by Mark Weber
Steve Cagan’s very informative talk last night got me to thinking. He mentioned that the United States was less of a presence in Colombia now than in years past. In the early 2000’s there was in South America what journalists dubbed the “pink tide.” In countries like Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, and Venezuela socialist or left populists came to power. Most famous was the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela led by Hugo Chavez. The United States feared that Colombia might be “lost” as well. Insurgent forces in Colombia controlled almost half of the country. I think these were mainly the FARC and the ELN, the two largest groups of insurgents at that time. The United States was determined to keep Colombia as an ally. U.S. representatives worked with then President Uribe (elected in 2002). The result was an agreement called Plan Colombia coupled with counterinsurgency training, which resulted in a spike in U.S. assistance making Colombia the highest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel. With an increase in military aid and funds for aerial spraying of some coca growers in the remote parts of the country, Colombia moved much closer to the top of the U.S. strategic priority list. The aerial spraying program was and continues to be a failure.