Pubdate: Mon, 19 Jun 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Ana Carrigan


Officials of the EU member-states, the European Commission,
Switzerland, Canada and Japan are meeting in London today with the
Colombian government to discuss President Andres Pastrana's appeal for
massive aid. Mr Pastrana is asking the European Community to
contribute $1 billion to his $7.5 billion development plan, known as
"Plan Colombia", to support Colombia's peace process and combat
trafficking in narcotics.

Today's meeting will enable the participants to familiarise themselves
with the details of the Plan Colombia programmes they are being asked
to fund.

Hosted by the British Foreign Office, participants include the UN
Secretary General's special representative to Colombia, Mr Jan
Egeland, and the British government minister Dr Mo Mowlam. Dr Mowlam
has special responsibility for co-ordinating British drug policy, and
has just returned from Bogota.

Two senior Washington officials, the acting US Secretary of State for
Latin America, Mr Peter Romero, and the Director of Regional
Operations for Caribbean and Andean Affairs of the Inter-American
Development Bank, will also participate in today's

Today's meeting is a planning session, to prepare for an EU
ministerial "donors' meeting", sponsored by the Inter-American
Development Bank, Mr Jan Egeland, and the Spanish Government,
scheduled for July 7th in Madrid.

Like much else in Colombia, however, Plan Colombia is not quite what
it seems. According to its supporters in Bogota and Washington, it is
"a plan for peace, prosperity, and the strengthening of the state". To
its opponents it is a front for US military aid for a
counter-insurgency policy, masquerading under the banner of
counter-narcotics, that endangers the peace talks and risks embroiling
the US and the region in a Vietnam scenario in the Andes.

Within the last few weeks, vehement opposition to Plan Colombia by a
wide range of groups, which represent the entire spectrum of the
Colombian peace movement, has raised scepticism in European capitals,
from Athens to Dublin, about the coherence and credibility of this
centre-piece of the Colombian government's peace strategy. Sources
close to the Latin American Committee of the EU Council of Ministers,
which met 10 days ago in Brussels to decide the EU's response,
forecast that Europe will refuse to participate in a plan that is
rejected by the people most acutely interested in the goals it
supposedly is intended to achieve.

Two interlocking aspects of Plan Colombia are responsible for this
reaction. The first is the takeover of President Pastrana's original
plan by the Clinton administration, without national debate or local
input. The second is the transformation, under US pressure, of a
development plan into a military strategy, intended to drive the
guerrillas from their southern jungle territories, retake official
control and so facilitate massive aerial fumigation of the drug crops.

At today's London meeting, the participants will be acutely aware that
as Colombia's reinvigorated peace movement seeks to put a brake on
what it sees as the coming war, it looks to Europe as the court of
last resort. Plan Colombia opponents do not want to kill the plan,
they want it radically redirected, away from military solutions to
drugs and insurgents, back to Mr Pastrana's original version: a
Colombian Marshall Plan to deal with decades of devastation caused by
drugs and guerrillas by confronting the root causes of both.

The democratic opposition in Colombia also sees the current crisis as
a rare opportunity for European engagement, with the participation of
the widest convergence of non-governmental democratic forces and the
Colombian government, to sit down together to redraw the map of
Colombia's threatened peace process.

The significance of these meetings, today in London and in Madrid next
month, is that Europe is being offered a historic opportunity to get a
diplomatic foot through the door into Washington's backyard.
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MAP posted-by: Derek