Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has arrived in Washington and will meet with President Barack Obama Thursday to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Plan Colombia—a controversial aid initiative that saw millions of U.S. dollars help militarize the country to fight the so-called "war on drugs" and left-wing guerrillas.
The two leaders will meet later today to look back on the plan's legacy and are expected to discuss details for a new deal, dubbed Plan Colombia 2.0.
However, all eyes are on the new deal since human rights advocates have largely considered the original Plan Colombia, signed in 2000 between then Presidents Bill Clinton and Andres Pastrana, to be a human rights disaster.
After coming out of a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday morning, President Santos said via his Twitter account that the U.S. has confirmed its willingness to help the South American nation.
"In meeting with VP Joe Biden. The United States reaffirmed its decisive efforts to support Colombia to achieve peace," he tweeted.
Santos is now seeking renewed aid for Colombia to fund the country’s post-war process, since it is close to reaching a final peace deal with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, which it has been fighting for over 50 years. The final deal is expected to be signed in March.
In this new deal, Santos is expected to ask for an additional US$5 billion in aid—US$500 million a year for up to 10 years, according to media reports, however the Colombian president has not confirmed this amount.
President Obama is also expected to offer aid to the South American country to help with its transition to peace. The aid will reportedly focus on “rural development, justice, human rights, and support for excluded communities,” according to the Washington Office on Latin America.
“This is the right way to go: it's what didn't get enough resources from Plan Colombia 1.0, which achieved only mixed results after 15 years,” said Adam Isacson, WOLA senior associate for Regional Security, in a press release.
“The Obama administration and Congress need to come together and be just as generous in peace time as they were in wartime,” added Isacson.
IN DEPTH: The Colombian Peace Process Explained
The initial Plan Colombia was framed as a peace building project focused on ending the Colombian armed conflict and the cocaine trade in the country, but in the initial years of the plan at least three quarters of the aid money went directly toward funding military and police procedures, which increased the militarization of the country.
Since the war in Colombia began over 50 years ago, at least 6 million people have been displaced—the second highest number of displaced people in the world next to Syria. This number spiked after 2000 when Plan Colombia was signed.
Several studies have also shown that Plan Colombia did not eliminate drug activities, seeing the country still one of the world's top cocaine producers. What it did do was destroy the livelihoods of thousands of rural communities and farmers, since it focused its anti-drug initiatives on targeting rural producers.
According to WOLA, Plan Colombia 2.0 could be a success if it addresses these five points:
1. If it supports the full implementation of the peace deal reached between the FARC and the Colombian government;
2. If it helps rural communities, who have been the most affected by the war, to access key government services and build civilian institutions;
3. If it encourages efforts to recognize labor and human rights abuses, particularly those of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities;
4. If it encourages decreasing the military might in the country and the role of the Colombian armed forces;
5. And if it supports efforts to recognize victims of war and secures truth, justice and non-recurrence of war.
President Santos will meet with various U.S. officials throughout the day Thursday, including Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat leader Harry Reid.
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