Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jul 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


In Madrid on Friday, European Commission officials and EU ministers
will discuss their response to "Plan Colombia", an ambitious
programme, backed by both Washington and Colombia's President
Pastrana, which aims to eradicate the country's twin plagues of drugs
and violence writes Ana Carrigan

COLOMBIA: Its critics fear, however, the plan may have the reverse
effect. The EU is being asked to contribute $1 billion towards
pacification projects. Last week, the US Senate voted through $1.3
billion in military aid for the counternarcotics side of the programme.

Colombian non-governmental organisations, whose involvement is
critical to implementing the programmes Europe may fund, are unlikely
to attend Friday's gathering. Neither they, nor local authorities in
the regions for which Plan Colombia funding is intended, were
consulted when the blueprint was drawn up in Washington and Bogota.

Many sections of Colombia's civil society disagree radically with
their government's espousal of US military aid in the antidrugs
programme. These groups are rarely in agreement with the guerrillas of
the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

However, NGOs largely accept the guerrillas' position that the
imminent US aerial fumigation in Putumayo, supported by US trained
anti-narcotics battalions, will bury all hope of a continuation of
peace talks.

Guerrillas and civilians are also in agreement on alternatives to the
US plan. Last week, in the humid Colombian village of Los Pozos, Mr
Manuel Marulanda, the FARC's legendary 70 year old leader, welcomed
diplomats from Europe, Canada, Japan, the Vatican and the United
Nations, who came to discuss the group's proposals for ending
Colombian drug cultivation.

The FARC spokesman, Mr Raul Reyes, outlined details of a pilot
programme to eradicate almost 9,000 hectares of coca cultivation over
three years. The rebels want to develop rural employment projects for
peasants who now grow drugs.

US State Department officials met with Mr Raul Reyes in Costa Rica, at
Mr Pastrana's request, to learn about the FARC's drug proposals.

The United States refused to attend the Los Pozos drug summit.
President Clinton, meanwhile, has been twisting arms, from London to
Dublin to Brussels, in support of Plan Colombia. The EU security
representative and former secretary general of NATO, Mr Javier Solana,
turned up in Bogota for a press conference that coincided with the Los
Pozos summit, and announced confirmation of European support for Plan

However, EU member-states are not necessarily expected to back Plan
Colombia next Friday. The presence in Los Pozos of ambassadors and
experts from over 20 countries, who sat in the sweltering heat for two
days to listen to coca farmers explain the political and economic
factors that have forced them to grow drugs, suggests European
governments still have serious doubts about the plan.

The meeting in Madrid is an opportunity to argue that the solutions to
Colombia's decades of war and drug-trafficking lie through dialogue
and development, rather than chemical spray planes and
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens