Sorry, Hillary, Plan Colombia has been a Drug War Disaster

This week Hillary Clinton again revealed a blind spot for the drug war and a deafness of tone towards Latino issues. She decided to brag about Plan Colombia, her husband’s signature international drug policy initiative, which has been a total disaster in one of the most emblematic theaters of the failed war on drugs.


At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Clinton was asked about immigration. After citing her record of voting to militarize the border and referring to immigrants as “illegal”, she invoked Plan Colombia to show off her hawkish bona fides, saying:

We have an example of how effective the United States can be. When my husband was president, as you remember, there was a war going on in Colombia by drug traffickers and insurgent rebels. … And we did something called Plan Colombia. Where we helped the government figure out how to secure their country from drug traffickers and rebels. And it took a number of years but now it’s a success story.

Hers is a colorful revision of history. Too bad it’s not how things have actually gone down.

Plan Colombia – a massive U.S. military and counternarcotics aid package to the Colombian government – began in 2000. A decade and a half and $10 billion later, it has had little impact on coca cultivation, cocaine production or the cocaine trade (Colombia is again theworld’s leading coca producer). But it has had a devastating impact on Colombia and its people.

Under Plan Colombia, US taxpayer dollars have financed gross and widespread violations of human rights. It has paid for thousands of people murdered, disappeared, tortured, raped. It has forced millions of people to flee their homes – fueling a conflict that has resulted inmore internally displaced people than nearly any other. It has funneled monies to paramilitary death squads guilty of some of the conflict’s most heinous atrocities. It has funded Colombian military units guilty of assassinating dissidents, labor leaders, and students in order to silence political opposition and crush social movements. It has paid security forces that murder thousands of civilians and dress them up as guerillas in the so-called “false positive” scandal – which Colombia’s top brass knew about as it happened. It has funded aerial fumigation using toxic chemicals that poison people and environment but fail to make a dent in the drug trade. And it has enriched U.S. military contractors and other drug war profiteers.

U.S. soldiers themselves have been implicated in numerous human rights abuses while deployed during Plan Colombia operations – including allegedly raping dozens of Colombian women and girls between 2003 and 2007.

This is the legacy of Plan Colombia, and try as she might, Clinton can’t run from it.

Yet shamefully it’s being rolled out as a model and exported throughout the region. First it was Mexico, to which the US has given $3 billion in military assistance since 2007. The results have been predictable: murders, disappearances, displacement, torture, and extrajudicial executions have all skyrocketed – many perpetrated by security forces armed, trained and equipped by the US of A.

Now Clinton and her ilk want to apply the same model to the nations of Central America instead of extending humanitarian assistance and protection to children refugees fleeing drug war violence.

No, Madame Secretary, Plan Colombia is not a success story; it’s a recipe for disaster.

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