A Mini-Vietnam?

From the November 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

Last month the U.S. commenced pumping $1 billion of military aid into Colombia. This is the first installment in Plan Colombia, as the strategy is termed—a $7.5 billion gamble being initiated by the U.S., with the collaboration of the Colombian government, to erase the cocaine trade in that country.

Unfortunately, it’s another case of treating the effect and not the cause. The reasons for the huge U.S. drug problem are deeply interwoven into the fabric of a superpower in moral decline. Government statistics point to over 22 million known hard drug users in the U.S. It is the craving for the drug which causes the demand. Eliminate demand and the market dies. Instead, the U.S. government squanders billions of taxpayers’ dollars on seeking to deal with the effect of the problem.

U.S. think tank Stratfor Systems makes no bones about the inevitable outcome of this misguided U.S. initiative: “The U.S. cure for what White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey calls a cancer, not a war, will fail. The drug trade and farc [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] will suffer losses, but both will survive as they have for decades. Loss of life and civilian displacement, however, will increase significantly. Many refugees and some fighting will spill over borders into Ecuador and Peru. U.S. relations with Colombia’s neighbors will suffer, and Americans will be targets as a result” (Global Intelligence Update, Sept. 27). The UN has warned that there could be around 30,000 Colombians fleeing from the negative effects of Plan Colombia.

Added to this problem are the results of the excessive use of chemical defoliants in the bid for eradication of the coca fields of Colombia. Already, mutated animals are being born in affected areas. The residual effect on land, on water tables and on the legitimate Colombian farmer will be horrendous.

Russian organized crime, in association with the Brazilian underground, feeds the drug trade cancer by providing drug warlords with weapons in exchange for the high-priced white coca powder. Marxist guerrillas, organized under the umbrella organization farc, control a large part of the drug trade in Colombia. They have waged a 30-year war for political control of Colombia.

Forced to relocate their sophisticated military bases from the recently evacuated Panama Canal, the U.S. has moved into other Latin American countries. One such base is located in Manta, Ecuador, from which the U.S. plans to fly their defoliant missions. The trouble is, the guerrillas have indicated that they will mount attacks inside Ecuadorian borders if the U.S. persists in using Ecuador as a base of operations in conducting Plan Colombia.

A close look at the map indicates the very real prospect of this drug-related war escalating dramatically beyond the borders of Colombia, not only into Ecuador and Peru, but also into Brazil.

As the U.S. commits to yet another misguided strategy of training, supplying and supporting the Colombian and Ecuadorian security forces in the lead up to a heightened offensive against farc, the specter of past failures in U.S. incursions into Latin America looms large, as does the sucking vortex of another Vietnam-style failure—this time much closer to home.