U.S.-Colombian Relations at a Crossroads

U.S.-Colombian Relations at a Crossroads

Most of the early analysis of President George W. Bush's Latin American legacy concentrates on his failure to engage the region despite early promises to "look south." But the emphasis on the outgoing administration's general neglect of Latin America has diverted attention from the strong alliance that has developed between the United States and Colombia.

That alliance is based largely on Plan Colombia, an initiative signed in the late 1990s by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrés Pastrana to combat drug production and trafficking and the criminal organizations that control supply, as well as to stem the flow of illegal narcotics entering the United States. Since its inception, most of the more than $5 billion dollars the U.S. has donated to Colombia has been under Plan Colombia's auspices.

Most of that aid has been spent on improvements in security, including burgeoning military and police forces, investments in intelligence, and increased communications between Colombian and U.S. anti-narcotics forces operating in the region. The program's impact is palpable throughout the country. Kidnappings and murders are down, and it is once again safe to travel to many previously dangerous areas.

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