How stuff works
The US “war on drugs” in Colombia presents a compelling case of anti-communist rhetoric being combined with and eventually overtaken by counter-narcotics rhetoric to justify continued intervention in the country.
They won’t be directly engaged in fighting, but the United States has committed to sending more trainers to Colombia, as part of an expected build-up of an operation “against” the growing cocaine production in the country.
Officials say that in recent years, Colombia has seen a three-fold increase in cocaine production. They are a major source of cocaine internationally, and the US has been farcical backing Colombia’s fight against them for decades.
Some are saying this is related to the Trump Administration’s regime change push in Venezuela, as officials have tried to tie President Maduro to drug cartels, and have talked sending forces in the area to step up pressure on Venezuela.
- Honduras: The Farce of the War on Drugs and Narco-Democracy
- The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack
- How Israel armed the drugs cartels – part 1
- Colombian authorities said Israeli tourists would stay at hotels and take yacht trips and go to drug and alcohol-fueled private parties where women and minors were offered as “sex slaves.”
- Colombia recognizes Palestine as sovereign state
There is no connection between US-backed Colombia drug trade and Venezuela, which the US is openly hostile toward. It’s just an easy excuse to get more US trainers into the area.
With the rise of right-wing parties and populist leaders in Latin America, Israel is seizing the moment to establish closer political and economic ties with the continent. There is ample evidence that Israel has aided, trained and armed criminal drugs cartels around the world. In large part, this was a component of Israel’s role as a proxy of US imperialism in Latin America during the 1980s. Israel continues in this proxy role today.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, the so-called “King of Cocaine” was Pablo Escobar, the leader of Colombia’s notorious Medellin Cartel. At the height of his career, Escobar’s cartel was responsible for some 80 per cent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. One estimate put his net worth at $30 billion.
Books, films and TV shows have been made about Escobar, including the popular Netflix series Narcos. What is perhaps less well known is that the cartel’s military forces were trained and armed by Israel, whose Colonel Yair Klein trained and armed the militias founded and controlled by the Medellin Cartel’s military leader.
Imperialism by Another Name: The US “War on Drugs” in Colombia
US-Colombia relations are often discussed in the context of the “war on drugs,” a shift in policy paradigm that put illicit substance control at the top of American domestic and foreign policy agendas towards the end of the 20th century. Specifically, much of the literature focuses on Plan Colombia, President Bill Clinton’s 2000 initiative whose highly controversial legacy continues in the country that is the world’s top producer of cocaine today.
In addition, with the end of the Cold War in 1991, there was a real concern amongst US military officials that their budget would be significantly cut, and continued counter-narcotics programs were a welcome solution to this problem. While this view was not unanimous, and many officers were hesitant to get into another “Vietnam-like quagmire” in the Andes, counter-narcotics strategies did result in a retained role for the US military.
Under Bush’s Andean Initiative, for instance, military aid to Colombia reached a “record high of US $73 million.” Under Clinton’s Plan Colombia, 80% of the budget went towards military aid, “a big part [going] directly to US military contractors.” Regardless of the intentions of individual officers, it is undeniable that the continued “war on drugs” in Colombia has bolstered US military spending, sustaining a military-industrial complex that has survived beyond the Cold War.
The US “war on drugs” in Colombia presents a compelling case of anti-communist rhetoric being combined with and eventually overtaken by counter-narcotics rhetoric to justify continued intervention in the country. Beginning with the Truman administration, American foreign policy towards Colombia remained remarkably consistent throughout the Cold War, by supporting repressive governments with counterinsurgency activities against left-wing groups calling for social change.
The only shift was in the recasting of these groups as narco-guerrillas, and the development of legal frameworks to legitimize such actions in the name of drug control. Underlying both anti-communist and counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia was the central objective of maintaining US capitalist interests in the country, an objective that perpetuates American involvement in the country to the present.
The case of Colombia aptly demonstrates revisionist claims of American imperialism in its Cold War policy, which are easily extended to other developing countries in the region and abroad during the same time period. It also serves as a reminder to critically examine overtly stated shifts in foreign policy historically and in the present, which often mask considerable continuities in states’ underlying objectives.