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How Joe Biden’s privatization plans helped doom Latin America and fuel the migration crisis

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden has boasted of his role in transforming Colombia and Central America through ambitious economic and security programs. Colombians and Hondurans tell The Grayzone about the damage his plans did to their societies.

by Max Blumenthal

Part 3 - Plan Colombia: ‘They come and ask for bread, and you give them stones’

Plan Colombia was originally conceived by Colombian President Andrés Pastrana in 1999, as an alternative development and conflict resolution plan for his war-torn country. He considered calling it the “Plan for Colombia’s Peace.”

The proposal was quickly hijacked by the Bill Clinton administration, with Joe Biden lobbying in the Senate for an iron-fisted militarization plan. “We have an obligation, in the interests of our children and the interests of the hemisphere, to keep the oldest democracy in place, to give them a fighting chance to keep from becoming a narcostate,” Biden said in a June 2000 floor speech.

When Plan Colombia’s first formal draft was published, it was done so in English, not Spanish. The original spirit of peace-building was completely sapped from the document by Biden, whose vigorous wheeling-and-dealing ensured that almost 80 percent of the $7.5 billion plan went to the Colombian military. 500 US military personnel were promptly dispatched to Bogota to train the country’s military.

If you read the original Plan Colombia, not the one that was written in Washington but the original Plan Colombia, there’s no mention of military drives against the FARC rebels,” Robert White, the former number two at the US embassy in Bogota, complained in 2000. “Quite the contrary. [Pastrana] says the FARC is part of the history of Colombia and a historical phenomenon, he says, and they must be treated as Colombians.

White lamented how Washington had abused the trust of the Colombians: “They come and ask for bread, and you give them stones.

Plan Colombia was largely implemented under the watch of the hardline right-wing President Álvaro Uribe. In 1991, Uribe was placed on a US Drug Enforcement Agency list of “important Colombian narco-traffickers,” in part due to his role in helping drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s obtain licenses for landing strips while Uribe was the head of Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Department.

Under Uribe’s watch, toxic chemicals were sprayed by military forces across the Colombian countryside, poisoning the crops of impoverished farmers and displacing millions.

Six years after Bill Clinton initiated Plan Colombia, however, even US drug czar John Walters was forced to quietly admit in a letter to the Senate that the price of cocaine in the US had declined, the flow of the drug into the US had risen, and its purity had increased.

Meanwhile, a UN Office of Drugs and Crime report found that coca cultivation reached record levels in Colombia in 2018. In other words, billions of dollars have been squandered, and a society already in turmoil has been laid to waste.

For the military and right-wing paramilitary forces that have shored up the rule of leaders like Uribe and the current ultra-conservative Colombian president, Ivan Duque, Plan Colombia offered a sense of near-total impunity.

The depravity of the country’s military was put on bold display when the so-called “false positives” scandal was exposed in 2008. The incident began when army officers lured 22 rural laborers to a far-away location, massacred them, and then dressed them in uniforms of the leftist FARC guerrillas.

It was an overt attempt to raise the FARC body count and justify the counter-insurgency aid flowing from the US under Plan Colombia. The officers who oversaw the slaughter were paid bounties and given promotions.

Colombian academics Omar Eduardo Rojas Bolaños and Fabián Leonardo Benavides demonstrated in a meticulous study that the “false positives” killings reflected “a systematic practice that implicates the commanders of brigades, battalions and tactical units” in the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians. Indeed, under Plan Colombia, the incident was far from an isolated atrocity.

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