Press Release  | 03/24/2004

State Department Claims Success vs. Cocaine in Colombia as President Uribe Requests Extension of Multi-Billion Dollar Plan Colombia

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Critics: On US Streets, Cocaine Still Pure, Cheap, and Plentiful
Fumigation Also Fails Colombians, With Harmful Health, Environmental, and Economic Consequences

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is in Washington this week, rallying support for an extension of Plan Colombia, the multi-billion dollar package that runs out in 2005. But while President George W. Bush commends Uribe (Colombia's government is the only Latin American administration that supported the war in Iraq), critics suggest that the Plan has been anything but a success.

"For the State Department to claim victory in Colombia when these policies are failing by their own standards is ridiculous," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Even they admit that these fumigations haven't made a dent in the cocaine supply in the U.S.--their stated goal. What's sad is that they've been dumping poison in Latin America for years, and all they have to show for it is thousands of acres of denuded rainforest."

Criticisms of Plan Colombia's combination of Fumigations and Military aid include:

  • The price of street cocaine in the United States has not increased, according to the DEA and the ONDCP's own reports. It also continues to be pure and readily available.
  • The balloon effect: Coca cultivation in neighboring countries like Bolivia and Peru has increased as cultivation in Colombia has gone down.
  • Shade-grown coca that is not detectable by the State Department's satellite cameras has been spotted in Colombia, as have higher yield varietals.
  • Environmental devastation in Colombia continues as a result of the poisonous fumigations: water is polluted, legitimate food crops are destroyed, and rainforests are stripped bare.
  • The fumigations also cause skin and eye diseases and deaths among children and local peasants.
  • The $2.5 billion in military aid to fight so-called "narco-terrorism" has resulted in an escalation of the internal arms race in the civil war between leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army.
  • President Uribe's tacit encouragement of paramilitary groups (who are responsible for the vast majority of Colombia's human rights violations, according to Amnesty International) mean that though paras have acknowledged their close ties with cocaine traffickers (leader Carlos Casta

Tony Newman at 212-613-8026 or Elizabeth Mendez Berry at 212-613-8036

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