Resolved: The United States should end Plan Colombia.

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The new peace agreement and the Plan Colombia topic
Topic Lecture
When PF was started, the idea was to “rip the topics from the headlines.”
This resolution was not ripped from the headlines and there are currently more interesting things to debate about, but it is still a reasonable topic. It is relatively easy to research and we will only be debating it for one month, and probably just three weeks in December.
First, the topic is that I think it is balanced towards the Con. While there used to be more significant criticisms of Plan Colombia, it’s most controversial part (the war on drugs) has been substantially reduced and there are now many more important and valuable of Plan Colombia.. The continuation of the agreement may be important to cementing popular support for ratification of a peace deal between the Colombian government and the rebels. Probably because of this, it is hard to find any advocate of banning Plan Colombia. Quite simply, there are many disadvantages for the Con to argue and few advantages for the Pro..
Second, after reading a lot of the literature, I think the following is true – most people conclude the war on drug components are bad (a good Pro argument), but most people think the other components are good (a strong Con argument).

Taran Vocklausen, February 4, 2016, Colombia Reports, 15 years of Plan Colombia: Victories and Failures,
Plan Colombia has undisputedly contributed to strengthening Colombia’s state apparatus, economic growth and a major drop in violence, even if it failed its initial objective to seriously disrupt the country’s flow of cocaine to the United States and has come at a major humanitarian cost.

We will, of course, survive. The IoT resolution was heavily biased toward the Pro and we survived. We’ll survive this one. And sometimes certain arguments on a topic are hard to argue for or against. This side bias and argument bias is just something you need to think about as you prepare for your debates.
In this essay, I will introduce Plan Colombia, discuss the Pro and Con arguments (in reverse order) and then offer some concluding ideas.
Plan Colombia (PC)
The most important thing to know about Plan Colombia from a definitional perspective is that there is no specific policy called, “Plan Colombia.” In other words, you cannot look it up in US legislation to determine what “Plan Colombia” is. Generally, it is all of the aid the we give to Colombia –

Sibblya Brodzynsky, February 3, 2016, The Guardian, Plan Colombia’s Mixed Legacy: coca thrives but peace may be on the horizon,
Plan Colombia has become a catch-all phrase for several different strategies. It is most widely understood as a US aid package to Colombia which has totaled about $10bn since 2000. More broadly, it was a joint US-Colombian strategy to strengthen the military, state institutions and the economy. “There is this idea that it is some vast orchestrated project but Plan Colombia doesn’t exist as such,” says Winifred Tate, author of Drugs, Thugs and Diplomats, a study of US policymaking in Colombia. Rather, it has been a series of programs whose emphasis has expanded and recalibrated over the years, she says.

Although PC is generally associated with the war on drugs in Colombia, there are many components – rule of law, human rights, ex-combatant reintegration, support for Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities, climate change mitigation and emissions reductions

US Agency for International Development, February 6, 2016, US Assistance for Plan Colombia: Our Challenge,
Committed to Colombia’s development, peace, and security, the United States launched Plan Colombia in 2000. Through Plan Colombia, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has helped Colombia promote social and economic development, rule of law, human rights, reintegration of ex-combatants, support to victims and vulnerable populations including Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities, climate change mitigation, and low-emissions development.

It could be renamed to “Peace Colombia” IF the peace deal is approved Since the peace deal will not be approved by the end of the year, this semantic distinction is probably not something you need to worry about.

Nahal Toosi, February 4, 2016, Politico, Obama reveals plan to boost aid to Colombia $450 million,
President Barack Obama unveiled plans Thursday to increase U.S. aid to Colombia to at least $450 million next year, a boost of more than $100 million designed to help the government in Bogota spread and solidify its rule once it reaches a peace deal with the Marxist-inspired FARC rebels. The new funding initiative, which must be approved by Congress, would move a nearly 16-year-old U.S. aid package known as Plan Colombia into a new phase — called Peace Colombia — in the event of a peace deal.

You can think of the aid as being a part of 10 different strategies –

Jonathan Rosen, 2014, The Losing War: Plan Colombia and Beyond, Research Professor at the Universidad del Mar, Kindle Edition, page number at end of card.
The final version of Plan Colombia passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by Clinton had ten major elements or components:

  1. an economic strategy;

  2. an international strategy;

  3. a peace strategy;

  4. a human development strategy;

  5. a fiscal and financial strategy, including austerity and economic adjustment measures;

  6. a military strategy;

  7. a judicial and human rights strategy;

  8. a social participation strategy;
  9. a counternarcotics strategy; and
  10. an alternative development strategy.

Whether each of these is good or bad is what the debates will center around. And although the resolution doesn’t say, “On balance…outweigh,” you need to be prepared to make those arguments: Is PC on-balance beneficial?
One common criticism of PC is that it supports the spraying of drug plants to destroy production. There is strong evidence that this has caused massive environmental and health harms.
While a potentially strong advantage area, there is evidence that this has already stopped –

Sibblya Brodzynsky, February 3, 2016, The Guardian, Plan Colombia’s Mixed Legacy: coca thrives but peace may be on the horizon,
Santos has said that warrants a change in drug policy. “It’s like being on a stationary bicycle. We make a huge effort, we sweat, and we end up in the same place,” he told a recent forum in Bogota. In October, Colombia halted its aerial spraying program after a World Health Organisation body found the herbicide used, glyphosate, was probably carcinogenic. The United States balked at dropping the spraying program but said it would respect Colombia’s decision.

Relevant History – Present
[Year to Year History]
The United States got involved in Plan Colombia in the late 1990s for a couple basic reasons —

  • The expansion of the drug trade in Colombia combined with the popularity of the war on drugs in the United States mean there was substantial political support for expanding US assistance to combat drugs
  • The expansion of the civil war in Colombia meant that growing instability presented the risk of developing into a larger conflict, threatening stability in the entire region, including spreading far enough into the Panama Canal, which is important to global free trade.

The conflict that created the instability began in the mid 1960s when the FARC rebels began to challenge the government. And in the 1970s when FARC started relying on drug sales to provide financial support to its efforts, the drug trade grew and became more violent.. By the late 1990s, FARC had more than 18,000 members and also kidnapped more than 3,000 people.
The US initiated Plan Colombia in the late 1990s in response to these problems. And while PC supported many types of aid, the focus was on counternarcotics programs and military support to the government. This accounted for more than 75% of the assistance.
As noted above, most research indicates that the assistance was effective in stabilizing the government and undermining the rebels.   The drug war, however, is widely considered to be a failure, doing nothing to reduce drug trafficking to the United States and arguably shifting most of the drug trafficking through Mexico.
In June of 2015, FARC committed its last large attack, attacking the Tansandio oil pipeline and spilling thousands of barrels of oil into waterways. The Colombian government said this was the worst environmental disaster in Colombia’s history.
Fortunately, peace talks began between the government and the rebels in 2016 and a ceasefire between the rebels and FARC took hold in August 2016.
A formal peace agreement was reached between the rebels and the government, but voters rejected it in a referendum in October by a narrow margin. Both sides are now working to get the public to support the agreement in a future referendum.
Fresh Plaza, November 2, 2016,

Pan Am Post, November 4, 2016, Colombian President suggests there may be another referendum on Revised FARC deal,
Colombia is getting closer to finding a way to ratify a new FARC deal for peace. President Juan Manuel Santos has proposed three possible methods in which revisions to agreement with the guerrilla could be implemented in Colombia: A plan submitted to Congress, a second referendum, or votes by regional governments. The announcement of these three strategies was made by Santos after meeting with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May. The two leaders spoke about the economic situation in Europe and their countries’ own relationship following Brexit. Santos also met with entrepreneurs to discuss what’s ahead for the economy should a new version of the peace agreement go through. In a statement, President Santos said the upcoming challenges for the peace deal involve finding a way to confirm the agreement with FARC, but also first culminating a phase of renegotiation following the people’s vote of No on the referendum to ratify the original agreement

With this context in mind, I will now turn the arguments on both sides of the resolution.
The Con
 It seems to make more sense to start with the Pro, but I think the Con arguments are a lot strong and Pro teams really need to think about how they are going to adapt their approaches to these arguments and how they will directly respond to them.
Peace Deal
As I just mentioned, FARC and the Colombian government recently entered into a peace deal. I think the Con could make a strong argument that cutting aid would undermine the prospects for the deal.   Although I haven’t found a card that explicitly says this (it’s tough because no one actually discusses banning PC), I think the Con can make at least two arguments as to why cutting off all aid would undermine the peace process.
One, cutting off aid to the government when they are trying to finalize the peace deal would reduce the confidence in the government’s concessions in the agreement because the government would fear it would have difficulty defending itself.
Two, FARC could perceive that loss of support from the US would make the government and military weaker, making it more likely that the FARC would either force more concessions or more directly challenge the government militarily. Here is a card about how the aid has helped strengthen the Colombian military –

Mark Moyar, et al, 2014, Joint Special Operations University, Persisent Engagement in Colombia,, Dr. Mark Moyar, Brigadier General (retired) Hector Pagan, and Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Wil R. Griego analyze United States Special Operations Forces’ (USSOF)
The subject matter of the U.S. training and education administered to Colombian forces has varied widely. Some of it has been more valuable than others, suggesting that considerable care be taken in shaping future training and education strategies. A substantial amount of the training that SOF has provided to the Colombian armed forces consisted of basic marksmanship and other basic skills. Such training persisted into the 21st century, which to many seasoned Colombian and American officers, constituted an inefficient use of 7th Group resources since the Colombians had plenty of their own instructors who could conduct such training and were in need of more advanced training. When asked which types of USSOF training have been of greatest value to Colombia’s ground forces, Colombian military officers most often mentioned intelligence, planning, reconnaissance, communications, close-quarters combat, heavy weapons, and combat medicine. Many officers from elite units emphasized the value of training in the use of sophisticated equipment, along with the provision of the equipment itself, in combating a sophisticated enemy.131 Colombian personnel also noted that air force special operations training enabled Colombian airmen to take over critical skilled jobs that had previously been filled by expensive expatriate contractors.

Here is a card about how US support for the government is critical to defeating FARC –

Admiral Stavridis was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and is Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, October 27, 2016, 5 reasons the US should do all it can to see the peace accord come to fruition,
First, Colombia has a potentially powerful economy that could be an engine of growth in the slumping South American economic sphere. The U.S. and Colombia have a free-trade agreement, and improving the Colombian economy could create a stronger trading partner for the U.S.
Second, a peaceful Colombia would have a far better chance of reducing cocaine traffic from the Andean Ridge to the U.S. The agreement would allow the U.S. to continue to enlist Colombia as a partner in interdiction operations.
Third, the agreement could help reduce violence both in Colombia and north into Central America, where many refugees are fleeing instability
Fourth, from a geopolitical and security perspective, a stable Colombia—which has the best military in the region—could provide an anchor for humanitarian, disaster relief and counter-narcotics operations. Colombia would be able to work even better with other close U.S. partners in the region, including Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brazil.
Fifth, there is a fundamental political value at stake: democracy. Colombia has been an independent democratic nation for nearly as long as the U.S.. We should be cheering as it overcomes a half-century of struggle with a Marxist-based insurgency that has used the most brutal tools of terror, kidnap, torture and murder to try to overthrow the government.

The U.S. must assist the people of Colombia with political, economic and military support as they complete the endgame of defeating the FARC. That means keeping Colombia high on the next U.S. President’s agenda, ensuring that military-to-military contracts remain strong, sharing intelligence and information, providing foreign aid, encouraging the support of the international community (especially the E.U.), and sending our top diplomats to Bogotá. Helping our Colombian friends beyond the metaphoric “great perhaps” of Marquez’s powerful and tragic novel is the right strategic move for the U.S., as well as sound moral judgment that will benefit the entire hemisphere.
Con teams could look for evidence that says that aid is critical to the strength of the government (there is some evidence in the release) and other evidence that says that a strong government is critical to a successful deal.   This evidence explains how PC has been important to bringing FARC to the negotiating table, so you can tell a reasonable story that eliminating the aid would destroy the deal.

Miami Herald, February 2, 2016, Plan Colombia: 15 years later much has changed, but much remains the same, DOA: 11-4-16
At the same time, however, Plan Colombia has brought unprecedented security gains to important regions of the country, facilitates significant economic growth and has been critical in bringing the FARC guerrillas to negotiate an end to more than half a century of guerrilla warfare against the state.

But, even without any evidence, the link story of the disadvantage makes a lot of sense.
For the impact, a resumption of the conflict could trigger state collapse and instability could spread

Jonathan Rosen, 2014, The Losing War: Plan Colombia and Beyond, Research Professor at the Universidad del Mar, Kindle Edition, page number at end of card.
In terms of security, Colombia occupies a strategic position in the region, which has historically been the “backyard” of the United States ever since the Monroe Doctrine. Instability within Colombia not only negatively impacts Colombia but also the security of its neighbors. Colombia borders on the Panama Canal, which is a key location for the trade and the transportation of goods and services. In reality, the “Panamanian security forces are no match for well-armed guerillas and narco-traffickers that use Panamanian territory to conduct operations.” 40 Ecuador also is concerned about its security as many of the FARC members are located near the borders. Reports also indicate that Venezuela “may secretly support both the FARC and the ELN, given the leftist tendencies of [former] Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.”

This could disrupt global free trade

Jonathan Rosen, 2014, The Losing War: Plan Colombia and Beyond, Research Professor at the Universidad del Mar, Kindle Edition, page number at end of card.
Colombia also is a vital country for security in the region because it borders Venezuela, Brazil, and the Panama Canal. Security in Colombia, therefore, is a major priority in order to ensure stable trading zones. Rosen, Jonathan D.. The Losing War: Plan Colombia and Beyond (SUNY series, James N. Rosenau series in Global Politics) (Kindle Locations 194-196). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.

Such a resumption in the conflict is possible.

Jonathan Rosen, 2014, The Losing War: Plan Colombia and Beyond, Research Professor at the Universidad del Mar, Kindle Edition, page number at end of card.
Plan Colombia’s partial victories have increased security and decreased violence in Colombia, resulting in President Obama decreasing resources to Colombia, in essence desecuritizing Colombia as a major U.S. priority. 54 The situation in Colombia could regress, however, and instability within the country could increase. Smaller organizations such as Bandas Criminales (BACRIM) have emerged and could increase instability in Colombia. Some experts note that suggesting Colombia is now a success, free of problems is both wrong and premature. Rosen, Jonathan D.. The Losing War: Plan Colombia and Beyond (SUNY series, James N. Rosenau series in Global Politics) (Kindle Locations 2329-2333). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.

I think this disadvantage could have many scenarios, but generally you can argue that the non-military aid has increased economic growth in many ways

US Agency for International Development, February 6, 2016, US Assistance for Plan Colombia: Our Challenge,
USAID’s successes since 2000, in partnership with the Colombian government, include:

  • Bolstered economic growth, contributing to a 30% decrease in rural poverty levels over 10 years.
  • Increased private investment in rural Colombia, leveraging over $600 million of private capital from $47 million of USAID targeted investments.
  • Planted more than 350,000 hectares of farmland with licit crops, like cacao and specialty coffee, increasing the security and economic benefit of hundreds of thousands of farmers.
  • Supported 1,400 community-led projects, valued at over $487 million dollars, developed to strengthen communities and increase licit economic opportunities in conflict-affected municipalities.
  • Ensured government protection for at-risk or threatened individuals, such as union leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, and municipal leaders, to carry out their activities.
  • Enabled the establishment of more than 100 justice centers, providing citizens with quick, effective, and free access to justice services. Since 1995, 15 million cases, 65% of which are from women, have been reviewed.
  • Helped ensure financial compensation by the Colombian government for more than 600,000 victims. While only 10 percent of registered victims, this is the largest number of reparations ever provided.
  • Increased Colombia’s capacity to address land conflicts and register titles through trained public defenders, improved access to vital land records, and the identification of over 1.2 million hectares of land available for restitution.
  • Supported the reintegration of 13,000 demobilized ex-combatants and more than 20,000 community members into society. Provided 6,000 disengaged child soldiers with basic needs (food, shelter, health, education, and security) and rehabilitation support, while preventing the further recruitment of children by illegal armed groups.
  • <Developed job training program for 9,000 Afro-Colombian and indigenous youth; more than 8,000 of which have graduated and begun employment.
  • Protected 800,000 hectares of Pacific Coast forest, capturing 2 million tons of CO2 yearly, through the forest conservation-focused business plans of 19 Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
  • Improved gold mining practices and reduced mercury use by legalizing and formalizing 150 small scale mining operations. Over 600 hectares degraded by illegal mining are now forestry plantations.

Failed State
PC has arguably been necessary to preventing Colombia from becoming a failed state

Nahal Toosi, February 4, 2016, Politico, Obama reveals plan to boost aid to Colombia $450 million,
Plan Colombia is credited with helping revitalize the Latin American country — once almost a failed state — and paving the way for the government’s gains on the rebels, who have fought the state for more than 50 years. Human rights activists and some lawmakers have raised concerns about the peace agreement, which officials say could be reached this spring. Peace Colombia also will focus on security, counter-narcotics and other areas Plan Colombia invested in, but it will include initiatives such as helping the rebels reintegrate into society. A country once “on the brink of collapse is now on the brink of peace,” Obama said Thursday evening alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was visiting the White House to celebrate Plan Colombia. Santos thanked the U.S., noting that his country’s “advances are due in great part to the fact that 15 years ago, when we were in such serious straits, the Colombians received a friendly hand. That friendly hand came from here in Washington, from both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans.”

Specific areas
As mentioned in the section that explains Plan Colombia, there are many different type of financial support provided in different areas for Plan Colombia. These are all different potential Con disadvantages/impact scenarios
Human Rights

Mark Moyar, et al, 2014, Joint Special Operations University, Persisent Engagement in Colombia,, Dr. Mark Moyar, Brigadier General (retired) Hector Pagan, and Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Wil R. Griego analyze United States Special Operations Forces’ (USSOF)
The U.S. emphasis on human rights in training and education altered cultural attitudes towards human rights. U.S. special operations soldiers provided much of this training and education, over a period of several decades. As warriors and as representatives of the world’s greatest military power, they enjoyed the respect of Colombian officers and helped alter a military culture that had traditionally demonstrated less concern than U.S. military culture for issues of human rights. Better treatment of the population by the Colombian security forces led the citizenry to cooperate more willingly with the government and to lose interest in supporting the insurgents.

Rural development

Economist, January 23, 2016, A new plan for Colombia,
And then it must be implemented. Mr Santos will go to Washington with a request for a new Plan Colombia—some $500m or so a year for up to ten years for rural development, public services and justice in former conflict areas. Though there will be a “few voices of dissent” from Mr Uribe’s supporters, there will be “broad bipartisan support” in the United States Congress, according to Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think-tank in Washington. But at a time of fiscal constraint, the applause may not be backed with much money.

Climate adaptation and emissions reductions
One area I haven’t done additional work on is climate adaptation and emissions reduction. This area of assistance was mentioned in the
General Uniqueness
Regardless of what scenario you choose, the Con will have a strong uniqueness defense , as the situation in Colombia is dramatically improving

Jose Cardenas, February 1, 2016,, Plan Colombia shouldn’t be the price of peace with FARC, Cardenas was the acting assistant security of state for Latin America under Bush
Likely unbeknownst to most Americans, Colombia is a country that has undergone a profound transformation over the past 15 years, and that more than $10 billion of Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars have been invested to help make that happen. Today, in stark contrast to the image conveyed in the current Netflix series Narcos — a land of drug lords and criminal impunity  Colombia is a strong, financially stable democracy, a member of the free-market Pacific Alliance trade bloc, and a regional leader in training other countries’ police and military forces to combat drug-trafficking and other threats to security.

Con teams should argue this creates a strong presumption against cutting aid.
It is hard to get away with arguing alternatives in Public Forum debate, as “counterplans” are not allowed, but Con teams may want to argued that there is no justification for ending Plan Colombia.   Even if the Pro can win that some forms of the remaining aid are problematic (military aid) this is not a justification for ending PC. The closest advocate I could find for ending PC was just for ending military aid.
Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cut off of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions. Colombia has been one of the largest recipients of US military aid for well over a decade and the largest in the western hemisphere. Since 1994, AIUSA has called for a complete cut off of all US military aid until human rights conditions improve and impunity is tackled
Based on these Con arguments, I hope you understand why debating on the Pro will be difficult.
Since you will have to go Pro at least some of the time, I suggest some strategies –
One, take broader picture of the aid. Argue that the question of the resolution is a general one and that US aid supports militarism and imperialism.

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) , January 20, 2016, The Permanent War and the No Vote,
The U.S. government also has a vested interest in continuing the war. The conflict justified Plan Colombia, the $10 billion dollar counterinsurgency, counternarcotics plan that allowed the Pentagon to establish military presence in Colombia, both physically and by proxy. With the pretext of the internal conflict, the U.S. government built up a platform not only for control in Colombia, but also with regional strike capacity, as leaked in the proposed agreement to establish seven US military bases. Plan Colombia and its later incarnations kept U.S. contracts for weapons, espionage and intelligence equipment and military and police training flowing to the most powerful lobbying industries in the nation. Billions of dollars have been poured into Plan Colombia and national security investment that ended up in the pockets of political elite and defense companies. In the 2010-2017 budgets, the United States has allocated $2.13 billion in military and police aid–most of that during the peace talks.

The country was converted into a testing ground for the latest in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare techniques and equipment from the United States. The blood spilled on its soil feeds the global war machine, to such an extent that Colombia has been groomed as an exporter of counterinsurgency and “security” training, despite its reputation as a gross violator of human rights and the disastrous humanitarian impact of its prolonged war. So very powerful interests saw the peace agreement as a threat. In addition to Uribe followers who viewed it as soft on the FARC, the war economy of the nation and its ally, the United States, was at stake.
You can also argue that it is partriarchal.
Two, attack the drug war component. Argue that since it is the largest component that (a) it is what the debate should focus on, (b) that it has the most widespread impact (scope), and (c) it is at the root of the militarism and patriarchy identified above.
There is evidence that the drug war has resulted in both an increase in violence and an increase in the drug trade.
As mentioned earlier, Glyphosate is still being used.

Mike LaSousa, February 2016, Human Rights Activists Dispute “Success” of “Plan Colombia”
For years, US officials strongly defended the controversial program, despite its failure to substantially reduce the supply of cocaine in the international market and despite serious humanitarian concerns about the practice. The Colombian government recently suspended aerial spraying of herbicides, but glyphosate is still being used in manual eradication efforts.