[News] Plan Colombia Casts Shadow on Indigenous and Afro-descendant Rights as Peace Nears

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 12 12:07:38 EDT 2016


  Plan Colombia Casts Shadow on Indigenous Rights as Peace Nears

October 12, 2016

Marginalized Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in Colombia have 
been among the most battered by more than five decades of internal armed 
conflict between the military, paramilitaries and armed left-wing rebel 
groups. They are also the communities that overwhelmingly voted “Yes” to 
the groundbreaking peace deal 
recently defeated at the polls and have much at stake in what comes next 
on the road to a post-conflict Colombia.

With peace on the horizon 
and some US$4.5 billion set to flow into Colombia over the next 10 years 
through “Plan Colombia 2.0,” 
the path to a post-conflict era is marked by many hurdles. Many of the 
challenges are new ones, including the quest for ensuring truth and 
reconciliation for abuses during the 52-year war as part of building 
stable and lasting peace. Others — such as ethnic communities’ fights 
for legal land title and respect for Indigenous rights to free, prior 
and informed consent for development projects in their ancestral 
territories — are longstanding.

Despite landmark agreements on victims’ rights and rural reform, among 
others, covered in the historic deal 
between the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerrilla 
group, the FARC, Black and Indigenous communities have warned that the 
peace accords could also spur a new elite-backed scramble for land and 
resources in Colombia’s countryside — particularly in areas where rebel 
disarmament creates a power vacuum for the first time in decades.

“As the peace accords are implemented, I think it is going to generate 
many more problems that have to do with the economic model promoted in 
the territories,” Carlos Rosero, a leader of the network of 
groups known as the Process of Black Communities, recently told teleSUR 
by phone from Bogota. “Because it is an extractivist model with an 
enormous cost that ends up affecting the economic, social and cultural 
ways of the communities.”

Rosero and other community leaders fear that the “comprehensive rural 
reform” promoted in the peace deal — though aimed at decreasing the vast 
inequalities between rural and urban areas — will open the door for 
national and multinational mining, agribusiness and other corporations 
to bulldoze their human rights and chip away at their already fragile 
traditional land claims 

According to official 2015 statistics, the Colombian government is 
sitting on at least 1,000 pending requests for legal recognition of 
Indigenous and Afro-Colombian title to their collective lands. 
Communities are already organizing for a new post-conflict struggle 
after years of stagnation on land rights demands in government agencies, 
as well as decades of systematic territorial theft and mass displacement 
that has uprooted nearly 7 million people in the country. Another 
220,000 victims have been killed.

And while peace may pave the way for the expansion of neoliberalism and 
extractivism, the model is far from new in Colombia, one of the most 
loyal corners of Washington’s “backyard” 
in Latin America. As a traditionally agricultural economy also rich in 
natural resources, Colombia’s more than quarter century-old free market 
policies, like elsewhere in the region, have undermined the viability of 
local farming by flooding the market with cheap imports and streamlined 
foreign resource exploitation. As a result, neoliberalism in Colombia 
has deepened inequality and fueled the expansion of illicit coca crops, 
used in making cocaine, as many small producers feel they have no other 
profitable choice.

The United States has played an pivotal role in the process, both 
through propping up the Colombian government's counternarcotics and 
counterinsurgency strategy with US$10 billion over 15 years of Plan 
and the controversial 2006 U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. Signed by 
former Presidents Bill Clinton and Andres Pastrana and in 2000, Plan 
Colombia dramatically ramped up militarization — while failing to 
address paramilitary violence 
— with dire human rights consequences for social movements and 
marginalized rural communities.

“Plan Colombia is one of the major reasons that ethnic groups are 
disproportionately victimized by the conflict,” Teo Ballve, professor of 
peace and conflict studies at Colgate University, told teleSUR. “U.S. 
military aid helped push the conflict into the heart of their territories.”

Though billed as a counternarcotics program, Plan Colombia was 
unsuccessful in curbing drug trafficking and has become widely condemned 
as a failure that ballooned human rights abuses 
enabled right-wing death squads, sparked land grabs, and ultimately 
prolonged the conflict. Critics argue that Plan Colombia was designed to 
fight left-wing rebel groups, namely the FARC, but also targeted rural 
and ethnic populations in its effort to protect elite interests and 
foreign investment opportunities in the face of local community 
opposition and demands for reforms. Plan Colombia’s military budget was 
also accompanied by an economic element aimed at further liberalizing 
the Colombian market and limiting public spending in favor of 

Earlier this year, Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Barack Obama 
extended the controversial military aid package with a “Plan Colombia 
2.0,” dubbed Paz Colombia 
The plan looks to strengthen security and continue the “war on drugs” 
with US$450 million annually over the next 10 years in post-conflict 

“In many ways, (Plan Colombia) 2.0 is trying to attend to the human 
fallout created by the first version of Plan Colombia,” Ballve 
explained. “It's yet another example of the U.S. undoing with one hand 
what it's doing with the other.”

According to Ballve, one of the ways Plan Colombia’s strategy directly 
contradicted itself is revealed in the fact that funding earmarked for 
“alternative development” initiatives, particularly for agriculture, 
often ended up in the hands of drug traffickers — precisely the powers 
the aid package claimed to be fighting against. “Agriculture and land 
deals are some of drug traffickers’ favorite ways of laundering their 
narco-dollars,” he explained.

One of the agricultural endeavors promoted by Plan Colombia’s 
“alternative development” measures has been palm oil production, an 
industry notorious for displacing campesinos and ethnic communities 
and wreaking environmental havoc with large-scale, chemical intensive, 
monocultural plantations. In Colombia — the largest palm producer in 
Latin America and fourth largest in the world — palm expansion 
has gone hand in hand with violence. In recent years the Colombian 
government, in concert with paramilitaries and big agribusiness, has 
“violently removed” Afro-Colombians, Indigenous people, and campesinos 
to make way for palm monocultures, according to the food and development 
policy institute Food First.

“If the U.S. does not put into place strict guidelines and due 
diligence,” Ballve continued regarding Plan Colombia 2.0, “much of the 
aid could end up actually fueling, rather than abating, Colombia's 
cycles of violence.”

A new iteration of this kind of institutionalized land grab is what 
vulnerable communities fear as peace unfolds and Indigenous and 
Afro-descendant groups continue to struggle 
for legal recognition of their collective land rights.

“The rural development in the peace accords, focused on the extractive 
model, will promote the entrance of new economic interests that don’t 
favor the needs and rights of the people and their lands,” Clemencia 
Herrera, a representative of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of 
the Amazon, recently told teleSUR. “It could create more competition for 
the resources on our lands.”

According to Omaira Bolaños, Latin America program coordinator of the 
Rights and Resources Initiative, along with bloodshed, displacement of 
Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and campesino communities has been one of 
the most destructive outcomes of the conflict, accompanied by economic, 
social and cultural consequences.

“For a lasting peace to take root,” Bolaños wrote in a recent article 
published in the Washington Post, “the legal recognition of collective 
property rights for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities would be 
an important step in addressing the war’s damages and in continuing a 
process of comprehensive land reform.”

After years of civil society being hammered with militarization and 
destructive economic policies — supported and enshrined in 15 years of 
Plan Colombia and the 2006 U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement — the 
signing of the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC 
is mostly symbolic. And the narrow win by the “No” camp in the Oct. 2 
on the accords makes the future even more uncertain.

Time will tell the true legacy of the peace deal, and concrete policies 
— pushed by grassroots organizing to ensure political follow through — 
and a real reduction of poverty, misery, and human rights abuses will be 
the measuring stick.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20161012/34a99025/attachment.html>

More information about the News mailing list