Ricardo Soberón G.
November 15, 2001
As a result of the attacks
against the New York Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on
September 11 of 2001, the United States has launched a world-wide military
campaign in Afghanistan within the framework of a political, military,
judicial, financial and policing strategy against international terrorism.
Apparently, the Philippines and Colombia might also be targeted in this
Thus the US State Department
has built a large coalition of countries united against terrorist activities
within which there has been practically no divergence. There is, on the
one hand, United Nations support through Security Council Resolution 1373
which authorizes the US to use forceful measures, together with the recent
56th General Assembly in New York itself. While on the other, NATO has
invoked its mutual defense clause, and even the Inter-American Mutual Assistance
Treaty (IAMAT) mechanisms for mutual defense were called into force, within
the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Sometime in the near future, its successor will also be molded by the events
of September 11th.
The world is still going
through a period of transition during which the concepts of balance of
powers, international and national security as well as the role of security
forces will be profoundly redesigned, on a day to day basis. Even Russia
is the victim of fundamentalist terror and as such benefits from this concerted
effort of nations in combat against international terrorism. Countries,
which were hitherto hesitant to back foreign military interventions -such
as Germany, Japan, and even Italy- have volunteered military capability
and troops to this new campaign whose launching point is Afghanistan. If
there’s anything about which we can have no doubt, it’s the consensus surrounding
a stance which condemns these terrorist acts. One cannot say that this
also holds true for the Islamic community of nations, particularly
considering the turn of events in Palestine and continued military measures.
As concerns our region,
the Andean countries have not been exempt from this new crusade. Two circumstances
portray what the regional context was prior to the attacks of September
11th. First, conflict escalation as compared to the weakness
of peace negotiations. Second, a redefinition of US hemispheric security
in a post Cold-War environment. The continuos erosion to which the parties
to Colombia’s armed conflict are submitted, the increasing number of internal
displaced peoples and of refugees escaping the country, as well the critical
situation of the peace process make it necessary for us to carry out
exhaustive analyses regarding the impact in the coming months for the Amazon
Andes of the development of this recent international stance by the United
1. What were we
facing prior to the Twin Towers?
From 1989 until today,
Colombia and the other Andean countries were the scenario of and witnesses
to traditional and ineffective anti-narcotics policies on the part of the
two Bush administrations (father and son) and of the Clinton era. Since
1999, these policies have been implemented within the framework of the
Plan Colombia, and more recently within the Andean Regional Initiative.
Several treaties as well as the 1998 UN General Assembly have backed this
traditional US stance on illicit drugs, despite its blatant failure to
solve the issue.
The instruments preferentially
used have been forced eradication of illicit crops and, particularly in
Colombia, fumigation as an answer to poverty and marginalization; as well
as extradition and interdiction rather than other controls over this illegal
supply. Reciprocity, mutual and transparent cooperation, a global perspective,
and fair trade have consistently been the exception.
On the other hand, we
observe the development, during the past four decades, of generic and ambiguous
international policies for the region. This process appears to be on the
way to dangerously regionalizing and internationalizing local scenarios.
Thus, the idea held by some neighboring countries that the situation in
Colombia is a threat to regional stability has led to militarization of
border areas. The growing number of refugees and displaced persons from
Colombia has also been brought to the attention of European foreign ministries,
international forums and neighboring countries’ foreign ministries due
to its impending impact on bordering areas. Lastly, the situation in Colombia
has to be considered within the context of the post Inter-American Mutual
Assistance Treaty (TIAR) redefinition of hemispheric security, that which
just goes to give further proof to the potential spillover of this “domestic”
conflict. That which characterizes Colombia is that this war coexists with
a negotiation process which is permanently in danger, be it because the
parties are not truly willing or as of the degradation of the conflict
itself and violation of international private law, international humanitarian
law (the Geneva Protocol) and human rights, among other factors.
2. What can be
the consequences of this global war on terrorism for the Andean countries?
2.1. On the hand, we
can imagine a relative loss of attention to issues related with Latin America
and Colombia, particularly as refers to the US daily domestic agenda, as
well as in the press and US public opinion. Both the White house and Congress
will dedicate their efforts to supporting President Bush’s actions against
terrorism. In the end, it will be the post Taliban reconstruction of Afghanistan,
as well as the continuous monitoring of what occurs in Central Asia which
will be at the center of Washington’s politicians and military establishment
as concerns: gas reserves, oil, antinarcotics war, and illicit crops. Colombia
has its share of all of these, however, it does not suppose the need to
contain Islamic fundamentalism.
North American diplomacy
will be chiefly confronted by two new challenges in the coming months:
guiding and leading the coalition to face a long international war against
terrorism with the all the wear and tear implied. And keeping together
in this new alliance countries as diverse as those of the Middle East and
Asia without falling into the Huntington dilemma, the clash of civilizations.
In Latin America in particular,
a reinforcement of border policing and military controls is to be expected
as a first response, that which could be an obstacle to the Project. Most
likely, in areas inhabited by Moslem communities such as Punta del Este
and the border between Brazil and Argentina, border controls and detentions
will increase. In this sense, the Plan Colombia can be considered a springboard
for the USA to launch its militarization projects -originally foreseen
for Colombia and its neighboring countries- into the Southern part
of Latin America.
There will naturally
be a group of Hawks in Washington who will necessarily see the great similarities
between the situation in Afghanistan and that in Colombia : drugs, organized
crime, irregular forces, divers violences; and will thus recommend similar
military interventionists actions. This would be a serious mistake, and
recent evidence indicates that direct military intervention is unlikely,
inside or outside the demilitarized zone. Washington has already entrusted
its strategic efforts in the Andean Amazonic Zone to different actors and
policies: the Colombian Armed Forces; those of its neighboring countries;
a post-Panama security apparatus as well as divers private contractors
who are charged with directly carrying out flight surveillance, aerial
fumigation and other such activities.
2.2. A possible positive
hypothesis, is that -with US military attention focused on Afghanistan-
Colombia might find breathing room for building peace, rural development,
dialogue and democracy as of respite from “hard” issues such as interdiction
and Plan Colombia. We believe this could also mean subordinating the current
War on Drugs in the Andes and this is directly related to coming events.
As in 1991 -during the Gulf War- attention, speeches, news coverage, and
funding was focused outside of the Andes; it is now directed at Central
Asia. This hypothesis, if somewhat naive, is not completely infeasible.
3. The need to
Most likely, the urgency
will be placed on attaining results, acting on a global level, and reaching
consensus. This means a continuation of a “big stick” policy in the Andean
Region and, as result, further obstacles to negotiation. The Plan Colombia,
initially an antinarcotics strategy, would end up being an antisubversive
strategy. The problem is that a victory in Afghanistan would have dramatic
results: it would open the way for the tribes, clans and groups involved
with the Talibans to dedicate themselves to processing the heroin they
have stocked (much as what happened when the USSR intervened in Afghanistan
during the 1980s). This would of course affect the world narcotics trafficking
map and, particularly, that of Colombia.
In the coming months, the international community and above all the United States will demand increasing toughness. Even the standpoint of the European Union regarding the peace process and the FARC stands to suffer significant changes as regards reduced tolerance of armed actors. All of the actors in this internal conflict will tend towards a hardening of their position. Whether in response to practical needs or requirements, this situation explains recent offensive strikes on the part of the different armed actors. This is particularly likely to hold true during the Pastrana Administration’s last months in office.
·The issue of the demilitarization zone and its continuation.
·Increasing aerial fumigation actions.
of police and military measures and forces.
Apparently, the great
loser in this new crusade against terror will be the FARC and the peace
process itself, which is losing some of its supporters. In the case of
the former, its classification as a terrorist group and accusations of
narcotics trafficking will call for FARC representatives to define a clearer
peace policy. The international juncture will be less permissive of the
FARC and the ELN. They will lose allies such as Spain, Venezuela and Mexico.
4. But with less
The financial losses
incurred as of the terrorist attacks, as well as the expenses for upkeep
of long-term military logistics to carry out “Infinite Justice” are likely
to deplete the US treasury and limit their response to other countries’
needs, mainly those of the Andean region.
Recently, within the
framework of the Plan Colombia, the US Congress approved a total of US$
625 million por fiscal year 2002, as compared to the US$713 million requested
by the Bush Administration. This is a clear cut sign of Afghanistan’s impact
on the Andes.
5. And the narcotics
As regards narcotics
traffic in the Central Asia we should firstly point out the close ties
that exist between commerce in drugs such as opium and heroin, and violence
and territorial control in these areas. Afghanistan produces 80% of the
opium required on the international market to make heroin and particularly
that of European markets. Estimates are that the Taliban will reinforce
their poppy crops in Southern Afghanistan or liberate the stocks of heroin
which they now hold. What we are now seeing -opium price reductions in
the region- is an initial reaction to the threat of US military occupation.
It is, however, definitely too soon to determine the changes that will
take place with Colombian opium and heroin markets but what is certain
is that the repercussions will be felt in Colombia’s producer zones.
*Translated by María Mercedes Moreno, Mama Coca
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