15 years of “Plan Colombia”
It has been 15 years since the start of “Plan Colombia.” This joint U.S.-Colombian military campaign was designed to end the drug trade by fighting drug cartels and eradicating coca being grown for cocaine, and to stop groups opposed to the conservative government. Many have been critical of the strategy over the years because U.S. military aid was used to arm and train Colombian security forces and right-wing militias accused of human rights abuses and violence, not just against guerrilla fighters but also leftist sympathizers and millions of farmers and civilians caught up in the 50 year old Colombian civil war– the longest in the Western Hemisphere. After years of difficult peace negotiations, The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebel group and the Colombian government reached a peace agreement in September 2015 to end the decades-long conflict, with hopes to have final details worked out and the deal signed by March 2016.
Global Ministries’ Partner Churches and ecumenical organizations have been accompanying the peace process through personnel appointments, project planning and advocacy initiatives. Their objective has been the construction of an inter-church agenda to strengthen participation and advocacy around the national peace talks process, which is taking place in Havana, Cuba, and, thereby, to contribute to a peace which is the fruit of justice. They are promoting a participative methodology among congregations and communities, emphasizing a facilitated horizontal form of dialogue and enabling to lift up lessons learned through experiences with peace and reconciliation at local, national and international levels, through the free exchange of knowledge and opinions. From the reflection process, they are building an agenda to assist churches and church organizations to promote action and political and public advocacy, both in processes and initiatives within the churches and also in the national and international arenas.
In February 2016, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will visit the White House to discuss the signing of the peace accord. While the major parties take steps to move forward after the decades of war, it is important not to forget the immense cost to human life and to human rights brought on by Plan Colombia.
The Washington Office on Latin America has created resources to study and remember the more than 6 million Colombians victimized during Plan Colombia.
Plan Colombia’s mixed legacy: coca thrives but peace deal may be on horizon (The Guardian, Feb. 3, 2016)