The Future of Plan Colombia Looks Secure

On any given night in north Bogotá, groups of athletic, broad shouldered young men with cropped hair, conversing in their native American-English, can be seen enjoying beers in the upmarket bars of the Colombian city. Most of these men are among the 800 U.S military personnel and 600 U.S. civilian government contractors allowed to work in Colombia as part of the U.S. aid package known as Plan Colombia.

It has been almost a year since the first phase of Plan Colombia officially ended. Since then the Colombian government has been left wondering whether U.S aid to Colombia will continue to pour in at the same levels and how much more money the U.S. Congress will pledge to the Andean nation in the long term.

In 1999, former Colombian president Andrés Pastrana, working in close partnership with the Clinton administration, developed Plan Colombia, which built on previous counter-narcotics operations between the two countries. The ambitious six-year plan came into effect in 2000 and, at first, primarily focused on reducing the supply of drugs to the United States, mainly cocaine. This involved spraying the coca fields mainly concentrated in southern Colombia using American equipment, chemicals, crop-duster planes and pilots. Plan Colombia further solidified the relationship between Colombia and the United States as close partners in the war on drugs. However, Plan Colombia has increasingly focused on providing military support and training for the Colombian armed forces. As a result, the cap on the number of U.S military personnel and contractors was increased in 2005.

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