June towards blocking Cuba's entry, which had been proposed a year earlier.


 At the time, Lernoux described the circumstances as follows: “As proof of his pro-American credentials, the Turbay administration agreed to send 800 men to the Sinai last autumn... The decision was not implemented without prior subtle "arm twisting" ... The State Department informed Colombians that if they did not send troops [to the Sinai], the administration would make no effort to get the Senate to ratify the [Vázquez-Saccio] treaty —pending since 1972— which ceded sovereignty over the disputed Caribbean [Quitasueño, Roncador and Serrana] keys to Colombia. The treaty was saved when Bogota announced its contribution to a peacekeeping force for the Sinai.” Penny Lernoux, “Colombia´s Future Up for Grabs”, en in The Nation, April 24th  de Abril de 1982.


 See, among others, Bruce M. Bagley and  Juan G. Tokatlian, “La política exterior de Colombia durante la década de los 80: Los límites de un poder regional”, in en Mónica Hirst (comp.), Continuidad y cambio en las relaciones América Latina/Estados Unidos, Buenos Aires. GEL, 1987 and Carlo Nasi, “La política internacional de Colombia hacia Cuba y Nicaragua durante el gobierno del Presidente Julio César Turbay Ayala”, in en Documentos Ocasionales CEI, No. 9, May-June 1989.


Indicative of this was  U.S. congressional ratification in July 1981 of the 1972 Vázquez- Saccio Treaty,  which recognized Colombian rights to the Quitasueño, Roncador and Serrana keys.

1 [21]

 According to Bustamante, up until 1980, “Colombia was the second largest recipient of U.S. [military] aid for the region [Latin America].” See Fernando Bustamante, “El desarrollo institucional de las fuerzas armadas de Colombia y Ecuador”, in en Augusto Varas (coord.), La autonomía militar en América Latina, Caracas: Editorial Nueva Sociedad, 1988, p. 83.

[22] Washington's counternarcotics aid to Colombia at the time was considerably more significant than that received by any other Latin American country.  Funds appropriated for Colombia from fiscal years 1978 to 1982 amounted to US$ 29.013.000. See, Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, “La política exterior de Colombia hacia Estados Unidos, 1978-1990: El asunto de las drogas y su lugar en las relaciones entre Bogotá y Washington”, in en Carlos G. Arrieta, Luis J. Orjuela, Eduardo Sarmiento P. and y Juan G. Tokatlian, Narcotráfico en Colombia: Dimensiones políticas, económica, jurídicas e internacionales, Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes/Tercer Mundo Editores, 1990, p. 371.


One must bear in mind that at the time, Western Europe and the United States were much more interested in the dictatorships in Central America and in the southern cone of South America, and that their worries regarding human rights violation in the Americas were focused much more there; much more so  thant on violence in the Andean region. The Chilean and Salvadoran cases, for example, were much more “visible” than the Colombian case.


It should be noted that as of the end of the 1970s, non-governmental agencies such as Amnesty International were reporting increasing human rights violations in Colombia.


 According to a study carried out by B. Bagley, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank funding per capita disbursements to Colombia as of in the 1960s, and up to the 1980s were higher per capita than those for any other Latin American country.  See, Bruce M. Bagley, “Aid Effectiveness in Colombia”, (Mimeo, Washington D.C., The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, August 1985).


 Foreign analysts who study Colombia, such as Deas and Chernick, coincide regarding this aspect. According to Deas, “towards the end of Turbay's presidential term, Colombia was dangerously isolated in the international arena.” According to Chernick, “Colombia's pro-American stance culminated in this country's isolation.”.  See Malcolm Deas, op. cit. andy Marc Chernick, op. cit.

[27] See Augusto Ramírez Ocampo, Contadora: Pedagogía para la paz y la democracia, Bogotá: Fondo Rotatorio del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, 1986.

[28] See Marco Palacios (comp.), Colombia no alineada, Bogotá: Biblioteca Banco Popular, 1983

1 [29] Just before taking office,  in an interview with Newsweek,  Betancur stated,  “... Colombia has no desire to be the satellite of any superpower.  Colombia does not want to be a satellite of the United States.”  See Newsweek  (International Edition), August 23, 1982, p. 48.  On November 19, 1982 when he sanctioned the Amnesty Law, Betancur pointed out: “... to make some headway towards national assertiveness ... to avoid being the satellite of any given superpower ...” On December 1, 1982, during the "Peace Banquet", Betancur declared: “... I am committed to conducting an honorable foreign policy ... disengaged from any type of imperialism.” See Belisario Betancur, Una sola paz, Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1983, pp. 46-47 y 61.

[30] In a conversation held with the correspondents of the British magazine “Informe Latinoamericano”, President Betancur closely related the events in Colombia to those of Central America.  As stated by this weekly magazine, “Central America, according to the Colombian president, does not pose problems any different from those of his own country: even though the region has its own features and no Central American country is like any other,  Betancur believes that eliminating the objective causes of the subversion and negotiating with the rebels in Central America —as in his own country— is the only possible solution.” See Informe Latinoamericano, July 29, 1983, pp. 399-400.


[31] According to Cepeda, “... the first effect of Colombia's foreign policy [during the Betancur administration] was that of blocking the Central-Americanization of the Colombian conflict.” See Fernando Cepeda Ulloa, “Contadora: El proceso de paz en Colombia y Centroamérica”, in,en Fernando Cepeda Ulloa andy Rodrigo Pardo García-Peña, Contadora: desafío a la diplomacia tradicional, Bogotá: Centro de Estudios Internacionales, Universidad de los Andes/Editorial Oveja Negra, 1985, p. 142.

[32] See Belisario Betancur, Nuestra patria es América, Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1984, p. 86.

[33] See, Belisario Betancur, Una...op. cit., p. 117.

[34] See Belisario Betancur, Nuestra...op. cit., p. 77.

[35] In all likelihood, this is why in an interview with Newsweek Betancur affirmed that “... in the past there were numerous documents regarding Cuba's influence on the guerrilla groups.  Now, I don't think there is any Cuban influence among guerrilla groups operating in Colombia.” See Business Week,, August 27th de 1984, p. 53.

[36] In many of these events, Gabriel García Marquez played the role of an informal diplomat bringing the parties together and helping to reconcile the diverging stances.

[37] It should be noted that prior to Ambassador Tambs, the Colombian Lt. Col. Mario López Castaño, in a 1982 article published in the "Armed Forces Journal" (“Revista de las Fuerzas Armadas”), analyzed the ties between the narcotics traffic and the guerrilla and reached the conclusion, which the U.S. official was to reach later. According to this Colombian officer, these ties were established at about 1977 with marihuana, and were consolidated in the 1980s with cocaine. López Castaño remarks on how this profitable emporium has not only adversely affected the revolutionary behavior of the guerrilla, but that of State security forces as well. According to López: “... paradoxically, one cannot assume that the narcotics problem would unilaterally affect solely the integrity of the FARC, [State] troops run the same risk ... the threat of being the object of bribery and of the well-known effects of this illicit activity”.  See Lieutenant Coronel Mario López Castaño, “Vínculos de las FARC con el narcotráfico”, in en Revista de las Fuerzas Armadas, No. 105, 1982.

[38] See Luis Jorge Garay Salamanca, Colombia y la crisis de la deuda, Santafé de Bogotá: CINEP, 1991 and y Luis Jorge Garay Salamanca, Alfredo Angulo Sanabria and y Claudia Cadena Silva, Cultura de negociación: la experiencia de la deuda externa, Santafé de Bogotá: CEREC/FESCOL, 1994.

[39] See Belisario Betancur, El compromiso de la paz, Bogotá: Departamento Editorial del Banco de la República, 1986, pp. 60-62 andy 66-70.

[40] George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1993, p. 133. However, on the basis of reports by high-ranking Colombian military and the Colombian National Intelligence Service and according to “Informe Latinoamericano”, “.. the M-19 and the FARC have been losing support in Cuba and Nicaragua ... [since] President Belisario Betancur's foreign policy has partly undermined international support for guerrilla organizations.”  See  Informe Latinoamericano, June 3, 1983, pp. 244-245.

[41]It would be convenient to remember that, the Unión Patriótica (UP) was founded as a result of the cease-fire agreement and peace talks between the government's National Peace Commission (Comisión de Paz) and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC). Right from the start, UP members were exterminated one by one, partly by the paramilitary groups, which were spawned under State auspices and aided and abetted by the military, politicians and entrepreneurs.


[42] Betancur's principal European support came from Socialist leaders in Spain and France.  

[43] Colombian policy towards Central America, particularly within the United Nations, is analyzed by Juan Camilo Rodríguez Gómez, Liderazgo y autonomía: Colombia en el consejo de seguridad de las Naciones Unidas, 1989-1990, Santafé de Bogotá: Universidad Externado de Colombia, 1993.

[44] An assessment of U.S. State Department reports issued during a 10-year period regarding voting tendencies in the UN, reflects the fact that Barco's Government was much less aligned with the United States on political issues than Betancur's. See the different US Department of State reports from 1986 to 1990. Report to Congress on Voting Practices in the United Nations, Washington D. C.: US Government Printing Office.

[45] As a result of improved relations between Colombia and Cuba, these two countries signed a Partial-Scope Agreement in Barranquilla on December 12,  1988 by means of which they sought to augment trade through reciprocal preferential terms. See Julio Londoño Paredes, Memoria al Congreso Nacional, 1988-1989, Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1989, p.320.


[46] See Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, “La política exterior del gobierno del presidente Virgilio Barco: En busca de la autonomía perdida”, in en Malcolm Deas and y Carlos Ossa (coords.), El gobierno Barco: Política, economía y desarrollo social, 1986-1990, Santafé de Bogotá: 1994.


[47] Barcos's principal European support came from conservative leaders in office in Great Britain and Germany.

[48] See Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, La política exterior de Colombia..., op. cit.

[49] See Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, Drogas, dilemas y dogmas: Estados Unidos y la narcocriminalidad organizada en Colombia, Santafé de Bogotá: Centro de Estudios Internacionales, Universidad de los Andes/Tercer Mundo Editores, 1995.


[50] According to Salinas, “... as of 1989 Colombia became the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in the Americas.” See Carlos M. Salinas, “Colombia”, in en Foreign Policy In Focus, Vol. 2, No. 49, November 1997.

[51] See Luis Jorge Garay Salamanca, op. cit.

[52]            President George Bush's words bear out Washington's wholehearted support for the Barco administration towards the end of its term, as well as the fact that Colombia was highly valuable to the United States at this point in time. In fact, on September 5, 1989 in his State of the Union Address when referring to the narcotics issue, the U.S. president declared: "All of us agree that the gravest domestic threat facing our nation is drugs ... Tonight, I am announcing a strategy that reflects the coordinated, cooperative commitment of all Federal agencies ... I am proposing more than double Federal assistance to state and local law enforcement ... We need more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors ... The second element of our strategy looks beyond our borders ... You and I agree with the courageous President of Colombia, Virgilio Barco, who said that if Americans use cocaine, then Americans are paying for murder ... We have a responsibility not to leave our brave friends in Colombia to fight alone ... Colombia has already arrested suppliers, seized tons of cocaine and confiscated palatial homes of drug lords. But Colombia faces a long, uphill battle, so we must be ready to do more ... I spoke with President Barco last week, and we hope to meet with the leaders of affected countries in an unprecedented drug summit, all to coordinate an inter-American strategy against the cartels ... The third part of our strategy concerns drug treatment ... Fourth, we must stop illegal drug use before it starts ... These are the most important elements in our strategy to fight drugs ... This is the toughest domestic challenge we've faced in decades ... If we fight this war as a divided nation, then the war is lost. But, if we faced this evil as a nation united, this will be nothing but a handful of useless chemicals. Victory. Victory over drugs is our cause, a just cause, and with your help, we are going to win". See The New York Times, September 6, 1989. As of this moment, no other Colombian president has ever received such explicit and publicly expressed support.

[53] The dialogue between the government and the CRS began in 1993 and ended on April 9, 1994 with a final agreement to demobilize this armed group. On May 1994, the government signed another two accords with Medellin's Urban Militias, on the one hand,; and with an EPL splinter group, on the other.

[54] Although President Gaviria himself did not refer to the military offensive in these terms, the overall view held by public opinion was that that army was waging a “wholesale war” against the guerrilla. In his turn, Defense Minister Rafael Pardo affirmed on March 14, 1993 that “... after 18 months, the government will renew negotiations with a guerrilla organization [the CGSB] which has suffered severe blows by the government's security forces.” See Rafael Pardo Rueda, De primera mano. Colombia 1986-1994: Entre conflictos y esperanzas, Santafé de Bogotá: CEREC/Editorial Norma, 1996, p. 382.


In 1994, the government attained the NOAL presidency for Colombia, something which would have been quite difficult had the country's diplomacy been perceived as having assumed a belligerent stance which sought to solve the domestic conflict by resorting to the use of force.


 Gaviria, like his immediate predecessors, recognized the linkages between foreign policy and domestic peace.  Thus, for example, on August 16 1991, within the framework of the opening of the “II Congress for Peace and Integration ”, Gaviria declared: “... I cannot abandon this topic without bringing to mind Galan's statement when he said that a country's foreign policy should be totally coherent with domestic peace interests. In other words, foreign policy should support and reflect a search for peaceful solutions, the will to resolve conflicts through dialogue, respect for pluralism,  the protection of basic rights, and a commitment to democratic values and principles. This is why our foreign policy goes hand in hand with our domestic policy. Peace is not possible if we betray abroad what we preach at home.” See César Gaviria Trujillo, Política internacional: Discursos, Santafé de Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1992, pp. 272-273. On July 20, 1993, during his address to the Colombian Congress, Gaviria indicated: “... Colombian foreign policy has also been designed to recoup and promote the most relevant domestic policy objectives, as are the fight against the narcotics traffic and terrorism ... the search for peace and strengthening of participatory democracy. The ´revolcón´ ("shake up") in Colombian foreign policy seeks to make Colombia protagonist and interlocutor in the changes occurring in the world and the region, and not a mere spectator of the emerging New World Order ... The country's foreign policy further seeks to strengthen Colombia's autonomy and negotiating power as regards the management of its international relations, especially in highly sensitive issues; and to give the country a higher profile.” See César Gaviria Trujillo, Informe al Congreso, Santafé de Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1993, pp. 43-44. 

[57] Regarding negotiations in Caracas and Tlaxcala see Ricardo García Durán, De la Uribe a Tlaxcala, Santafé de Bogotá: CINEP, 1992 andy Jesús Antonio Bejarano, Una agenda para la paz, Santafé de Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Editores, 1995.

[58]            Due to the growing expansion of narcotics traffic organizations, which combined extreme violence and uninhibited illegality, some specialists began employing "Colombia" or "Colombianization" to pejoratively refer to criminal phenomena.  Thus, for example, one of the best known experts on drugs and terrorism, Alison Jamieson, described the Colombianization process of the Italian Mafia, according to which the Camorra, the Cosa Nostra y the `Ndrangheta turn bloodier and more assertive as they become Colombianized at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. The editor of “Low Intensity Conflict and Law Enforcement”, Graham H. Turbiville, Jr.,  believes countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and y Turkmenistan tend to become new "Colombias" due to drug production and processing in contexts of violence, political instability and rampant corruption. See Alison Jamieson, "Mafia and Institutional Power in Italy", in International Relations, Vol. XII, No. 1, April 1994 and Graham H. Turbiville, Jr., "Narcotics Trafficking in Central Asia: A New Colombia", in Military Review, Vol. LXXII, No. 12, December 1992. Interestingly, and probably without having read Jamieson or Turbiville, former president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez, upon a narcotics traffickers' assault on a prison in his country in November 1994 declared that "Bolivia is becoming Colombianized and nothing is more dangerous than the Colombian Mafia". See Semana, November 15, 1994. A similarly "narcotized" perspective of the country is to be gathered from the argument used by former Russian president Boris Yeltsin to justify the use of military force in the case of Chechnya: "Such blisters like the Medellin cartel in Colombia ... and the military dictatorship in Chechnya do not disappear by themselves ... To preserve its sovereignty and integrity the state can and must use the force of power". See "Yeltsin Blames Army for Failures as He Defends War in Chechnya", The New York Times, February 17, 1995, p. 1. Two U.S. Doctoral theses also depicted a chaotic image of Colombia as of the consolidation of the drug phenomenon. Starbuck, on the one hand, compares “narcoinsurgency” power and influence in Colombia with that of Myanmar, a country known for having a series of “independent opium republics”. Robertson, on the other hand, labeled the Colombian regime of the time as a “narcokleftocracy”: the facade was democratic, even though the government was controlled by traffickers (narcos) and bandits/compulsive thieves (kleftos). See William C. Starbuck, "Narcotics Trafficking as Narco-Insurgency in Colombia and Myanmar; A Comparative Analysis” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Southern California, 1993) and John M. Robertson, "Nationalism, Revolution and Narcotics Trafficking in Latin America (Colombia, Peru, Cuba)" (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Virginia, 1994).  

[59] In financial terms, Washington was once again a key figure in procuring the Hercules US$ 1.700 billion loan for fiscal years 1991 to 1994. See Luis Jorge Garay, Alfredo Angulo Sanabria and y Claudia Cano Silva, op. cit.

[60] In his prologue to a text which assesses  his foreign policy, President Samper pointed out that “one of the paths confidently undertaken by the national government is internationalizing the search for peace.” See Ernesto Samper Pizano, Escritos. Política internacional, 1994-1998, Santafé de Bogotá: Renacimiento S.A., 1998, p. 18.

[61] See Gustavo Gallón, “Diplomacia y derechos humanos: Entre la inserción y el aislamiento”, in en Socorro Ramírez and y Luis Alberto Restrepo (coords.), Colombia: Entre la inserción y el aislamiento. La política exterior colombiana en los años noventa, Santafé de Bogotá: Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales, Universidad Nacional/Siglo del Hombre Editores, 1997, pp. 220-224.

[62] The ELN, however, seemed more open to the international dimension of contact and rapprochement, at least in terms of initial good offices, as shown by the meeting held by members of this armed group with spokesmen for Colombian civil society in Maguncia, Germany,  towards the end of Samper's term in office.

[63] Samper's stance shifted to such a degree that in 1996 it was held that “... with the dismantlement of the Cali cartel ... what's left is a series of former mid-level leaders who, in several regions, have formalized alliances with some guerrilla groups.”  This, according to the executive, opened the way for the configuration of the “narcoguerrilla”. Regarding this topic, see the section entitled “La lucha contra los carteles y las narcoguerrillas” in en Presidency of the Republic, La lucha contra las drogas ilícitas. 1996, un año de grandes progresos, Santafé de Bogotá: Presidencia de la República, 1997, pp. 24-25. That same year, in his UN address, President Samper opened his presentation by declaring: “In Colombia we have been waging, for quite a few years, a hard battle against the narcotics traffic ... Precisely last week, over fifty Colombian soldiers, who were destroying illicit crops and cocaine-processing labs in the jungle, were killed by guerrilla fighters involved in defending narcotics traffic interests.” Ernesto Samper Pizano, “Hacia una agenda mundial contra las drogas” (Mimeo, New York, 23 de Septiembere 23rd de 1996, pp. 5-6). 

[64] This definition was put forth by Peter Lupsha and the phenomenon is discussed in Max G. Manwaring (ed.), Gray Area Phenomena. Confronting the New World Disorder, Boulder: Westview Press, 1993.

[65] Thus, for example, was the Colombian government expressing  its hope of bridging the gap with the guerrilla groups—  an isolated and circumstantial executive policy or a State policy of a strategic nature?  Was the idea behind the involvement of foreign actors that of giving an administration —on which doubts had been cast by the United States— fresh international breathing space? Or was the idea to exert pressure on the guerrilla through foreign governments? What end would foreign good offices serve?  Would they be there to keep up communication lines between the belligerent parties, to make room for potential formulas for future mediation, to weaken the guerrilla's message there where it conducted its own diplomacy against the Colombian State?

[66] What is herein termed “disciplinary diplomacy” is that combination of coercive diplomacy and blackmail diplomacy used by the United States towards Colombia during President Samper's Government. On the difference between coercive diplomacy and blackmail diplomacy, see, Alexander L. George, “Coercive Diplomacy: Definition and Characteristics”, in en Alexander L. George and y William E. Simons (eds.), The Limits of Coercive Diplomacy, Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.


Preconditioning in the realm of international relations is an issue which is increasingly prevalent in the post-Cold War process of globalization. In short, preconditioning  in contemporary politics expresses dependency : a set of actor-States, non-governmental agents, multinational instances, etc. -thanks to its great power capabilities- makes another set of State and social actors —with less or scarce resources— fulfill a series of conditions in order to merit inclusion (or non-exclusion) from a worldwide homogeneous framework both in political  (as refers to the State and democracy) and economic (as refers to markets and capitalism) terms.  The issue of illicit psychoactive drugs  has also been the object of a preconditioned policy. In this sense, the main precondition comes as of U.S. counternarcotics policy, and it is made patent through the use of certification measures. Washington pretends —by imposing its domestic counternarcotics policy at an international level— to discipline countries which produce/process/transship narcotics . Apart from the wide range of economic and military options at its disposal, the United States commands a gamut of norms within the framework of its counternarcotics legislation which allow it to exert pressure, blackmail and strangle countries which make up the worldwide illicit drugs phenomenon network. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act  of 1952 and the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956, the State Department could deny or cancel entry visas to the United States for reasons of crimes related to narcotics. Furthermore, the Trade Act of 1974 places the country on a "watch list" whereby the U.S. President may deny trade benefits if a country fails to fully cooperate with Washington. Additionally, within the framework of the  Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act of 1981 —the so-called Caribbean Basin Initiative of the beginning of the 1980s— the U.S. President can deny trade preferences to those countries covered by the law but which do not cooperate in counternarcotics operations.  Likewise, the Aviation Drug Trafficking Control Act of 1984 gives the Department of Transportation the power to suspend or revoke airline companies' entry certificates to the United States. The annual certification process thus operates within this coercive framework used to deal with those nations affected by the illegal traffic of narcotics. When this evaluation instrument was developed in 1986, the prohibition phenomenon in the United States was at its highest peak in four decades.  Until 1994, Washington measured a country's counternarcotics efforts on the basis of fairly empirical criteriaon. Cooperation was certified or decertified according to the number of hectares eradicated, the number of labs destroyed, and the amount of persons put into prison, etc. As of 1995,  criteria regarding narcocorruption levels wereas included in the evaluation of a country's degree of commitment to counternarcotics efforts.  This meant the inclusion of parameters which were more capricious and subjective than those previously applied. Under the certification process, an unfavorable judgment by the United States has multiple consequences. The Foreign Assistance Act  of 1961, as amended in the 1990's, and the Narcotics Control Trade Act of 1974,  as amended in the 1980s, stipulate the precise scope of the certification process. By law, the President is to cut off most forms of U.S. assistance to decertified countries,  with the exception of humanitarian aid and counterdrug assistance. U.S. investors, in their turn, lose those guarantees granted them under the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), as regards the country decertified. At the same time, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Eximbank) suspends its loan programs, geared to facilitate exports of U.S. goods and services, to those countries which have been disqualified as of decertification. Furthermore, Security assistance, such as defense articles, training and services, to the penalized nation may be frozen. Additionally, the U.S. representatives at multilateral development banks (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and others) must automatically vote against all loans or grants to a decertified country. This does imply the immediate refusal of the loan since a negative U.S. vote is not equivalent to a total veto inasmuch as its decision alone does not weigh heavily enough in these instances for the funding to be denied. Moreover, according to the Crime Control Act of 1984, as amended in 1990, a country which has been decertified does not receive its share of property or moneys forfeited as of confiscations carried out in  the United Sates on the basis of information provided from abroad. The U.S. President also has the option of exercising "discretionary" trade sanctions, such as the removal of trade preferences —under the Generalized System of Trade Preferences—  for decertified nations; and in the cases of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, cutting off trade preferences provided under the Andean Trade Preference Act of 1991. Concomitantly, Washington can raise by 50% the duties levied on certain of the products exported by a decertified country.  In its turn, a decertified nation may have its sugar-sales quota to the United States suspended.  Into the bargain, the President can suspend air transportation from the decertified country into the U.S. Lastly, Washington can withdraw its customs personnel and resources —provided for under agreements regarding customs clearance for foreign visitors— from decertified nations.  There are three categories in the certification process:  “full certification” (approval for clear efforts at  cooperating with the U.S.), “decertification” (penalization for failure to cooperate), and “national interest waiver certification ” (a half-and-half decertification on the assessment that, although the country does not fully cooperate, for national interest reasons Washington is unwilling to apply immediate punishment. Between 1986 and 1994, Colombia was fully certified. Under President Samper, the country was decertified for two consecutive years (1996 and 1997), and received two national-interest waiver certifications (1995 and 1998).         

[68] For a critical evaluation of President Pastrana's first year of peace diplomacy (August 1998-August 1999) see Leonardo Carvajal H., “Paz y política exterior: Entre la intervención y la cooperación (A propósito de la diplomacia por la paz del gobierno de Andrés Pastrana)” (Mimeo, Santafé de Bogotá, Universidad Externado de Colombia, 1999). 

[69] During the 1998 presidential elections, those candidates with the highest options avoided proposing or referring to certain fundamental issues, as was the case with international relations. In what was probably Colombia's most meaningful presidential campaign in the past decades, neither Horacio Serpa, Andrés Pastrana nor Noemí Sanín commented on the country's international insertion at the end of the twentieth century or on the country's foreign strategy in the midst of a critical domestic scene and an unfavorable hemispheric context.  Nor did they remark on the means and resources they would employ to overcome the Foreign Affairs Ministry's institutional atrophy in the management of external ties. Never before, since the loss of Panama, had the international issue been so important to Colombia, caught up as it was in an increasingly vulnerable and dependent situation.  Never during the Cold War had  Colombian international relations been so contingent for the country's national security, territorial integrity, material well-being, and cultural conservancy as they were in 1998. Nevertheless, all the presidential campaigns  were conspicuously mute on the subject. As former experiences had already proven, the price to pay for this void could be momentous.  Indeed, the undiscussed issue during the 1994 Samper-Pastrana presidential campaign was the narcotics traffic. Observers as well as foreign analysts were astonished at the time at the candidates' failure to discuss the drug issue, and at Colombians neglect to demand clarity on this outstanding point.  Narcotics traffic's permeance of Colombia's  political, economic and social life was clear to all, yet neither Samper nor Pastrana debated the issue. Furthermore, there was discernible evidence of illegal narcotics financing in that year's legislative and presidential campaigns, yet narcocorruption was not an issue which aroused electoral controversy.  As a result, the international community, particularly the United States, got the impression that Colombia had been overrun by the narcotics traffic and that the country was bound to abandon the war on drugs. In consequence, and more in earnest than ever, Washington deployed its coercive diplomacy against the Samper administration, thus securing all kinds of concessions as concerns the war on drugs.  The immediate future of Colombian international relations could be a reenactment of what happened in 1994. Since the subject seems to be of no concern to anyone, and neither Colombian politicians nor the business sector seem to have any idea of where they're headed or how to guide Colombian diplomacy, Colombia's counterparts seem to feel that there is plenty of latitude for them to maneuver in their own interests and impinge upon Colombian domestic affairs.  Cogitation regarding forceful foreign measures and speculations as to the intromission of other nations in Colombia's destiny are but the aftermath of public passiveness regarding the contingency of events such as these. The speechlessness of the Colombian government and of the opposition on international matters enhances the impression held by other countries that Colombia can be easily intervened under any pretense whatsoever, and at a low political cost, regionally and internationally.

[70] See Andrés Pastrana, “Una política de paz para el cambio” (Mimeo, Santafé de Bogotá, 8 de Junio de 1998, pp. 12-17).

[71] Andrés Pastrana, “Intervención del Presidente de Colombia, Andrés Pastrana Arango, en la sesión plenaria de la asamblea general de las Naciones Unidas” (Mimeo, New York, 23 de September 23 , 1998, pp. 6-7).


[72] According to Foreign Affairs Minister Fernández de Soto, “... the government operates on the assumption that the best foreign policy is an adequate and effective domestic policy. A forthwith  policy which assumes the challenge of surmounting the country's great problems, of building a new society, and consolidating a veritable democracy.”  See “Conferencia sobre los lineamientos prioritarios de la política exterior colombiana, dictada en el diario ‘El Colombiano’ de Medellín por el Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, Guillermo Fernández de Soto”, in en Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, La política exterior de Colombia, Santafé de Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1999, p. 87.


[73] Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Diplomacia por la paz, Santafé de Bogotá: Imprenta Nacional de Colombia, 1998, p. 10.  

[74] Does this policy reflect a high degree of unanimity in the United States towards Colombia? No, there are still no signs of a definite homogeneous stance on the part of the State or of social actors. Despite the high bureaucratic levels reached by the hard-liners in the intelligence and security agencies, one can see that there are still some moderate sectors and cool-headed thinkers.  On the other hand, Congressional Republicans are influential but do not determine the course of strategies towards Colombia.  Scholars among many of the other more informed observers—, organizations tied to the human rights issues and some of the mass media reject a hostile and clumsy  attitude towards Bogota. Is this policy geared towards softening Colombian public opinion in view of a hypothetical use of force by Washington?  Yes, the message is the same for one and all, civilians, the military, the right-wing sectors, and the left: to prevent any chance of reacting and to guarantee gradual acceptance of even greater intervention. Meanwhile, in Latin America, by means of signals, incentives and pressure, there is a growing sensation that mounting intervention in Colombia could be an irreversible phenomenon.  Does this imply that this U.S. policy would attempt to restore power to the establishment,; and is this a sure signng of an anti-Communist crusade in Colombia?  This is not so certain. Firstly, defending at all costs an elite which has already lost it hegemonic control of the country could only contribute to deepening Colombia's current armed conflict. Secondly, in the post-Cold War era, Washington has not always intervened in favor of facilitating the triumph of traditional and right-wing establishments.  Thirdly, the United States, as a superpower, does not bet on just one horse in a critical situation, and, in general, it prefers long-term stability.  Would this policy lead to a unilateral U.S. intervention in Colombia? This is unlikely. The United States  would not send American soldiers to combat in Colombia, in which case one can discard direct U.S. intervention, at least in the short and medium terms.  For the time being, indirect intervention will escalate through diverse forms of military assistance. Should it come to concrete actions, Washington will probably opt for a multinational mechanism as a means of interfering in the Colombian war.

[75] See Véase, Michael Shifter, “The United States and Colombia; Partners in Ambiguity”, in en Current History, Vol. 99, No. 634, Februaryero 2000.


[76] Colombia is the most visible country in the hemisphere due to the dimensions of its internal and external crisis.  Colombian elites  do not seem to be aware of the changes effected in continental perceptions of the country.  They are still holding on to the idea that Colombia's position at a regional level is that of the 1960s, 1970s and part of the 1980s, when the country was a solid U.S. ally; when Latin America and wide sectors of the international community  viewed Colombia as a heroic fighter in the war on drugs, and when it was a democratic reference for its near neighbors and for the whole of South America; when it lent its good offices in the search for negotiated alternatives to the Central American and Caribbean conflicts; and when its rates of corruption and human rights abuses were below average for the hemisphere. However, in the eyes of its immediate peers, and other South American neighbors, Colombia is now an exporter of insecurity, ungovernability and other dangers.  The panorama is dramatic: displaced populations,; Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups in Panama,; insurgents and narcotics traffickers crossing the Venezuelan border,; and narcotics traffickers, paramilitaries and insurgents using Ecuador and Peru as  their temporary sanctuaries.  Even Brazil, seems to be increasingly concerned by the Colombian case. In fact, from Canada to Argentina, the Colombian case is viewed as a serious source of distress and urgency. 

[77] See Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, “Acerca de la dimensión internacional de la guerra y de la paz en Colombia: Conjeturas sobre un futuro incierto”, in en Francisco Leal Buitrago (ed.), Los laberintos de la guerra: Utopías e incertidumbres sobre la paz, Santafé de Bogotá: Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de los Andes/Tercer Mundo Editores, 1999. The idea, coined by the United States, that Colombia's future affects hemispheric and regional stability has gained credibility in the Americas; it does, however, still lack legitimacy in terms of a notable consensus regarding how and when to confront it as such.        

[78] On January 11, 2000, the White House asked Congress to approve a US$ 1.6 billion security assistance package for Colombia for fiscal years 2000 and 2001.


 The tenet which guides the establishment of this principle at an international level is similar to that which moves Palacios to state that “Colombia's main problem is not that of achieving peace but of building democracy. The country's armed conflict is but one symptom, among many others, of the lack of institutional democracy.” See Marco Palacios, “Agenda para la democracia y negociación con las guerrillas”, in en Francisco Leal Buitrago (ed.), op.cit.


 See Cathryn L. Thorup, “Diplomacia ciudadana, redes y coaliciones trasfronterizas en América del norte: Nuevos diseños organizativos”, in en Foro Internacional, Vol. XXXV, No. 2, April-June 1995, p. 156. Note:  Some of the passages quoted have been translated back from Spanish due to the unavailability of the original English version. 




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