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"Europeans refuse to support the peace plan in Colombia"

The European Union fears that the military side of Plan Colombia may cause an escalation, and freezes the financial contribution hoped for by Bogota and Washington.

from Le Monde, July 26, 2000

By Alain Abellard

The risk of escalation in the armed conflict in Colombia, which caused the
death of more than 120,000 persons over the last three decades, is more real
than ever today. This is evidenced by the multiplication of offensives from
various sides during the last three weeks, between the militaries, paramili-
taries and guerrilla movements (FARC and ELN), which left more than 400
persons dead. On Monday July 24 only, at least 9 policemen, 4 soldiers and
12 guerrillas died in various confrontations across the country, the
authorities said.

Yet, Europeans do not approve the peace plan elaborated by the Colombian
government, seeking a large financial commitment from the EU. Naively, Bogota
had high expectations for the meeting organized in Madrid on July 7, designed
to collect financing and give a new impetus to its efforts to put an end to
narcotrafficking and armed violence. Beyond the usual declarations of satis-
faction, this meeting was a crushing failure for Colombian diplomacy, which
did not manage to convince the Europeans, except Spain, of the pertinence of
its requests and of the adequacy of the means considered by the government to
reach its objectives.

The representative of the EU, the Spaniard Javier Solana, expressed Europe's
concern for the evolution of the situation, and indicated that the amount of
the EU's contribution would not be announced before September in Bogota,
during another international meeting. Some European diplomats even consider
as premature this declaration by the head of European diplomacy, as other
sources are saying that nothing will be announced before the end of the first
quarter of 2001.

This situation reveals abysmal divergences between the vast majority of
European countries and Colombia on the proposed peace plan. Today, the lack
of financing (Bogota hopes for a $1.5 billion commitment from Europe, on a
total cost of $7.5 billion for the plan) is less a concern than the stalled
dynamics around this project.

Moreover, the amount available in Brussels for all of Latin America does
not exceed $350 million Euro, and after the succession of awkward moves by
Bogota there is no high likelihood for an exceptional decision to raise the
amount, or allocate all of it to Colombia. Europeans have also deemed in-
appropriate to hold this meeting in Madrid - the Spaniards' propensity to
claims for itself the merits of European credits assigned to Latin America
is increasingly irritating its partners. But Bogota's main error, according
to Paris, was to conceive its peace plan only in a strict and exclusive
relationship with the United States, which has accepted early in July,
after months of discussions, the principle of an exceptional aid over two
years. The Fifteen also do not share the American views on the militarist
dimension of this plan, being apprehensive of the risk of escalation it
may induce in the conflict.

Lastly, the Europeans remain skeptic about how financially disinterested
Washington's contribution may be, as 70 % of its $1.3 billion are devoted
to the strictly military component: purchase of 60 combat helicopters,
training and equipment of army battalions specialized in anti-narcotics
operations, delivery of sophisticated material to intelligence services,
and destruction of fields of illicit crops (coca and poppy). Thus, close
to $900 million of the American "gift" will return directly to the United
States, between military equipment manufacturers, the Pentagon for the
training of Colombian military units, and the companies in charge of
spraying the plantations concerned.

The rest will be dedicated to the social dimension of the peace plan (help
to population displaced by the conflicts, opening up of some regions by the
creation of infrastructures, implementation of crop substitution projects,
etc.), for which the Europeans have been very emphatically solicited. The
European capitals are quite irritated by a situation in which, according
to a French diplomat, just as "what is occurring in the Middle East,
Washington puts together a peace plan on its own and then passes the bill
to other countries".

Plan Colombia, accounted by president Andrés Pastrana in the Fall of 1999,
suffers many other weaknesses, according to the Europeans. First, the
partner he chose for its peace talks, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC, the main guerrilla movement of the country, with 15,000
members), rejects it. FARC considers that massive military aid from the
U.S. is an act of hostility, and has declared that it would oppose it both
militarily and socially by the mobilization of coca-producing peasants. So
the EU has ask Colombia -- to no avail so far -- to give a larger place to
political, social, and economic reform. All those reservations are supported
by numerous non-governmental organizations (ONGs) who fear that the military
option may cause an increase of the repression against small producers
without addressing the structural causes of the problem.

Indeed, President Pastrana has clearly indicated that international aid was
designed to "fight narcotrafficking and conclude peace", and that the funds
collected must be used for the first phase of a move for the "definitive
eradication of drugs and the final battle against narcotrafficking in the
country". What he did not say too clearly is that by attacking militarily,
with means unprecedented in Colombia, drug production and trafficking and
the armed groups involved in them, the government wants to deprive the
far-left guerrillas and the far-right paramilitaries of their main source
of income - and thus place them in a weak position at the same time that it
is negotiating with some of them.


Financing for the plan is far from secured

The cost of Plan Colombia is estimated at $7.5 billion (8 billion Euro)
by Bogota, who has planned to contribute $4. Colombia has asked the inter-
national community to cover the other $3.5 billion. The U.S. has approved
at the end of June the principle of a $1.3 billion contribution. The rest,
that is $2.2 billion, was to be obtained via a commitment of close to $1
billion by the European Union and via international financial organizations,
or by bilateral contributions. But the meeting of funding countries on July
7 in Madrid has only mobilized $120 million (Spain will supply 100, and
Norway 20), plus a $131 million contribution by the UN. $370 million are
advanced as preferential loans by the Interamerican Development Bank ($300)
and Japan ($70). The $250 million announced at that occasion by the U.S.
are part of the $1.3 billion package.

The fighting continues during the talks

The Colombian guerrilla movement ELN (National Liberation Army, Guevarist)
has started peace talks with the Colombian government on Monday July 24 in
Geneva. Yet its troops were still fighting in Colombia Tuesday to defend its
embattled headquarters against the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense
of Colombia (AUC, five thousand men) on the slopes of the San Lucas mountain,
650 km (about 400 miles) north of Bogota. The ELN, the second guerrilla
movement with six thousand men, has started a dialogue with the authorities
in October. In Geneva Monday and Tuesday it was meeting 80 representatives
of Colombian civil society, as part of a talk process without a preliminary

Translated by JF Delannoy

Narco News offers special thanks to Paul Wolf for fast work in moving this translation from Paris to América to Barcelona to our readers.

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