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Colombias Fog of War

An Historical Materialist Analysis of the War on Drugs in Colombia Rob Schuurmans 1803905 Amsterdam, 21 August 2009 Master Thesis MSc Political Science VU University Amsterdam Supervisor: dr. E.B. van Apeldoorn 2nd Reader: dr. J. Perry

ABSTRACT For decades the US has been fighting a futile war on drugs in Colombia. Although many US officials already stipulated the ineffectiveness of this war in the early 1990s, the Clinton Administrations and the succeeding Bush Administrations intensified their military campaigns and introduced extensive aid packages consisting of neoliberal policies to counteract the alleged threat of narcotics. This study argues that this discrepancy can only be understood in the larger context of US interests in Colombia. It advances the notion that the war on drugs is above all used as a pretext to legitimize a counter-insurgency that aims to create a profitable economic environment for capital accumulation by dominant classes. Moreover, it shows that the political trajectory of this project has been heavily influenced by transnational corporations. By tracing the policy-making process it examines how corporate interests have found their way into the formulation of the war on drugs and what the effects of this influence have been on the humanitarian situation in Colombia. Rooted in the tradition of historical materialism, this study demonstrates how the concept of capitalist imperialism offers useful insights in coming to an understanding of the war on drugs in Colombia.


Theres a wonderful phrase: the fog of war. What "the fog of war" means is: war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables. Our judgments, our understanding, are not adequateand we kill people unnecessarily. - Robert McNamara (2003) in: E. Morris (dir), The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, DVD, Sony Pictures Classics.


TABLE OF CONTENTS List of Tables and Figures List of Abbreviations 1. Introduction 1 1 2 2 3 5 5 6 6 7 8 9 10 10 11 12 12 13 13 14 14 17 17 17 19 20 22 1.1. Research Problem 1.2. State of the Art 1.2.1. 1.2.2. v vi

Mainstream Conceptions Critical Scholarship

1.3. Research Aim

1.4. Research Questions 1.5. Theoretical Framework 1.5.1. 1.5.2.

Historical Materialism

Marxist Theory and Imperialism Dialectical Logics of Imperialist Power Neoliberalism and Capitalist Imperialism 1.6. Operationalization 1.6.1. 1.6.2. 1.7.1. 1.7.2. 2. The Political Economy of the War on Drugs 2.1. The Violent History of Colombia's Democracy 2.2. US Foreign Policy Towards Colombia 2.2.1. On Concepts

Identifying Capitalist Imperialism in the War on Drugs Process Tracing and Historical Narratives General Considerations

1.7. Methodology

1.8. Thesis Outline

Historical Connections between the US and Colombia Latin America as America's Backyard From Adversaries to Allies 2.2.2. Plan Colombia Militarization of the War on Drugs

iv Rise of the Terror-Crime Nexus 2.2.3. The Economics of Plan Colombia 2.3. On the Nature of Drug Value Chains 2.3.1. 2.3.2. 2.4.1. 2.4.2.

23 24 24 25 26 26 27 29 29 30 33 33 33 35 36 36 40 43 45 48 54

The War on Drugs as Neoliberalization The Colombia Free Trade Agreement Illicit Trade in the Global Economy The Economics of Drug Trafficking Effects on the Drug Value Chain

2.4. Effects of the War on Drugs

Humanitarian and Political Implications

3. The Power of Dominant Classes in the War on Drugs 3.1. The Formulation of US Foreign Policy 3.1.1. 3.1.2. 3.2.1. 3.2.2. 4. Conclusion Annex: Data on TNCs Lobbying in Latin America Bibliography LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES Figure 1: Figure 2: Table 1: Table 2: Annual Lobbying by USCBP in US dollars Legal Context Influencing Washington The Business Lobby

3.2. Corporate Influence in Plan Colombia and the CFTA The Military-Industrial Complex

3.3. Corporate Interests and the Continuation of Violence

37 37 39 41

Annual Lobbying by COA in US dollars Lobbying Paybacks

Abstracts of Lobbying Disclosures 1996-2000

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS CFTA CIA CIP COA CPI CRP DEA ELN Colombia Free Trade Agreement Central Intelligence Agency Center for International Policy Council of the Americas Center for Public Integrity Center for Responsive Politics Drugs Enforcement Agency Ejrcito Liberacin Nacional National Liberation Army Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces FDI FDR GAO GDP IR NGO OXY NSC TNC UN Foreign Direct Investment Franklin Delano Roosevelt Gross Domestic Product Human Rights Watch International Relations Latin America Trade Coalition Non-Governmental Organization Occidental Petroleum National Security Council Transnational Company United Nations United Nations Development Programme United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime United Nations World Drug Report United States (of America) United States Agency for International Development United States-Colombia Business Partnership Governmental Accountability Office





1. 1.1.

INTRODUCTION Research Problem

For decades, the United States (US) has been fighting an aggressive war on drugs in Latin America. According to its official discourse, illegal drugs are a major security threat to the US and hence need to be dealt with at their roots. Therefore, especially in Colombia, worlds largest cocaine producing country, the US has been supporting military interventions in order to eradicate drugs. Domestically, the criminalization of drug use makes for a comparable aggressive effort of the government to contain the spread of illicit drugs at home. However, it has been argued that, from crops to consumers, the US has been applying futile strategies along the supply chain. Over the years, cocaine production has remained stable and the demand for illicit drugs has not decreased. Throughout the 1990s many liberal scholars already questioned its effectiveness: rather than emphasizing the military dimension, they argued that the war on drugs could only be won by adhering to the principles of democracy and multilateralism. However, in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11) the US re-emphasized their conservative and unilateral foreign policy. As to reject the claims of a lack of legitimacy, the war on drugs in Colombia was now portrayed as a war on terror, referring to an alleged terror-crime nexus of ideological insurgents benefiting from profitable cocaine markets. Nevertheless, what has remained unchanged since the military involvement of the US in Colombia is the absence of any structural effects regarding cocaine production, trafficking and consumption. As a result, many critical scholars have questioned the motives underlying US presence in Colombia. Nevertheless, although such a critical approach might provide a useful holistic understanding of the interests that underlie the official discourse, the greater part of it continues to be based on state-centric premises. In general, it has been argued that such a realist ontology falls short in explaining the transnational dynamics of drug trafficking and the political realm of conflict in Colombia (Bagley and Tokatlin in Stokes 2005: 9). By the same token, it can be argued that this ontology falls short in explaining the domestic realm of formulating foreign policy on the war on drugs in the US. Therefore, the development of an integral understanding of US presence in Colombia

remains hindered by the state-centric premises of traditional scholarship in International Relations (IR). This research problem is the starting point of this master thesis. 1.2. 1.2.1. Mainstream Conceptions Within the debate on the significance of the war on drugs, two opposing streams of literature stand out: the mainstream is generally devoted to justifying US interventions, while the other stream is more critical towards the legitimacy of these interventions. In the mainstream one can distinguish between two sub-streams; the conservative stream and the liberal stream. As Doug Stokes (2005: 5) argues, the mainstream spans not only most of the academic literature, but is also the applied discourse in most media and policy documents. Conservative scholars argue that drug trafficking in Latin America constitutes a security threat to the US and has to be tackled chiefly with military means (Downes 1999). It is argued that US foreign policy witnessed a shift towards even more reliance on military means after 9/11, as the war on drugs was infused with counter-terror elements. The US National Security Strategy of 2002 mentioned that in Colombia, we [i.e. the US government] recognize the link between terrorist and extremist groups that challenge the security of the state and drug trafficking activities that help finance the operations of such groups (NSC 2002: 10). According to Stokes (2005: 7), by acting upon conservative ideas, the emphasis has consequently continued to be placed on a militarized solution to Colombias internal violence. Without reflecting upon the consequences of such a militarized policy, conservative scholars generally argue that aggressive strategies best safeguard US interests abroad. The liberal sub-stream opposes this view. That is, without questioning the objectives and legitimacy of US interventions, it criticizes the overly militarized emphasis of conservative scholars. Thus, liberals rebut conservatives in their means, but not in their ends. They acknowledge that solely military interventions have yet not succeeded to contain the level of drugs entering the US, and that therefore social and economic solutions have to be pursued simultaneously (Ibid: 8). In this respect, Adam Isacson (2005) states that the war on drugs relies on a wrong conceptualization of the true problem. According to him, the true problem of drugs is that it threatens social health, not national security. In the State of the Art

liberal stream, social, economic and institutional solutions are introduced to face the threat, not military ones. Nevertheless, this liberal approach also presumes the need for US intervention. In short, mainstream conceptions justify US involvement in Colombia, whether it is out of a need to counteract a national security threat or out of responsibility to promote peace and democracy in the region. It is these premises that are questioned in critical scholarship. 1.2.2. Critical Scholarship Critical scholars not only question the means that the US applies in the war on drugs, but also its motives and objectives. They base their critique on the large discrepancy between reality and discourse and note that the war on drugs is ineffective, or, according to some scholars, counter-productive. Rather, critical scholars tend to argue that US strategies to fight drugs and terrorism in Latin America are a continuation of aggressive Cold War- policies designed to preserve a capitalist socio-economic order conducive to US interests (Stokes 2005: 11). Following this logic, Gargi Bhattacharyya (2005: 93) notes that the war on drugs was never designed to eradicate drugs, but merely to expand US domination in Latin America. According to her analysis, the war on drugs is an endless and ineffectual war attempting to renew neo-colonialism by force and to replace the dependency of one era with another that better fits the dynamics of a globalized world. In this process, the drug trade is not eradicated, but merely redeployed for other ends (Ibid). These ends are investigated by David Bewley-Taylor and Martin Jelsma (2007). In citing a passage of Peter Zirnite (in Ibid: 284), they argue that 'the linking of drugs to national security provided the rationale (...) to justify expanding the role of the US armed forces'. They argue this while observing that after decades of fighting drug cartels and trafficking networks, military surveillance has proven to be unable to reduce the flow of cocaine to the US (Ibid: 286). Subsequently, they emphasize that it was, however, the only possible post-Cold War justification for maintaining US armed forces on the continent (Ibid). According to Bewley- Taylor and Jelsma, such presence is required because South American oil is of increasing importance for the US (Ibid: 287). In that sense, 9/11 proved to be a useful catastrophe, as it provided a new pretext for US presence in Colombia in a time in which the war on drugs had become largely discredited. Mara Lemus (et. al. 2005) argues that leftist guerrillas were henceforth purposely framed as narco-terrorists. Coletta Youngers (2005: 355) trivializes

the legitimacy of such a polarizing discourse by observing that there is no distinct phenomenon as narco-terrorism and that it has had detrimental effects on the stability of Colombias society. Various scholars therefore argue that US presence in Colombia has only worsened the malleable domestic situation and that it is likely to be more harmful to the region than cocaine trade itself (Guqueta 2003: 89, Fukumi 2008). In many critical studies, a central focus is thus on the effects of US military presence. For example, Rachel Nield (2005: 92) observes that the war on drugs prevails over efforts to democratize and stabilize Latin America. According to her, counter-narcotics initiatives tend to override long-term and low-resource democratization processes and she notes that this is unlikely to result in successful counter-narcotics policies. Fukumi (2008: 174) elaborates on this by stating that instead of supporting democracy and protecting human rights, US interventions have caused human rights violations through aerial fumigation, military involvement and the undermining of democratic processes. Julia Bauder (2008) continues this line of reasoning when she contends that the war on drugs is heavily violating human rights in Colombia; indirectly by funding malign violent groups and directly through aerial fumigation. According to Jaime Nietto (2007), the asserted US right to intervention in favour of liberal ideals has led to a situation in which the defence of human rights and democracy are subordinated to economic and strategic interests. An interesting avenue of research concerns the nature of these economic and strategic interests. The extent to which such interests can be understood as configurations of the national interest is subject to academic debate. Various scholars have argued that the geopolitical strategies of the war on drugs concentrate on securing access to natural resources, but fail to determine the nature of these geopolitical preferences. Although Colombia is currently a minor supplier of oil to the US, the dominance over its oil fields is argued to be of strategic importance in the nearby future. For example, Stokes (2007) has argued that the US intends to secure its total energy supply by means of diversifying its dependency on oil. Thereby, he implies a certain national interest of the US that has to be met. On the other hand, Nazih Rachani (2005) argues that the 'war system' in Colombia meets specific group interests. He discusses the role of transnational corporations (TNCs) in the Colombian conflict and states that US military aid to Colombia has helped to 'subsidize and perpetuate the civil war by changing the incentive structure of dominant classes' (Ibid: 138). In addition, he argues that Colombia has become more vulnerable to the demands of

foreign capital (Ibid: 128). Thereby, he implies that the war on drugs meets specific interests of dominant classes and foreign capital, rather than a unified national interest. In sum, after 9/11 critical scholarship has gained leverage in the academic realm as it provides new analytical foci to understand the realities of the war on drugs. These foci vary from more or less unified conceptions of the national interest that leads US behaviour in Colombia to presumptions that stipulate the influence of specific group interests that wield influence on that national interest. However, the latter focus remains underdeveloped and requires broader academic attention. 1.3. Whereas the larger part of academic research on the war on drugs in Colombia reflects state-centric conceptions of the national interest, this dissertation aims to provide a historical materialist analysis of its nature and dynamics. Moreover, given that the greater part of the public is largely ignorant of the consequences of this war, it aims to create awareness on its humanitarian impact on the Colombian society. Research Aim


Research Questions

The question that guides this study addresses the motivation for the war on drugs in the broadest sense. Primarily, it needs to find out why the US is fighting a war on drugs in Colombia. This general question can be differentiated into several research questions. First, it is indispensable to understand who bears the costs and who reaps the benefits from the war on drugs. Next, it is useful to track how the policy of the war on drugs has been shaped and especially which actors have influenced this policy-making process. Answering these research questions ultimately permit the answering of the guiding question. The foremost hypothesis is that the war on drugs is to be understood as an imperialist project. However, such a hypothesis presupposes the definitions of certain concepts. It is therefore important to operationalize these concepts. Whereas operationalization is the process of making theoretical concepts measurable, it is thus first necessary to set out a theoretical framework.


Theoretical Framework

1.5.1. Historical Materialism In order to assess the motivations of the war on drugs, it is necessary to examine to what extent its promoted aims serve a genuine national interest, or rather specific group interests. The Marxist tradition of historical materialism provides a useful framework to analyze the nature of such interests. The ontology of this framework is based on the premise that all history is the product of the material conditions of life (Marx 1845). Karl Marx elaborated this stance by explaining how 'real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live () are to be but the pragmatic basis of any social analysis of reality (Ibid: 4). He calls this pragmatic basis the political economy (1971: 20). It is argued that this political economy contains a 'basic and fundamental contradiction' because a small part of society owns the 'means of production' in the economy and the majority has to 'surrender control of its labour power () in order to produce their own means of subsistence' (Baldwin et. al. 2004: 95, Linklater 2005: 113). According to Marx (1971: 20), this political economy forms the material basis of an ideological superstructure that facilitates forms of social consciousness. In a well-known passage he then argues that it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness (Ibid: 21). Marx therefore reckons the development of history to be a result of material preconditions, or in other words:
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self- selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past (Marx 1852).

Following the logics of this theorem, it is clear that inequalities are inherently

related to the material basis of society and that these inequalities express themselves in the superstructure. Whereas Marx himself never provided a parsimonious definition of this superstructure, a useful definition is provided by Gerald Cohen (1978: 216) in his reinterpretation of historical materialism. Cohen includes the legal system and the state in his definition and implies that these two institutional spheres reflect structural inequalities out of the material basis. These inequalities lead to a struggle between the aforementioned

majority of society without control of labour power and the small part of society that own the means of production. In general terms, Marx (1848) labelled these two groups respectively proletariat and bourgeoisie, but they also go by the label of labour and capital or in more popular terms as public or mass and elite (Doyle 1997: 321, Harvey 2006). Hence, fundamental material inequalities that result from property relations in the political economy are reconstructed in the political superstructure. To conceive of the state and its policies as an expression of the general interest of its people is therefore equal to confirming these inequalities. Only by acknowledging that the preferences of a state are an expression of the political interests of a dominant class, it becomes possible to critically scrutinize the ways in which this expression is configured. 1.5.2. Marxist Theory and Imperialism Historical materialism provides an original but debated perspective to analyze international politics. Especially within the framework of this study, an interesting avenue of continuing Marxist debate worthy to discuss is the role of the state in world politics. As historical materialist analysis focuses on classes rather than states, Micheal Doyle (1997: 321) notes that the politics of war and peace () take place transnationally; across borders, not merely between or within them (Ibid). The reality of an international state-system is, according to Andrew Linklater (2005: 117), a confirmation of this stratification because it divides humanity into nationalities whilst at the same putting control of state structures in the hands of dominant classes, who allegedly promote national interests. Hence, also in a world society perceived as divided into classes, states play a significant part. As will be shown in this section, recent scholarship on imperialism provides a useful theoretical account for analyzing the war on drugs. Dialectical Logics of Imperialist Power As Giovanni Arrighi (2005: 23) argues, critical thinkers, including many Marxists, found the concepts of empire and imperialism of little analytical use to describe US global power in the 1990s. However, since 9/11 and the US response to it, the dreaded concept of imperialism has regained leverage, both in academia and public discourse. David Harvey (2003: 26) warns that it has such different meanings that it is difficult to use () without

clarification as an analytical rather than a polemical term. The converging works of Arrighi and Harvey provide a useful analytical clarification of imperialism along the lines of historical materialism. Whereas Arrighi (2005: 27) mentions that the mainstream definition of imperialism generally emphasizes the extension or imposition of () power, authority or influence of a state over other states, both authors agree that within the capitalist mode of production, imperialism denotes not only this territorial logic of political power, but also a distinct capitalist logic of power. This capitalist logic describes the pursuit of power as a drive to command over economic capital (Ibid: 28). These logics of power are no antagonisms, but interconnected counterparts; one logic generates contradictions that have to be contained by the other (Fay 1996: 224). In this sense, imperialism is to be understood as a dialectical fusion between the strategic politics of territorial control and the molecular processes of capital accumulation over space and time (Harvey 2003: 26). In the literature, this fusion is called capitalist imperialism and reflects the aforementioned need of capital for state structures. Hannah Arendt (in Arrighi 2005: 29) clarifies the nature of this need by stating that the process of capital accumulation requires political accumulation of power to protect the growing property of capital. Joseph Schumpeter (in Ibid: 36) continues this line of reasoning by emphasizing that these processes are based on the progressive capitalist ideology of perpetual thirst for endless capital accumulation. Arrighi clarifies this by stating that capital recurrently accumulates above what can be profitably reinvested in existing territorial systems, which creates a tendency that Marx called the falling rate of profit (Ibid). This tendency identifies the declining rate of return on capital investment as a result of capital becoming more abundant through its accumulation, thereby decreasing the incentive to invest (Gilpin 1987: 36). Imperialist behaviour is thus necessary to counteract this so-called crisis of overaccumulation by creating spatial fixes: the incorporation of new spaces into the system of capital accumulation to absorb the surplus capital and avert such crises (Jessop 2006). Arrighi (2005: 36) and Harvey (2003: 88) subsequently argue that the global capitalist system led by the US has been in such a crisis of overaccumulation since the 1970s. Therefore, the US has applied both covert and overt imperialist strategies to escape the falling rate of profit. Notably, it has done so by means of introducing neoliberalism in world politics. Neoliberalism and Capitalist Imperialism Harvey (2006) convincingly shows how neoliberalism has effectively restored the power of dominant classes since the 1980s. By relying on appealing values such as individual liberty and various economic freedoms, neoliberalism was initially welcomed by many countries. Nevertheless, Harvey (Ibid: 145) argues that neoliberalization has in effect swept across the world like a vast tidal wave of institutional reform and discursive adjustment, thereby destructing institutional frameworks (), divisions of labour, social relations, welfare provisions and so on. He continues to explain that the crisis of overaccumulation in the 1970s triggered a rise of socialist and communist ideas within the capitalist world economy that started to pose a severe political and economic threat to the ruling elite (Ibid: 148). In order to secure its interests, the elite introduced neoliberalism as an economic and political toolkit that should revitalize global capital accumulation and, subsequently, restore class power (Ibid: 149). Harvey calls the mechanism that redistributed wealth and income from the mass to the elite 'accumulation by dispossession' (Ibid: 153). He emphasizes that deliberate manipulation and management of economic crises, state redistributions of wealth, privatization processes and increased financialization are the primary expressions of capitalist imperialism (Ibid: 155). He then argues that the US has supported various military coups in Latin America throughout the 20th century in order to impose neoliberal economic reforms (Ibid: 147). Recently, it has done so more overtly after the war in Iraq (Harvey 2003). Hence, liberty and freedom, the basic values of neoliberalism, are quickly abandoned whenever they conflict with this class project (Harvey 2006: 149). 1.6. 1.6.1. On Concepts The operationalization of concepts is required to make the research questions more manageable. It is, however, impossible to do so in a neutral way. John Gerring (2001: 35) noted that all social sciences are linguistic expressions of the social world and that their toolkits mainly rely on the interpretation of language. Concept formation can thus be seen as the basis of social sciences and because this is an interpretative endeavour, it is necessary to be explicit about the definitions used. This way, one can limit semantic Operationalization

confusion and promote scientific progress (Ibid). Moreover, due to the interpretative nature, a crucial question in social analysis deals with the indicators of concepts: how can one measure theoretical concepts in reality, or, how do we know it when we see it (Ibid: 43)? A central concept of this study is the term imperialism, which is operationalized as capitalist imperialism, as has been set out in the previous section. Hence, it refers to the historical materialist proposition that the dominant class exerts geopolitical pressures because it needs a spatial fix as a solution to the capitalist crisis of overacummulation. Within the scope of this thesis, these pressures express themselves both in military and economic policies. Together, these policies are the foremost instruments of the war on drugs. The term war on drugs itself was first coined by former US President Richard Nixon in 1971 and quickly made narcotics public enemy number one because its connotation reflected aggressive measures to counteract an external threat (National Public Radio 2007). The war on drugs is thus a metaphorical construct aimed at gaining support for a set of US counter-narcotics policies among the public. As a part of this metaphor, it refers to the actual militarization of counter-narcotics policies in Colombia. Though, because various economic measures have been taken simultaneously under the same pretext, the war on drugs is both a war of hard and soft power. Therefore, the term war on drugs is operationalized as a metaphorical construct aimed at legitimizing a set of military and economic policies in Colombia. As can be gathered from the theoretical framework, the economic policies of the war on drugs are based on the principles of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the economic doctrine that proposes the liberalization of the economy in order to advance human well- being (Harvey 2006: 145). However, in Colombia the ideology of neoliberalism conflicts with its reality. The practice of neoliberalism in the war on drugs can therefore best be operationalized as the specific processes of privatization, financialization and crisis manipulation that redistribute wealth from the majority to the dominant class, i.e. as the mechanisms of accumulation by dispossession. The dominant class is not defined in atomistic terms of human beings, but rather in the holistic sense of transnational corporations (TNCs). In modern capitalism, TNCs are the main agents of capital accumulation and thus the most important actors to analyze in an


assessment of the motivations and interests in the war on drugs. Finally, another central actor is the US, which is a generic term for the official state apparatus of all governmental departments and affiliated agencies within the US and which can be referred to in theoretical terms as the political superstructure. 1.6.2 Identifying Capitalist Imperialism in the War on Drugs As the discussed concepts are embedded in a historical materialist framework, they are related in such a way that a distinct pattern or mechanism can be identified. In this mechanism, the need for capital accumulation by the dominant class can be understood as an inherent part of the capitalist mode of production. This means that the interests of TNCs are to be conceived of as an independent variable, which subsequently implies that the eventual policies on the war on drugs are dependent of these interests. In order to understand this logic, it is necessary to understand the ways in which US foreign policy is shaped. According to historical materialism, this process takes place in the political superstructure and therefore reflects skewer production relations out of the material basis. As a result, the policy-making process has to be seen as a product that is influenced by TNCs. Only by examining the extent of this influence it becomes possible to show why the US is fighting a war on drugs in Colombia. 1.7. 1.7.1. Process Tracing Because the war on drugs in Colombia is deeply rooted in historical conditions, an in-depth case-study is the most suited approach to analyze its nature and dynamics with academic rigour. In this analysis, the method of process tracing is specifically useful. Process tracing is the method of following the process between an independent and a dependent variable, which is in this case the process between the interests of the dominant class on the one hand and actual US foreign policy on the war on drugs on the other. According to recent appraisal of this method by Jeffrey Checkel (2005: 5), a major benefit of process tracing is that it provides the methodological basis for an account of social change because of its focus on identifying mechanisms. This is a merit in current research areas of political science, especially because many theories thus far on problems of interest in international relations Methodology


() and US politics are probabilistic statements that do not specify the causal process (Bennett and George 2005: 209). The best way to measure this causal process is to rely on hard data. The relative transparent nature of US politics makes it possible to investigate how the dominant class influenced the policy-making process of the war on drugs by tracking lobbying activities from TNCs in the political realm. Additionally, this lobbying data is backed by extensive historical analysis of the dynamics of the war on drugs in Colombia through the perspective of historical materialism. Moreover, this historical analysis contributes to the aim of creating awareness of the humanitarian impact of the war on the Colombian people. 1.7.2. General Considerations In adopting a historical materialist perspective, the focus of this study is on the power of dominant classes in the war on drugs and enables a profound analysis of the specific interests that it meets. The larger part of current research lacks such an analysis and it is therefore a useful contribution to the literature on this topic. Nevertheless, due to the in- depth analysis of material interests, the role of ideology in the war on drugs is consequently reduced to a function of material power relations, which is a limitation to the reach of this study. It is however impossible to comprehend all the variables of a war and the originality of this perspective might clear some of the fog that covers the war on drugs. 1.8. After having set out the framework of the dissertation in this chapter, chapter two continues with a discussion of the nature, history and dynamics of the war on drugs. Herein, a wide array of data concerning the ferocity of the ongoing conflict in Colombia is presented, as well as data on the ineffectiveness of US counter-narcotics policies. These data are supportive to the argument that the war on drugs is not primarily meant to eradicate drugs, but that it has above all been used as a pretext to justify a low intensity counter-insurgency on social forces that challenge the power of the status-quo. In chapter three it is further examined why the US is fighting this ineffective, unjust and violent war on drugs. Focusing on domestic processes in US politics, it is demonstrated that the nature of its policy-making process is highly susceptible to corporate influence Thesis Outline


through lobbying. It is argued that the business lobby in general and the military-industrial complex in specific have pushed Congress extensively to pass the legislation on Plan Colombia, a large-scale aid package consisting chiefly of neoliberal and military policies. In a concluding chapter the findings are recapitulated and used to answer the research questions and elaborate on the prospects for the future of Colombia.




The US-led war on drugs in Colombia is fought in the context of an ongoing violent domestic conflict. Over time, this war and conflict have been entangled and it is therefore impossible to isolate one from another, even were it to be for analytical purposes only. By the same token, the war on drugs can neither be understood as a unique expression of US foreign policy. This chapter therefore first explains how the war on drugs is situated in the larger context of US interventions in Latin America and, subsequently, it shows why the war on drugs is a farce and how it affects the humanitarian situation in Colombia. 2.1. The historical roots of the domestic conflict can be traced back to the early 19th century, when the colonial era left a legacy of land-owning elites and a poor, often non-white, majority in the area now known as Colombia (Livingstone 2003: 59). Due to diverging interests of different regional elites, the process of state-building had been troubling from the outset. In 1848 and 1849, these elites organized themselves in respectively the Conservative and the Liberal party, allegedly to promote a national interest (Ibid: 61). This marked the beginning of the bipartisan politics that characterize Colombias history. Although both parties were essentially vehicles of the dominant class, the bipartisan structure mobilized masses of people and hence polarized society into a Conservative and a Liberal camp. This subsequently resulted in eight civil wars, together claiming over 250,000 lives (Mazzuca and Robinson 285, 296). As William Avils (2006: 25) correctly argues, these wars already emphasized the elitist and exclusionary character of Colombias democracy throughout the 20th century, because both parties were led by the elite and employed violent tactics to exclude or co-opt popular opposition to their control. In addition, Russel Crandall (2002: 54) stipulates that since one of the two parties was always in power, violence increasingly began to resemble a battle between the government and its opponents. In the first half of the 20th century, economic development helped Colombia to enter the world economy with a competitive position in the coffee market. Livingstone (2003: 63) clarifies that this development made Colombia better accessible for foreign capital, which The Violent History of Colombias Democracy


consequently triggered more economic development, thereby facilitating urbanization, industrialization and, hence, the rise of new classes. In the midst of these developments, a radical fraction led by Jorge Gaitn split from the Liberal party as it promoted more state control on the economy, in order to distribute the increasing benefits of international trade more equally. He accused both parties of serving only the interests of the oligarchy and opposed the continuing violence of the state against the opposition (Crandall 2002: 55). He managed to mobilize masses of people in his 1946 presidential campaign, but ultimately failed to win the elections. Gaitn nonetheless continued his rallying against the oligarchy and was assassinated in 1948, which led to a mass outrage in Bogot that is referred to as the Bogotazo (Ibid). The Bogotazo subsequently led to one of the most ferocious periods in Colombian history, known as La Violencia. The bipartisan conflict had become a conduit for a host of other conflicts and increasingly developed into a violent accumulation of social, economic, local and personal conflicts (Ibid: 67). It claimed over 200,000 lives in merely ten years of virtual anarchy (Stokes 2005: 68). In 1953 the social upheaval was silenced aggressively by a military coup (Livingstone 2003: 68). As a result, the traditional parties cooperated to regain power in 1958. They did so by signing a gentlemens agreement called the National Front, thereby consenting on the sharing of leadership in four-year terms (Ibid). This way, traditional elites continued to dominate the political system. The regaining of power by the traditional parties strengthened the power of the elite and put into operation more economic modernization. In order to ease the relations with the army and to secure their extended economic power, the army was given more autonomy. Consequently, the army continued their repressive actions, but as an unintended consequence popular opposition began to take on structural forms. Mainly in rural areas, where the economic consequences of political exclusion were experienced most heavily, insurgent movements easily gained support in the population and this resulted in the establishment of the guerrilla movements Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and Ejrcito de Liberacin Nacional (ELN) in 1964 (Molano 2000: 26). Although triggered by the same injustice and suppression, the FARC started out as a peasant army with a pragmatic vision, often oriented more locally than nationally, while the ELN was founded by leftist intellectuals with a more idealist Marxist aim inspired by Ernesto Guevaras revolutionary ideas on guerrilla warfare (Livingstone 2003: 72).


These guerrilla movements developed into well-organized groups during the 1970s.

Both the FARC and the ELN gained more territory and support in rural areas and imposed a tax on big land-owners in order to finance their activities (Crandall 2002: 84). As a result, big land-owners established self-defence groups that were also institutionalized by the government to protect the interests of the elite. Most importantly, the late 1970s marked the beginning of the intertwining of the drug trade with the political conflict, when displaced peasants from guerrilla movements started to grow coca. Although the guerrillas initially tried to resist this tendency, both from a moral perspective and because they were afraid that it would create a class of wealthy farmers that would no longer support its political aims, extreme poverty within their peasant support left them with no choice but to allow it, as coca is an easy but profitable crop to grow (Livingstone 2003: 76, Molano 2000: 27). As the FARC was a pragmatic movement, it managed to turn the coca boom to their own advantage and started to tax the trade, managed to co-exist with drug traffickers, but restrained from trafficking itself (Livingstone 2003: 76). Trafficking was the domain of notorious drug cartels that also came into being in the 1970s. The Meddeln-cartel led by Pablo Escobar became a monopolist in the trade and its profits started to corrupt all sections of society (Livingstone 2003: 82). Most intertwining of drug trafficking and political violence occurred in the 1980s when large-scale drug traffickers became a wealthy class themselves due to the high profits returned on their business. They gradually started to share the same hatred of guerrillas with the big land-owners and, as a result, an alliance grew up between the traditional land- owners, the narco-bourgeoisie and the military (Ibid: 78). The self-defence groups, or paramilitaries, now also started to operate by order of the narco-bourgeoisie. As these paramilitaries sophisticated their mutual organization over time and extended their cruel and violent methods, they deliberately began to live a life of their own (Crandall 2002: 86). A tragic example of this is their killing of 3,000 members of the Unin Patriotica, a left-wing political party initiated by the FARC (Livingstone 2009: 116). This way, the political crisis that had been apparent since Colombias independence began to transform into a complicated and violent conflict between the government, the guerrillas and the paramilitaries. In this conflict, the ambiguous relation between the narco-bourgeoisie and the guerrillas is unclear. One the one hand, they relied upon each other in the drug value


chain, but in ideological terms they were opponents. However, it is clear that the entrance of drug money in the conflict appeared to be oil on the fire. The historical roots of Colombias domestic conflict are to be found in major class conflict, political exclusion and large-scale violence-by-reprisal. Nevertheless, history alone cannot account for the brutality and severity of this crisis, because 'if the crisis still has its roots in history, it seems to have taken on a life of its own, feeding on itself, enveloping society into a vicious circle of violence with no end in sight' (Bergquist 2001: vii). 2.2. 2.2.1. Historical Connections between the US and Colombia Whereas it is important to include the historical roots of Colombia's domestic conflict in the analysis of the war on drugs, by the same token it is indispensable to place the role of US foreign policy towards Colombia in a broader perspective. Therefore, this paragraph discusses both the general history of US interests in Latin America, as well as the means by which these interests have been promoted in Colombia throughout the years. Latin America as Americas Backyard In 1823 the US yet expressed its interest in Latin America by means of the Monroe-doctrine, in which former President James Monroe warned that the US would not tolerate any European attempt to restore its colonial hold on the continent (LaFeber 2008: 48). It took until the end of the 19th century before the US started to show imperial behaviour itself. In fact, as Mike Marqusee (2007: 98) argues, it was one of the rare periods in which the US has spoken openly of itself as an empire. President Theodore Roosevelt even argued in 1904 that chronic wrong-doing and incompetence might force the US to act as an international police agent in the hemisphere, thereby offering an idealist basis for US expansion (Ibid: 100). According to Greg Gandin (2006: 20), the US invaded Latin America at least thirty-four times during the first three decades of the 20th century. This era coincided with a big wave of capitalist expansion and a burst of US investment in Latin America (Bergquist in Marqusee 2007: 99). Gandin (2006: 27) emphasizes that it shaped the US conception of capitalist imperialism, as the goals of national security, overseas capitalist development and democratic reforms jointly entered the ideological realm. He critically states that as of that US Foreign Policy towards Colombia


moment, Washington has intervened in Latin America to conform to the standards of international capitalism (Ibid). However, the overt imperialist moment came to a halt during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). Facing the severe economic crisis of the 1930s and heavy resistance to imperialist strategies in Mexico and Nicaragua, FDR favoured an inward look rather than an expansionist focus and implemented the so-called Good Neighbour policy. Based on the premise of non-intervention, this incentive withdrew US troops from the region and resulted in an increased goodwill in Latin American countries (Ibid). This subsequently opened the way for a decade of unparalleled hemispheric cooperation, in which multiple economic, political and military treaties were signed between the US and various Latin American countries (Ibid: 34). Instead of unilateral domination, multilateral institutions became the controlling forces of their ties. As it unleashed a variety of trade agreements, the US was able to use the Good Neighbour policy as a project to recover from the Great Depression (Ibid: 35). FDRs shift from hard power to soft power was thus a successful strategy. Nevertheless, at its heyday the soft power-approach began to turn against itself. Inspired by promises of democratic autonomy, Latin American countries started to form and reform democracies in the 1940s, with initial support of the US. However, Gandin (Ibid: 41) argues that the Cold War triggered the US to favour anti-Communist regimes in the region rather than democratic regimes de facto and eventually democratization started to endanger US investments in Latin America, as it invoked mass strikes that called for more equal distributions of wealth. Both the economic threat to US corporate investments and the political threat of the Cold War left the US with no choice but to abandon their soft power- approach in the long run. Recently, the distressing effects of the need for pro-Washington and pro-capital regimes in Latin America have widely been documented by various scholars and official truth commissions. Since the CIA-backed coup in Guatemala in 1954, in which a democratic government was removed in favour of a violent dictatorship, the US has repeatedly been accused of covertly supporting state terrorism in Latin America throughout the 20th century (Gareau 2004: 44). Hundreds of thousands of people suffered the consequences of these US sponsored dictatorships. In Guatemala, a UN truth commission reported 42,275 victims and found that the US-backed government was responsible for 93% of these killings and


desaparacidos (Ibid: 45). In El Salvador, a UN truth commission reported over 75,000 victims and stated that the US-backed Salvadoran government was responsible for at least 95% of the violence (Ibid: 41). The startling image of atrocities is similar in other countries: brutal violence in Latin America has largely been committed by US-backed governments, not by guerrillas, and the victims have significantly been more often civilians than guerrillas. What can be gathered from these examples is that US interests in Latin America have barely changed over time. With a record of more than eighty covert and overt interventions in Latin America ever since, the US has been promoting democracy where possible, but counter-insurgency where needed in order to protect its investments (Livingstone 2003: 171). It has promoted freedom and security, not for the larger part of the Latin American people, but for the dominant classes. Since Theodore Roosevelt, the US has conceived of Latin America as its own backyard (Livingstone 2009). From Adversaries to Allies In the light of this history, it is fruitful to shed a light on the political relations between Colombia and the US before the war on drugs. These relations find their origins in the quarrel on the construction of the Panama Canal at the turn of the 20th century. The failed negotiations between the US and Colombia led the US to search for other ways to push for their desired canal route. By backing the secessionist leaders of the Panamanian elite with military support in their struggle for independence, the US was awarded with a contract by Panamanian officials on the construction of a canal through their territory as soon as they gained independence (Ibid: 20). This angered the Colombian government and the problematic ties with Colombia were not restored until the 1920s, when the US aimed to benefit from the rapid economic development of Colombia. As noticed before, this economic development attracted foreign capital and, henceforth, US investors were an important actor in repairing the harmed relationship with Colombia (Ibid). The Good Neighbour policy subsequently eased the relation even more, which on its turn resulted in additional investments. The rise of Gaitn and the 1948 Bogotazo tended to alter the views of the US. Living in the Cold War-era, these developments were easily perceived as disturbing signs of susceptibility to communist ideas (Ibid: 23). However, the US found that the Colombian


government was a vigorous ally in the fight against communism and it made Colombia a showcase for capitalist development and modernization in the 1960s (Crandall 2002: 24). Meanwhile, to counteract the threat of communism the US simultaneously enhanced its military relations with Colombia. In 1952, a military agreement was signed that enabled the US to support the Colombian army in its fight against various internal security problems (Ibid: 24). Livingstone (2003: 179) shows that an average of 300 Colombian officers received their military training in the US annually between 1952 and 1980; more than any other Latin American country. Moreover, in the 1980s this number rose over the 700; roughly twice as much as any other Latin American country (Ibid: 181). In a profound assessment of US military manuals that were used by the Colombian army throughout the 1960s, Stokes (2005: 60-67) concludes that the US exclusively instructed counter- insurgency warfare. It indicates that the Colombian army has increasingly relied on training and aid from the US in its repression of peasants in rural areas and, hence, that both armies share a history that goes far beyond the war on drugs. 2.2.2. Militarization of the War on Drugs Taking into account the aforementioned history, it is evident that the war on drugs cannot be understood in a vacuum. Rather, it has to be viewed in light of the continuity of US interests and military support in Colombia. Notwithstanding, President Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 allegedly in response to the domestic threat of a growing drug endemic and not as an intervention in Colombia (Bewley-Taylor and Jelsma 2007: 284). In this respect, the use of the word 'war' is metaphorical and is applied in order to link the issue of drugs to national security. Unfortunately, due to the securitization of the drug issue little time and debate have been spent on the question whether the solution to the drug endemic was to be found on the supply-side at all. Whereas the 1980s witnessed the intertwining of drug trafficking and the political conflict in Colombia, the initial training of US troops in Colombia was aimed at coping with narco-guerrillas and thus has equated drug traffickers with guerrillas from the outset (Ibid). Both were perceived as dangerous representatives of the communist threat and it is argued that the war on drugs was welcomed by the Colombian government because it provided support for its counter-insurgency, in which not only insurgents were targeted, but virtually anyone that the government labelled subversive (Avils 2006: 49). Quoting an


anonymous US officer, Avils notes that there is little difference between counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency; the change in vocabulary is only due to the fact that the latter word is 'politically too sensitive' (Ibid: 47). According to official US discourse, the case of Colombia is a low intensity conflict, but it has been argued that this is only another term for counter-insurgency warfare outsourced to the local army and paramilitaries (Livingstone 2003: 175). Meanwhile, the Colombian government was in an ambiguous position. Traditionally its main priority was keeping its people in check whilst defending the interests of dominant classes. The drug-bourgeoisie had gradually become such a class due to the vast amounts of capital that it generated. In the early 1990s it launched a violent offensive against the state and the judicial system in order to ensure that no one would dare to speak out against their dominance (Ibid: 83). Consequently, the government was reluctant to comply with the US demands of extradition. On the other hand, because the US had yet proven to be a reliable partner in its counter-insurgency objectives, the Colombian government was eager to attract more US aid. This aid was provided by the Andean Initiative; a $2,2 billion investment in the Andean countries, thereby incorporating the significant precondition for Colombia that it had to open its economy more to the penetration of US capital (Stokes 2005: 85). In the following years, US military aid would increase about tenfold (Livingstone 2003: 181). Since the 1980s the US has been militarizing the war on drugs, whilst at the same time pushing for the liberalization of the Colombian economy. The most extensive initiative by which it has done so is Plan Colombia. The contents of this versatile aid- package are discussed in the next alinea. Plan Colombia Initially promoted by Colombian President Pastrana in 1999 as a comprehensive social and economic plan to restore security and peace through a $7,5 billion aid package, Plan Colombia was taken on by the US as a means to extend its influence in the country. Initially, the plan did not speak about military aid at all, but due to Colombias need for US financial backing, policy makers of the Clinton-administration were able to transform Pastranas idea into a large-scale militarized plan that involved the US army and private contractors (Livingstone 2003: 147). In first instance, Colombia planned to contribute $4 billion and expected the international community to finance the remaining part. As a result of the


transformation, however, the funding became problematic as most European countries refused to contribute because they rejected the military emphasis of the aid package (Stokes 2005: 93). Eventually, as data from the Center for International Policy (CIP) shows, when the US contributed $1,3 billion over the fiscal years 2000 and 2001 with 75% of this budget reserved for military aid, Pastranas original idea of social and economic development remained nowhere to be found (CIP 2005). The Plan Colombia that was implemented was thus essentially a plan for war rather than a plan for peace. The military aid package of the plan has been substantial. In an extensive assessment by the US Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) it is stated that, since the coming into force of Plan Colombia, the US has provided $4,9 billion in military aid to the Colombian military and police, compared to only $1 billion in social and economic development in the same period (GAO 2008: 15, 28). In material terms, the largest part of this military aid was invested in helicopters: the US provided Colombia with 72 helicopters, with a net worth of over $1,3 billion (Ibid: 28). Additionally, over $103 million has been spent on the training and equipping of Colombian ground forces and the establishment of a new counter-narcotics brigade (Ibid: 33). Under the label of infrastructure security, an additional $115 million has been spent on the training of a military division that has been charged with securing the important Cao Limn-Conveas oil pipeline in Eastern Colombia (Ibid: 35). In addition to these military investments, Plan Colombia promoted biological warfare through aerial fumigation as a means to destroy drug crops (Livingstone 2009: 119). This practice had yet been carried out since the 1990s, but has increased dramatically in scope after 2000 (Jelsma 2000, Livingstone 2003: 160). Rise of the Terror-Crime Nexus Shortly after the implementation of Plan Colombia, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fractured the US sense of invincibility. Often, 9/11 is in IR conceptualized as a crucial turning point in international politics. However, as regards the war on drugs it is difficult to expose a fundamental shift in US policy towards Colombia as US military presence in the region continued unhindered. Though, what has changed significantly is the official discourse that legitimized these actions. Whereas the war on drugs was formerly formally separated from the domestic political struggle and the counter-insurgency of the government, the Bush- administration could now openly admit that it was also fighting a war against insurgents


(Stokes 2005: 105). This is exactly what Senator John McCain (2002) did when he noted that American policy has dispensed with the illusion that the Colombian government is fighting two separate wars and American policy now recognizes that reality, and abandons any fictional distinctions between counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency. In addition, US coordinator for counterterrorism Francis Taylor (2001) portrayed the FARC as the most dangerous international terrorist group based in this hemisphere. After 9/11, it has been openly admitted that the war on drugs was no longer solely about drugs. Legally speaking, the result of the terrorization of the war on drugs made it easier for US troops to get involved in the counter-insurgency. They could now carry out special operations themselves, instead of having to rely on local soldiers (Livingstone 2009: 159). The rise of the terror-crime nexus in the official discourse does not refer to an actual change in the organizational structure of the guerrillas, but is chiefly a new pretext to legitimize the continuing counter-insurgency of the US and the Colombian government against alleged subversive forces. In order to understand why the Bush-administration did not stick to the traditional pretext of counter-narcotics after 9/11, one needs to take into account the lack of effects of the war on drugs. However, prior to this discussion it is necessary to show why the war on drugs is simultaneously a continuation of economic policies towards Colombia. 2.2.3. The War on Drugs as Neoliberalization The aforementioned discussion on the history of US interests in Latin America shows that the US has yet long been promoting liberal economic principles in Colombia to ensure that its companies could flourish. Since the military agreement of 1952, the US got involved in the domestic conflict and it has been argued that this involvement has only been aimed at destroying a perceived threat to the existing structure of socio-economic privilege' and at the 'integration of Colombia into the global system on the terms that the US demands' (Chomsky 2000: 68, 73). The terms that Noam Chomsky mentions are the terms of neoliberalism.

23 The Economics of Plan Colombia The terms of neoliberalism are well integrated in Plan Colombia. It is typical that the first chapter of the plan concerns the restructuring of the economy, whereas subjects as drug demand reduction, the peace process, democratization and social development only come up for discussion in later chapters (Plan Colombia 1999). Indeed, a considerable effort has been taken to ensure that the plan pushes for neoliberal reforms. It advocates a 'fiscal and financial strategy that includes though austerity and adjustment measures', partly to 'recover the historically excellent prestige of Colombia in the international financial markets' (Ibid). The historically excellent prestige does however not refer to its domestic market, which is historically characterized by extreme unequal divisions of wealth (Stokes 2005: 4). The general lack of attention for socio-economic development that should distribute wealth more equally is reflected in the budget of the plan. As argued before, with 75% of the budget reserved for military purposes, the possibilities for socio-economic development are rather limited. The US nonetheless contends that alternative development programmes are a central element of Plan Colombia. A GAO-report (2004: 9) shows that until 2004 only $84 million had been spent on these efforts. Compared to the $2.7 billion that had been spent on military issues during the same length of time, this amount is significantly low. The GAO- report additionally shows that the original alternative development programme of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) had an estimated cost of $4 billion. This amount equals the total reservation for the military programme and would have had profound effects on socio-economic development (Ibid: 11). However, the policy makers drastically adjusted the amount, which is a clear indicator of the marginal importance of socio-economic development in the final Plan Colombia. In the first chapter of the plan, the need to stabilize the economy is emphasized. According to the plan, a stable economy can be achieved through privatization of public companies and 'rationalization' of public finance (Plan Colombia 1999). Together with though austerity, these measures fall remarkably well in line with general neoliberal strategies. Taking into account the transformation of the plan by US policy makers and the subsequent compelled acceptance of it by the Colombian government, it can therefore be argued that the plan resembles another neoliberal tidal wave of institutional reform and discursive adjustment.

24 US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement The most recent attempt to liberalize the Colombian economy is the proposal of the US- Colombia Trade Promotion Act, better known as the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), a bilateral treaty that should eliminate virtually all trade barriers between the US and Colombia (Villareal 2008). It is said that the CFTA will be beneficial to both countries as it is likely to increase mutual trade (Ibid: 2). Moreover, proponents of the CFTA argue that it will trigger economic development as it has stabilizing effects on the economy due to a rise in foreign direct investment (FDI) and improved investor confidence (Ibid: 3). Not surprisingly, the CFTA proposal has raised many criticisms. The bottom line of these criticisms is that a possible implementation would implicitly legitimize a government that is failing on its basic principles of democracy and human rights (Cardona et. al. 2008: 4). Additionally, it is claimed that the CFTA is inextricably linked to the ongoing conflict and will only secure the economic interests of TNCs, not those of the majority of the people (Ibid: 13). Gary Leech (2006) elaborates on this by noting that the CFTA 'dramatically opens the Colombian market to US producers', but 'only allows a slight increase in access to the US markets for Colombians'. Most importantly, the measures that are used in estimations that emphasize the positive effects of the CFTA look at shifts in overall economic development: a rise of the gross domestic product (GDP), an improved trade balance and increased FDI. However, all these macro-economic measures say little about the distribution of additional wealth that might be generated through the CFTA. Taking into account Colombias highly unequal income distribution that lies at the roots of the conflict, the CFTA will not be able to influence the distribution of this wealth. Instead, it is likely to invoke ever increasing inequalities in the income distribution (Ibid). In line with the neoliberal policies of Plan Colombia, the CFTA can therefore best be perceived as another vehicle for neoliberalization. 2.3. 2.3.1. Illicit Trade in the Global Economy The alleged targets of the war on drugs are not that different from its beneficiaries. Whereas TNCs aim to accumulate wealth in the legal economy, the drug-bourgeoisie aims to do the same in the illicit economy. As a result of economic globalization, these two economies have On the Nature of Drug Value Chains


become pervasively integrated. Globalization made it easier for capital to flow and fix itself in the most profitable environment, but it simultaneously created new possibilities for illicit activities to expand and increase profits. Moses Nam (2006: 19) argues that illicit trade in fact benefited more from globalization, 'for there remained plenty of rules for legitimate trade to obey while markets () kept growing'. Nam's basic contention holds that markets have integrated much faster than political systems and that illicit traders have benefited from this reality because 'governments simply have less latitude to act, enforce, and spend' than illegal networks (Ibid: 20). The continuing success of drug trafficking networks is thus partly facilitated by the push towards a neoliberal economy. Nam (Ibid: 8) goes even further by stating that illicit networks are not only 'tightly intertwined with licit private sector activities, but [that] they are also deeply embedded within the public sector and the political system'. In Colombia, the integration of drug trafficking networks into the institutional environment occurred because the state had lost its legitimacy due to its inability to stop the downward spiral of violence. In the 1980s, drug money started to enter society on an enormous scale and flooded the country with new investments, contracts and business opportunities (Livingstone 2003: 82). Soon, the whole economy got infected with drug money and at the heyday of the big cartels of Medelln and Cali, drug traffickers were often even seen as benefactors in their cities because of the charitable investments they made with their drug money (Castells 2000: 204). Mauricio Reina (2001: 92), however, argues that the overall effects of drug trafficking have had negative effects on the licit economy. Although it has facilitated an influx of foreign money, the additional wealth has significantly concentrated itself in the hands of the drug-bourgeoisie. Furthermore, it has distorted legal domestic markets due to the abundance of illegal resources that make licit business less profitable (Ibid: 87). Moreover, Reina notes that the increased offering of foreign exchange has put pressure on the exchange rates and has caused an overvalued Colombian peso, which has resulted in a rise of imports and a decline of exports (Ibid: 82). These results point out that the effects of drug trafficking are harmful to the national economy, though not de facto in contrast with neoliberal policies.


2.3.2. The Economics of Drug Trafficking Today, drug trafficking has become a highly diffuse activity. Whereas it was initially controlled by large cartels in the 1980s, from the 1990s onwards these vertically organized cartels transformed into decentralized networks as a consequence of the intensification of the war on drugs. Again, this successful transformation can partly be ascribed to the introduction of neoliberal policies in Colombia because these policies benefited illicit trade significantly more than licit trade. In this light, it is disputable whether liberal policies have the desired effects in the war on drugs. The underlying logic is simple: the lesser control on the economy, the bigger the opportunities are for drug traffickers. An approach to stop drug trafficking based on improving trade hollows out the Colombian economy even further and will likely have counter-productive effects. Besides the dubious effects of neoliberal policies in the war on drugs, it can be advanced that military policies are likewise futile. In order to understand the futility of the militarized approach, it is necessary to focus on the nature of narco-terrorists. By fighting a war on drugs at the roots of the supply-side, the primary targets are the growers of coca. As has been explained before, coca was initially grown in rural areas by poor peasants that had been forcefully displaced in the domestic conflict. Because coca is an easy crop to grow and can be yielded up to four times a year, it was the only possibility for many peasants to make a livelihood. Driven by this reality, cocaleros have good reasons to cultivate their crops. It makes aerial fumigation somewhat a doubtful strategy, because it drives cocaleros into further despair and leaves them with no choice but to restart their coca-cultivation somewhere else. In this sense, aerial fumigation only invokes the narco-industry to find more creative methods to continue the cultivation of coca. Consequently, Nam (2006: 70) argues that traffickers have yet developed a coca plant that is resistant to fumigation. It is estimated that only 0.1% to 0.3% of the street price of cocaine in the US is generated in this first stage of the drug value chain (Livingstone 2003: 128). Aerial fumigation is thus mainly an attack on poor peasants. In higher stages of the chain, Nam (2006: 65-67) continues to demystify the image of narco-terrorists as he shows that most traffickers are not that different from the cocaleros. Often, traffickers are also merely trying to make a living in an economy shattered by decades of violent conflict and rising inequalities. Moreover, as the legal economy is massively infused with drug money, aggressively fighting a war on drugs


will not only affect the illicit economy, but also the licit economy and all the people working in it. Moreover, by militarizing the war on drugs extra pressures have been put on the value chain. It is a matter of simple economics to argue that extra pressures increase the value of a product. The more efforts have to be taken to ensure a safe passage of drugs to its markets, the higher the price and the more profitable the trade gets. In Nams logic, the 'added value is greatest where the risk is highest' (Ibid: 82). Due to its addictiveness, the demand to drugs is inelastic and will not be highly affected by extra pressures. Whatever strategies might be pursued to deal with the supply of drugs, as long as there remains a steady demand, drug traffickers will find a way to bring their highly profitable products on the market. These logics show that the war on drugs is ineffective. This has yet been widely acknowledged before the making of Plan Colombia by US officials in the 1990s. A GAO- report stated that 'military surveillance has not demonstrated that it can make a contribution () that is commensurate with its cost' (GAO 1993). Thus, in the 1990s it was already officially acknowledged that there was no valid drive to continue the war on drugs in Colombia. Since the Bush-administration has accordingly acknowledged that it is fighting a war against insurgents rather than against drug traffickers, it becomes untenable to legitimize US presence in Colombia solely at the hand of the war on drugs. Hence, there are additional covert motivations for the US to fight in Colombia. 2.4. 2.4.1. Effects on the Drug Value Chain The previous section has shown how the policies of the war on drugs are based on 'lousy economics' (Nam 2006: 82). The most recent UN World Drug Report (WDR) confirms this notion. The UN (2009: 66) states that aerial fumigation has destroyed about 130,000 hectares of coca crops annually since the implementation of Plan Colombia, and that manual eradication rose enormously from 1,745 hectares in 2000 to 95,634 hectares in 2008. However, the WDR shows that global cocaine production has not changed significantly during these years (Ibid: 65). On the contrary, it shows that it equalled 879 metric tons in 2000, and increased to 1,000 metric tons in the following years (Ibid: 76). This is a strong Effects of the War on Drugs


indicator for the idea that fumigation and eradication do not discourage cocaleros to restart their crop cultivation after fumigation and for the idea that traffickers find more creative ways to get round the intensified 'hunting'. It has to be said though that this hunting, i.e. interception, has had some positive effects. It is estimated that the interception rate of cocaine rose from about 25% to about 40% in the last decade (Ibid: 76). However, when looking at the total amount of cocaine available for consumption on the market, it is not possible to identify a significant decrease due to this improved interception. Moreover, the interception rate of cocaine has only increased in Europe, while it remains stable in the US and Colombia (Ibid: 79). Interestingly, the report states that transport hubs in Central America and Africa are increasing in importance. Although the records of drug flows are based on these interception rates which make it difficult to assess the full scope of such flows, it indicates that trafficking networks are changing, but that this change is arguably only a restructuring of the network. Looking at the other side of the value chain, it is not surprising to see that the price of cocaine has increased on the US market over the years. Adjusted to the purity of cocaine, the street price has more than doubled; from $89 per gram in 2006 to $200 per gram in 2008, based on a decrease in purity of 33% (Ibid: 72). Regarding its official objectives, the war on drugs is thus unsuccessful. It has not altered production, it has had no significant effects on trafficking and the rise in dilution and prices imply a rise in profitability and, hence, provide an incentive for drug trafficking. 2.4.2. Humanitarian Impact and Political Implications Whereas the war on drugs is failing to meet its explicit objectives, it is failing even more on the record of human rights. Most importantly, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), there is abundant and persuasive evidence of close ties between the Colombian army and the paramilitary forces (HRW 2001). These ties comprise shared communication, shared intelligence and extensive coordination between the army and paramilitary forces in joint operations. By supporting the Colombian army in its counter-insuirgency, the US is thus imperatively linked to the paramilitaries. In response to the atrocities committed by paramilitaries, US Congress has therefore introduced the Leahy-law, a provision that restricts any assistance to parts of the Colombian army that have proven ties with paramilitary forces (Stokes 2005: 97). However, Stokes argues that this provision is too


weak in blocking illegitimate assistance, because it is unable to track the ways in which assistance is distributed and passed on within the Colombian army (Ibid: 97-98). Moreover, as regards Plan Colombia, President Clinton signed a waiver to pass it without any human right provisions, because he argued that drug trafficking was a threat to national security and required quick action (Ibid: 99). In other words, for the sake of national security the US openly refused to comply with the standards of human rights. The linkage of the US to the paramilitaries is remarkable, in particular because these paramilitaries traditionally aimed to secure the interests of the narco-bourgeoisie. In fact, the paramilitaries now rely heavily on drug trafficking themselves in order to finance their activities. According to former leader of the paramilitaries Carlos Castao (in Livingstone 2003: 133), drug trafficking finances 70% of their activities. At the same time, the war on drugs focuses on narco-terrorists and left-wing insurgents of the FARC, while there is no evidence that they are involved in drug trafficking at all. Although they are known to use a taxation system for coca growers, James Milford (1997), agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), argues that 'there is little to indicate [that] the insurgent groups are trafficking in cocaine themselves'. Because these notions were already widely accepted before Plan Colombia, it is striking to see that the war on drugs is now fought by the US- backed Colombian army against left-wing guerrillas with the help of paramilitaries, whilst it is evident that these paramilitaries are the largest drug traffickers. As regards the humanitarian consequences of the war, it is estimated that more than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict over the past 20 years, of which the majority was civilian (Amnesty International 2008). It is argued that 'the greatest number of casualties of the civil war has been inflicted by the army and the right-wing paramilitary groups, not by the leftist guerrilla groups' (Gareau 2006: 21). About 85% of the deaths in the Colombian war can be ascribed to the paramilitaries, 10% to the army and 5% to the guerrillas (Ibid). These data are disturbing, but awkwardly in accordance with the numerical breakdown of US sponsored state terrorism in other Latin American countries throughout the century. HRW (2009: 174) reports that Colombia has the highest murder rate of trade unionists in the world; more than 2,600 since 1986. The majority of these killings can be ascribed to the paramilitaries (Ibid). The heavy violence is also reflected in the report of the non-governmental Colombian truth commission Memoria Histrica (2008: 13). According to their data, there have been as much as 2,505 massacres with 14,660


victims in the period 1982-2007. Furthermore, Amnesty International (2008) estimates that 30,000 people have forcefully been disappeared and that 20,000 people have been kidnapped (Ibid). Additionally, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that Colombia has now the largest population of internally displaced people in the world, thereby exceeding war-torn Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan (UN 2008: 29). More than 3,000,000 people have abandoned their homes and over 350,000 people live as refugees across the borders. Moreover, the report notes that there is an alarming rise in threats to civil society in general and in public accusations by government officials of human rights defenders for collaborating with guerrillas (Ibid: 175). A distinct pattern arises out of these data, pointing out that large-scale violence and oppression by right-wing paramilitaries and the army has focused on any possible threat to the interests of the dominant class, whether this alleged threat comes from guerrillas, human rights defenders, unionists, or courageous civilians. As regards the economic consequences, the inequality that has characterized Colombia is ever increasing. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) notes that the richest 10% of Colombia is responsible for 46.9% of the income, while the poorest 10% is only responsible for 0.7% (UNDP 2007: 281). With a Gini-coefficient of 0.59 Colombia is among the top ten countries with the most unequal income distribution (Ibid). This supports the argument that the liberalization of the Colombian economy benefits only the dominant classes and that macro-economic measures of development are inherently biased at the cost of the lower income groups. Additionally, an analysis by the Colombian labor organization SINTRAMINERCOL notes that currently 1,8% of the population still owns 53% of the land (Ramirez Cuellar 2005: 83). Moreover, the analysis reports that 65% of the Colombian people are living below the poverty line (Ibid: 82). A recent trend in the conflict is the increasing involvement of TNCs in the violence. Currently, there are various lawsuits against large TNCs that are accused of having close ties with paramilitary forces and have ordered the killing of their own employees. Ramirez Cuellar (Ibid: 73-80) shows that the mining company Drummond Coal and oil company Occidental Petroleum (OXY) signed 'security contracts' with paramilitaries to ensure that any opposition in the workforce was silenced. These cases are no particular exceptions. Another striking example is Coca Cola, also accused of ordering the murdering of several unionists by paramilitaries, which resulted in a growing ban on its products on US


universities (Business Week 2006). Carlos Castao never denied close relationships between the paramilitaries and TNCs. He even proudly wondered why companies should not support him when they see their investments limited by the terrorism and barbarity of the guerrillas (Reuters 2000). In this chapter it has become clear that the war on drugs in Colombia has largely been a continuation of older US foreign policy objectives. To a large extent, it has been used as a pretext to open up Colombias economy for capital of its dominant classes by means of neoliberal policies, and, additionally, it has been used to fight a counter-insurgency against alleged threats to this capital. In doing so, the US has been an accessory in sponsoring terrorism and violence aimed at social forces that challenge the status-quo. By violently repressing these voices, democratic principles have been undermined in favour of the preserving of a socio-economic order that is conducive to US interests. The nature of these interests is elaborated in the next chapter.




Whereas the previous chapter showed that the war on drugs in Colombia is to be perceived as an aggressive effort to stabilize Colombias political and economic realm in order to create a beneficial environment for capital accumulation by dominant classes at the cost of the Colombian people, this chapter explains how TNCs have wielded their power in the domestic process of formulating US foreign policy on the war on drugs. In a democratic society with formal separation of powers, transparent politics and an institutional distinction between the market-economy and political institutions, it is often believed that the dominance of a dominant class is confined by democratic mechanisms. However, this chapter argues instead that democratic mechanisms have allowed them to reflect their material power in the political realm. It first shows how the process of US foreign policy- making is in its roots susceptible to corporate influence. Second it shows how TNCs actually influenced policy-making in the war on drugs and, third, it focuses on the motivations behind this influence, i.e. the interests of these TNCs in Colombia. 3.1. 3.1.1. Legal Context Legally, the power to make foreign policy cannot be claimed solely by a single actor in the political process. The US Constitution is not clear where the locus of power should be as regards foreign policy. Although Article I allocates various responsibilities to the legislative branch, i.e. Congress, Article II allocates related responsibilities to the executive branch, i.e. the President and his Administration. Whereas, for example, Congress has the sole right to declare war, the President is ordained as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and takes up a central role in war-planning (Olson 2001: 548). Consequently, both the legislative and the executive branch claim their power in foreign policy-making on the basis of different provisions in the Constitution. Hence, the Constitution divides powers in foreign policy-making, but not in a definitive manner (Grimmett 1999). Over time, this has led to changing roles for Congress and the Administration in the process. Foreign policy is self-evidently somewhat undemocratic. That is, because it aims to secure the alleged national interest internationally in an anarchical system, a level of The Formulation of US Foreign Policy


secrecy and exclusion is often needed to ensure effective policies (Foley 2008: 112). Historically, the locus of power in foreign policy has therefore concentrated itself at the executive end of the political process. However, in response to actual events Congress has claimed more power in the domain of foreign policy over time. Most telling might be its efforts in response to the political excesses of the Vietnam War and the Watergate-scandal in the 1970s, through which the executive power lost part of its prerogative (Peterson 1994: 8). Rather than continuing to be a model of compliance, Congress began to critically challenge the executive powers and gradually transformed into a model of assertion with increased control and budgetary pressures upon federal expenditures (Foley 2008: 117). As a result, the most basic function of Congress today is literally to pay the bills for US foreign involvement (Olson 2001: 550). Another reason for the increased influence of Congress is to be found in its decentralization. As technical expertise of Congress has increasingly become fragmented over specific committees and subcommittees, possibilities for extensive monitoring, judging, and recommending have improved (Ibid: 553). As a result of the increased powers of Congress, William Olson argues that foreign affairs has long since ceased to be the exclusive preserve of an elite protected from the democratic process (Ibid: 563). Richard Grimmet (1999) arrives at a similar conclusion when he states that the executive branch still has the principal responsibility for taking action to advance US foreign policy interests, but that Congress () can affect the course of policy through enactment of legislation () and through the appropriation or denial of funds. Apart from Congress and the executive branch, the formulation of foreign policy is subject to the influence of a third branch. Due to the democratic right to petition, civilians are allowed to interfere with the policy-making process by exerting influence over policy makers. This provision has led to the rise of independent organizations and individuals that represent the interests of specific groups in society. The making of foreign policy is thus legally susceptible to non-governmental influence as well. 3.1.2. Influencing Washington Since foreign policy is increasingly subject to democratic accountability in Congress, many efforts have been taken by a wide array of actors to ensure that Congresss interests converge with their specific interests. Lobbying firms are a necessary mediator of these interests and as the powers of Congress increased, so did the lobbying industry in


Washington. The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a non-partisan watchdog of moneys influence in politics, reports that in 2008 more than $3,2 billion was spent on lobbying (CRP 2009a). This boils down to $17.4 million for every day Congress was in session and makes it one of the most lucrative businesses in Washington (Ibid). The gold-rush on K-Street, indicates that influence can be bought and, hence, that those with resources are better able to promote their interests than those without (Birnbaum 2005). In this light, material preconditions constitute an important factor in influencing politics. It gives dominant classes a substantial advantage vis--vis other groups in society. Although the practice of lobbying is firmly rooted in American law under the provision of the right to petition, it is not to say that all practices are ethically just in their nature. Lobbyists often use their negative power to exert political pressure on politicians, thereby implying that every decision has a political price (Olson 2001: 556). This implies that the use of negative power would be effective in issues that are not worth paying a political price for. Following this logic, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2006: 41) argue that lobbying is specifically rewarding for foreign policy issues, because policy makers tend to accommodate those who care about a specific issue when the majority of the population is indifferent, which is more often the case in foreign affairs than in tangible domestic issues. In order to assess whether the war on drugs in Colombia is substantially influenced by the dominant class, it is necessary to examine the role of TNCs in the formulation of foreign policy on the war on drugs. There are various ways to do so. Because it is argued that Congress has gained significantly more power in the making of foreign policy over time, it is useful to investigate how Congress has been influenced by TNCs through their lobbying activities. For a matter of convenience, this study confines the policies under scrutiny to the previously discussed Plan Colombia and the CFTA. 3.2. 3.2.1. The Business Lobby There is a considerable strand of literature that focuses on the important role of business in the policy-making process within the US. Jeffrey Garten (1997: 67-68) sets out this argument in historical context, arguing that throughout most of American history, Corporate Influence in Plan Colombia and the CFTA


commercial interests have played a central role in foreign policy and foreign policy has reflected an obsession with open markets for American business. He elaborates this contention by noting that from a foreign policy standpoint () Americas links to most countries (...) depend increasingly on commercial relationships (Ibid: 69-70). In other words, the political interests of the US government often coincide with corporate interests. Plan Colombia and the CFTA are vivid examples of this reality. However, it is not a singular business lobby that affects politics. Rather, there are different lobbies, varying from single issue interest-groups and professional lobbying firms to in-house top lobbyists within TNCs. Influential lobbies with regard to US policy towards Colombia are, for example, the US- Colombia Business Partnership (USCBP), the Council of the Americas (COA) and the Latin America Trade Coalition (LATC). In the following, it is discussed how these lobby groups have affected the legal process of Plan Colombia and the CFTA in Congress by focusing on their members and money-flows. First, as a distinct actor primarily focusing on Colombia, the USCBP was formed in 1996 in order to secure the interests of 17 major TNCs, including OXY, British Petroleum (BP), ExxonMobil, Caterpillar, Colgate-Palmolive, Hogan & Hartson, Pfizer, Chevron, Nortel, K&M, AES, Lockheed Martin, Comsat International, Sikorsky, Cargill, Phillip Morris and Coca Cola. Together, these TNCs represent over $9 billion of investments in Colombia (USCBP 2008). According to Micheal Skol, former president of the partnership and former executive on Latin America in the Clinton-Administration, the USCBP has claimed considerable lobbying successes and the database of CRP shows that the partnership lobbies Congress steadily for $40,000 per year (Figure 1). Currently, its main aim is to lobby Congress for passing of the CFTA (USCBP 2008). On a recent hearing in Congress, William Burlew (2007), the current president of the USCBP, emphasized that the CFTA is a necessary agreement, because it furthers economic stability in Colombia. Moreover, he also reckoned Plan Colombia to be a great success and pressed for continuation of economic aid to the country.


Figure 1: Annual Lobbying by USCBP in US dollars Source: CRP 2009b

Figure 2: Annual Lobbying by COA in US dollars Source: CRP 2009c


Second, the COA has lobbied Congress on behalf of its corporate members to

promote free trade and open markets throughout Latin America. Amongst these members is the clientele of the USCBP, plus an additional 175 corporations (COA 2006: 36). It thereby represents virtually all areas of business and aims to open up not only Colombias local market, but the whole regional market of Latin America. The COA was founded in 1965 by David Rockefeller, often portrayed as worlds biggest banker and the personification of the capitalist elite. Specifically, the database of CRP shows that the COA has lobbied Congress for more than $200,000 in 2000-2001, the period in which Plan Colombia awaited approval in Congress (Figure 2). Moreover, it has extensively pushed for implementation of the CFTA. Vice-president of the COA Eric Farnsworth (2007) addressed Congress in the same hearing as Burlew and seconded him on the successes of Plan Colombia. He also urged for re- authorization of the plan and for approval of the CFTA, because it would promote US national and economic security interests. Third, the LATC is a coalition of various business associations, including the USCBP and the COA, representing over more than 1,200 US corporations. Part of its raison dtre is to secure Congressional approval for the CFTA. Including a wide variety of corporations in all economic sectors, this coalition presumably has a major influence on Congress by disseminating negative power. As far as this research went, no separate financial lobby activities were found on behalf of the LATC, although a variety of Congressional hearings and testimonies shows that the LATC equals the CFTA in its discourse with democracy, development and security, by which it implicitly also equals a disapproving vote as un- American and, hence, exerts negative power in order to put political pressure on Congress (LATC: 2008). Whereas the three discussed lobby-groups institutionally promote corporate interests of TNCs in Congress, most lobbying takes place directly trough in-house top lobbyists of big corporations. Since 1995, the Lobbying Disclosure Act requires lobbyists to register at Congress and provide quarterly activity reports to the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate. These disclosures contain the amounts that have been paid for lobbying activities as well as the issue that has been lobbied for. An analysis of these forms by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) shows that various TNCs have spent millions of dollars on lobbying for the promotion of free trade in Latin America in general, and often for Plan Colombia in particular (Table 1, Annex). General Motors leads


this list, with over $20 million spent on lobbying Congress between 1996 and 2000. General Electric follows with an amount of $11,8 million. TNCs that lobby specifically for Colombia are mostly those aligned with the USCBP: ExxonMobil and OXY respectively lobbied for $10,3 million and $8,7 million, both explicitly for investment issues in Colombia, the aid package and Colombian drug certification.
TNC Disclosed Issue Date Total Spent*

General Motors

Latin America Trade

Dec 1996


General Electric

Defense appropriations

Dec 1998



Colombia Sanctions (narcotics), Colombia Drug Certification

Dec 1996 June 1997



Investment issues in Colombia Colombia aid package

Dec 1997 $8,676,605 Dec 1999

Lockheed Martin

S. 2521; S. 2522; HR3908

June 2000


United Technologies

Colombian Programs

Dec 1998


Northrop Grumman

Alliance With Colombia; S. 2522; HR. 3908

June 2000



HR. 3908

June 2000



U.S./Colombia relations drug certification - aid package

June 1999 3,459,394 Dec 1999


Foreign aid to Colombia

June 2000


Table 1: Abstracts of Lobbying Disclosures 1996-2000 Source: CPI 2009 * This column provides the total amount that has been spent during this period. In the annex, a complete overview is presented of these disclosures.


BP spent $3,5 million on lobbying for US-Colombia relations and the US aid package. Another USCBP-partner, Pfizer, spent $1,7 million on foreign aid to Colombia. What can be gathered from these data is that large TNCs with interests in Colombia have lobbied extensively for Plan Colombia. More generally, between 1996 and 2000 more than $90 million has been spent on in influencing Congress to approve free trade in Colombia and, more generally, Latin America. Compared to the $9 billion that the finite clientele of the USCBP invested in Colombia alone, this is only a trifle. As regards Plan Colombia, it is thus fair to second Gartens argument of the central role that commercial interests have played in its route through Washington. The CFTA yet awaits approval in Congress. On the basis of these data, it is likely to see an increase in spendings on lobbying for its approval. The longer Congress postpones its verdict, the more money will be spent on influencing Congressmen, the more political pressure they have to bear, the more likely an approving vote will be. Lobbying Congress has become an indispensable activity for TNCs. The more material resources one has the more influence it can exert. Influencing Congress thus boils down to wielding material power. It is often argued that it is difficult to assess the return on investments in lobbying, but the millions of dollars that are spent in the branch each year are believed to be outweighed by the net-effects that the dismantling of trade barriers and the opening op new markets invoke (Birnbaum 2005). However, as will be discussed in the next section, in some cases it is possible to identify a more direct effect. 3.2.2. The Military-Industrial Complex A very specific business lobby on foreign policy issues is formed by TNCs that are involved in the armaments industry. The military-industrial complex is the name given to the power of this industry in political decision-making by President Eisenhower: in his farewell address of 1961 he acknowledged that a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions was infiltrating democratic processes in the US and in the councils of government, we [i.e. the American people] must guard the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex (Eisenhower 1961). Whereas the military industry was formerly foremost an instrument of the army, it transformed into an independent economic sector after World War II, providing employment and livelihoods to millions of people in the US. As a result, its main aim was no


longer to accommodate the army, but, as businesses go, to accumulate capital. As the military industry was and still is the largest of all industries, its power is reckoned to be very substantial. The war on drugs is no exception to this phenomenon. While the initial Plan Colombia was aimed at socio-economic development, the previous chapter showed that the final version was a fully militarized plan aimed at opening Colombias economy and the previous section demonstrated that the largest TNCs in Colombia have lobbied Congress to ensure that Plan Colombia was passed. A significant part of these lobbying activities can be ascribed to the armaments industry. In the CRP analysis it is for example stated that Lockheed Martin lobbied Congress for $8,5 million to ensure passing of resolution HR 3908, S2521 and S2522; the formal codifications for the resolutions that deal with the appropriation of budgets to Plan Colombia (Table 1). United Technologies lobbied for $8,4 million in Colombian programs, while Northtrop Grumman invested $6,6 million in lobbying for the Alliance with Colombia. Finally, Boeing also lobbied for HR3908 with $4,3 million. While the US reserved $624,4 million for military aid to Colombia in fiscal year 2003, nearly half of that amount was awarded to private contractors (US Department of State 2003).
TNC Lockheed Martin United Technologies Northrop Grumman Boeing Lobbying Expenditures* $8,500,000 $8,400,000 $6,600,000 $4,300,000 Value of Contracts** $17,000,000,000 $3,600,000,000 $8,700,000,000 $16,600,000,000

Table 2: Lobbying Paybacks

Soource: Center for Defense Information 2003 * the data are based on lobbying disclosures in the period 1996-2000 ** the value of contracts is based on the total value of the contracts in 2002


Plan Colombia was thus a big business opportunity for the armaments industry. For example, in 2003 Lockheed Martin was awarded with contracts on its Colombian activities by the US government with a net value of $70 million (Table 2). The payback on lobbying activities has thus been very direct. Even more so, Lockheed Martin was awarded with contracts by the Department of Defense with a total value of $17 billion in 2002, Boeing with $16,6 billion, Northtrop Grumman with $8,7 billion and United Technologies with $3,6 billion (Ibid). These billions-dollar contracts make the few million dollars spent on lobbying a small price to pay. As regards the war on drugs, an additional factor has to be taken into account in the analysis of the military-industrial complex. While it is demonstrated in the previous chapter that the war on drugs is a low intensity counter-insurgency, the US has aimed to stay below the radar of democratic accountability in Congress as much as possible. Therefore, many of its activities have been outsourced to private contractors, which are accountable only hierarchically to their client, not democratically to the American people. This has created a new profitable market. In Colombia, the foremost private contractor is US-based DynCorp, which won a $164,3 million contract in fiscal year 2003, after it lobbied Congress for a little $110,000 (US Department of State 2003, CRP 2009d). Because of their unaccountability and covert ways of operating, critical scholars tend to call these private contractors mercenaries or private armies (Stokes 2005: 99, Livingstone 2003: 156). In this sense, the resemblance to paramilitaries is striking. The rise of public-private partnerships in the war on drugs is a worrisome trend. Apart from these partnerships, there is also evidence for a rise in private-private partnerships, in which private security companies are directly hired by TNCs in order to secure their investments. In Colombia, OXY has for example hired US- based AirScan to protect their oil-fields and pipelines (Ramirez Cuellar 2005: 77). Low- intensity counter-insurgency is likely to enlarge the power of the military-industrial complex. Whenever the US refuses to take on accountability for dubious operations that aim to promote ambiguous interests, outsourcing is an appealing strategy. The more this happens, the bigger the power of the military-industrial complex will get.



Corporate Interests and the Continuation of Violence

What follows from the abovementioned power of the military-industrial complex, is that the privatization of the war on drugs has partly changed the motives of the actors involved. Instead of aiming to defeat the insurgency, it can be argued that the military-industrial complex aims to uphold the violence, because the conflict provides them with opportunities to accumulate capital. Hence, it directly benefits from the war on drugs and the more military policies the US implements, the more profitable this war gets. It has been argued that the increased involvement of private contractors in the war on drugs has undermined the legitimacy of the Colombian state, because its government fails to maintain a monopoly on violence (Richani 2005: 134). Its tasks of providing public security and protection have now become subject to the logic of the market; that is, profit and the monopoly on violence has been privatized (Ibid: 136). Private security companies have used this development to their advantage. The incentives of the armaments industry and private security corporations are thus directed at maintaining a system of war, rather than to end the conflict. In order to understand why other TNCs are not deterred by this perpetual system of war, it is important to emphasize that they have no political aims, but always remain eager to accumulate capital. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that violence reduces the incentives to invest, it can therefore be argued that there must be certain virtues of the violence in Colombia that provide incentives to invest. An important incentive might be that Colombias government is rather lenient to TNCs because they provide the influx of necessary foreign capital in the country (Ibid: 115). Because the government is somewhat paralyzed by the conflict and therefore unable to properly constrain TNCs in their behaviour, investing in Colombias economy is a profitable activity. This is also indicated by the fact that FDI in Colombia grew at an annual rate of 55% in the 1990s (Ibid). The power of TNCs vis--vis the state has a catalysing effect on the conflict (Ibid: 123). TNCs are generally perceived by the guerrillas as modern variants of old elites, because they also enjoy special privileges. Whereas the government is failing on keeping TNCs in check, both the paramilitaries and the guerrillas impose taxes on them: paramilitaries often tax TNCs for their protection, whereas the guerrillas often impose taxes on the extraction of natural resources (Ibid: 124-130). These taxes are subsequently used


by the paramilitaries and guerrillas to finance their activities. This way, many other TNCs thus also contribute to a prolonging of the conflict, next to the military-industrial complex and private security companies. Although the violence in Colombia provided an incentive for TNCs to invest in its economy, it might be wondered in a counterfactual way whether this incentive outweighs the incentive that would have been provided if the war on drugs was not militarized to a full extent. In examining this counterfactual, it has to be taken into account that Colombias conflict is not caused by US involvement in the first place, but by major social stratification that perpetually feeds the violence. If the war on drugs would only rely on neoliberal policies, TNCs would arguably also benefit from it, because the domestic conflict still weakened the state. In the long term, their growing capital would require more protection, especially with regard to the nature and ferocity of the domestic conflict. Often, this would in the long run still require an army for TNCs to provide protection. Nevertheless, because the monopoly on violence in Colombia has been privatized, TNCs would be able to rely on private security companies to fulfil this task. As has been argued, this is exactly what is happening in Colombia these days. Whereas TNCs have no intrinsic political aims, they do not care by whom they are protected, as long as they are protected. They are not interested in ending the conflict as long as their skin is saved. On the contrary, the conflict weakens the state and thus makes TNCs more powerful. In the counterfactual argument, the military- industrial complex would get the worst of it. A non-militarized approach could arguably be overcome by most TNCs, but runs counter to the specific interests of the armaments industry. Therefore, the combination of upholding the conflict and advancing neoliberalization appears to be the most beneficial political configuration for the dominant classes.




In this final section, answers to the research questions are provided by means of a recapitulation of the foregoing chapters. First, it can now be argued that the war on drugs is a misleading metaphor. It basically refers to a low intensity counter-insurgency aimed at social forces in Colombias society that threaten US investments and the power of the status-quo. As has been argued in chapter two, this counter-insurgency yet predated the war on drugs and falls well in line with the dynamics of other US interventions in Latin America during the 20th century. In hindsight, it can be argued that Plan Colombia has proven to be a successful instrument in this ongoing counter-insurgency. It managed to increasingly open up Colombias markets and further oppressed undesired social forces. In historical materialist terms, the war on drugs can therefore be well understood as an expression of capitalist imperialism. Moreover, it showed that the costs of this capitalist imperialist behaviour are shifted to the Colombian people. For decades, they have been living under state-sponsored terror and the humanitarian situation in Colombia today is arguably among the most grieving in the world. At the same time, macro-economic indicators show that its economy is doing remarkably well. In closer scrutiny it however appears that the domestic distribution of wealth grows ever more unequal. The benefits of the war on drugs are chiefly reaped by the dominant classes, both the Colombian elite as well as the TNCs that have invested in Colombia. As regards the power of the latter, chapter three has demonstrated that policy-making on the war on drugs in Colombia has been highly influenced by these TNCs. As legal provisions make US foreign policy susceptible to non-governmental influence through the practice of lobbying, it follows that material preconditions allow the dominant class to lobby more intensively than other groups in society. Instead of warranting democratic principles, Constitutional provisions and political practice have thus enabled the dominant class to wield their power in Congress to push for neoliberal and militarized policies in Plan Colombia; policies that accommodated their principle goal of accumulating capital. The theoretical perspective of historical materialism has enabled a thorough and integral analysis of the US national interest in the war on drugs. It has demonstrated that the US has advanced specific group interests concealed in a discourse that stipulated a unified national interest. The geopolitical focus of the war on drugs and its neoliberal


disposition are strong indicators for the assumption that it general aim is to provide the dominant class with a spatial fix to counteract the tendency of the falling rate of profit. As such, the findings of this study provide a useful contribution to the literature on the research problem that has been set out in chapter one. Nevertheless, as it is impossible to comprehend all the variables of a war, the historical materialist perspective has its limitations too. Due to its theoretical scope, this dissertation has for example been unable to determine whether the war on drugs might also have a genuine ideological dynamic. Although most characteristics of its policies have been ascribed to the dynamics of capitalist imperialism, there are several aspects that are arguably more than just a cover-up, such as the practice of aerial fumigation. Whether or not these aspects serve ideological purposes is an interesting avenue for further research, but requires a theoretical framework that is better able to take the role of ideas into account. Moreover, whereas this study has mainly concentrated on the influence that has been exerted in Congress, it has neglected the influence that might have been exerted on the executive branch in earlier stage of the policy-making process. Further research should therefore focus on the impact of TNCs on influential foreign policy think thanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution. In this light, the methodological use of social network analysis could provide new insights in the dynamics of corporate influence on politics. As political scientists generally use their results to contemplate on future developments, rather than confine themselves to the merits that are offered by comprehensive historical understanding, a final word must be said as regards the recent optimism invoked by the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. As might have become evident throughout this dissertation, US interests in Colombia have a long history and it is therefore unlikely that President Obama is willing or able to change these interests. Under global pressures he might pursue a soft-power strategy towards Colombia comparable to the Good Neighbor Policy of FDR, but as soon as it is needed, he will also be forced to abandon this strategy in favour of amore aggressive means. The legal process of the CFTA must be regarded as a representative indicator of what will happen to Colombia in the near future. It still awaits Congressional approval due to successful rallying against it by civil society, but the longer the voting on it is postponed, the more likely it is that dominant


classes successfully exert their influence on Congress through lobbying. If this happens, the power of dominant classes will again thrive at the cost of the Colombian people.



Jan. 1, 1996 through Dec. 31, 2000 Companies with operations in target countries and global revenue of over $1 billion that sought to influence U.S. policy on Latin America through lobbying. The "issue" column shows what was disclosed on the company or lobbyist's disclosure form filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The amount of money spent reflects company totals and may include lobbying on issues unrelated to Latin America. Disclosure forms do not specify the amount of money spent lobbying on a single issue. S. 2522 & H.R. 3908 = Senate bill 2522 and House resolution 3908, appropriations bills that funded several initiatives, including the Colombian aid package.
Company Issue Date of disclosure Lobbyist Total Spent

General Motors Corp.


General Motors Corp.

U.S./Brazil trade; Conference on Western Dec. 1996 Hemisphere Trade Issues; North American Free Trade Agreement Dec. 1997

General Motors Corp.


General Motors Corp.

U.S./Brazil Trade; U.S./Mexico Trade;U.S./Latin America Trade; North American Free Trade Agreement

General Motors Corp.


General Motors Corp.

U.S./Mexico Trade;U.S./Latin America Trade; North American Free Trade Agreement

Dec. 1998

General Motors Corp.


General Motors Corp.

U.S./Brazil Trade; U.S./Mexico Trade;U.S./Latin America Trade; North American Free Trade Agreement

Dec. 1999

General Motors Corp.


General Motors Corp.

June 2000 U.S./Brazil Trade; U.S./Mexico Trade; U.S./Latin America Trade; North American Free Trade Agreement

General Motors Corp.


General Electric Co.


General Electric Co.

Defense appropriations and authorizations, Dec. 1998 helicopters to include UH-60; CH-60; AH-64

General Electric Co. 3,620,000

General Electric Co.

Defense appropriations and authorizations, Dec. 1999 helicopters to include UH-60; CH-60; AH-64

General Electric Co. 3,840,000


General Electric Co.

Defense appropriations and authorizations, June 2000 provisions specifically impacting helicopters to include UH-60; CH-60; AH-64

General Electric Co. 4,380,000

Exxon Corp.


Exxon Corp.

Colombia Sanctions (narcotics)

Dec. 1996

Exxon Corp.


Exxon Corp.

Colombia Drug Certification

June 1997

Exxon Corp.


Exxon Corp.

U.S. policy in Mexico; Nafta

Dec. 1998

Exxon Corp.

2,640,000 $8,676,605

Occidental International Corp.*

Occidental Improved commercial ties with Colombia; Dec. 1996 International Corp. tariff on natural gas imported into Mexico; investment in Brazil

1,060,000 Occidental International Corp.

Occidental Investment/sanctions issues in Colombia; June 1997 International Corp. tariff on natural gas imported into Mexico; OPIC/ExIm reauthorization Dec 1997

1,240,000 Occidental International Corp.

Occidental Investment issues in Colombia; tariff on International Corp. natural gas imported into Mexico

1,020,000 Occidental International Corp.

Investment issues in Colombia Occidental International Corp. Investment issues in Colombia Occidental International Corp.

June 1998

740,000 Occidental International Corp. 780,000 Occidental International Corp.

Dec 1998

Occidental Colombia aid package; sanctions International Corp. Colombia

Dec 1999

833,999 Occidental International Corp. 863,725 Occidental International Corp. 877,801 Occidental International Corp. 40,000

Occidental Country advocacyColombia; Sanctions June 1999 International Corp. Colombia; Export/Import Bank issues SanctionsColombia; Sanctions reform Occidental International Corp. June 2000

Occidental General trade sanctions including Colombia June 2000 International Corp. supplemental Colombian aid Occidental International Corp. Dec. 2000

Black, Kelly, Scruggs & Healy

1,181,080 Occidental International Corp.


Occidental General trade issues including Colombia International Corp. supplemental Lockheed Martin Corp.

Dec. 2000

BKSH & Associates 40,000


Lockheed Martin Corp.

P-3 AEW aircraft modification for counter- June 1996 drug operations; Export policy defense products, Latin America June 1998

Lockheed Martin Corp.


Lockheed Martin Corp.

U.S. Policy on Arms transfers to Latin America

Lockheed Martin Corp.


Lockheed Martin Corp.

S. 2521; S. 2522; HR3908

June 2000

Lockheed Martin Corp.


United Technologies Corp.


United Government operations issues/Colombian Dec 1997 Technologies Corp. drug hawks; Colombian programs; foreign operations appropriations bill

6,403,000 United Technologies Corp.

United Authorization and appropriations bills; Technologies Corp. Colombia programs Northrop Grumman Corp.

Dec 1998

2,028,443 United Technologies Corp. $6,593,145

Northrop Grumman Corp.

Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act; Dec 1998 Supplemental Appropriations for FY 1999- drug interdiction provisionssensor upgrades June 2000

Northrop Grumman Corp.


Northrop Grumman Corp.

Alliance With Colombia and the Andean Region Act of 1999; S. 2522; HR. 3908; Ex- Im Bank funding

Northrop Grumman Corp.


Boeing Company


Boeing Company

S. 2522, Ex-Im Bank funding

June 2000

Boeing Company


Boeing Company

HR. 3908

June 2000

Robison International


BP Amoco Corp.*


BP Amoco Corp.

U.S./Colombia relations decertification June 1999 status; U.S./Brazil relations gas pipeline issues; U.S./Mexico relations oil anti-

BP Amoco Corp.



dumping issues BP Amoco Corp. U.S./Colombia relations - U.S. aid package; Dec 1999 U.S./Mexico relationsoil anti-dumping issues U.S./Colombia relations U.S. aid package; June 2000 U.S./Brazil relations gas pipeline issues; U.S./Mexico relations oil anti-dumping issues BP Amoco Corp. 1,100,000

BP Amoco Corp.

BP Amoco Corp.


United Parcel Service of America, Inc.*


Free Trade Area of the Americas United Parcel Service of America, Inc.

Dec 1998

680,000 United Parcel Service of America, Inc.

North American Free Trade Agreement United Parcel Service of America, Inc. Pfizer, Inc.*

Dec 1999

1,360,000 United Parcel Service of America, Inc. $1,680,000

Pfizer, Inc.

Foreign aid to Colombia

June 2000

Pfizer, Inc.


Pfizer, Inc.

Foreign aid to Colombia

June 2000

40,000 Kessler & Associates Business Services Inc.

Unocal Corp. Unocal Corp. Dec 1997 Unocal Corp.

$960,000 800,000

Counternarcotics certification process; Latin America S. 983 S. 2522

Unocal Corp.

June 2000

Timmons and Company, Inc.


Enron Corp.


Enron Corp.*

S. 2522, Ex-Im Bank and OPIC reauthorization

June 2000

Enron Corp.


Bank of America Bank of America S. 2522 June 2000 Bank of America

$889,849 889,849


Texaco Group, Inc. Texaco Group Inc. "Colombia Aid Package: Sanctions Policy Reform Act" June 2000

$753,597 Texaco Group Inc. 753,597

Hewlett Packard Co.


Hewlett Packard Co.

Market access issues Latin America

Dec 1998

Hewlett Packard Co.


Hewlett Packard Co.

Market access issues Latin America

Dec 1999

Hewlett Packard Co.


Hewlett Packard Co. Deere & Company

Market access issues Latin America; FTAA

June 2000

Hewlett Packard Co.



Deere & Company S. 2522

June 2000

Deere & Company 500,000

Phillips Petroleum Co.


Phillips Petroleum "Latin America Policy" Co. Cargill, Inc.

Dec 1996

Phillips Petroleum 480,000 Co. $448,216

Cargill, Inc.

General trade issues relating to Mexico, Latin America

June 2000

Cargill, Inc.


Caterpillar, Inc.


Caterpillar Inc.*

Funding for OPIC/ExIm; Mexico certification; National Security Waiver for Colombia

Dec 1997

Caterpillar Inc.


Whirlpool Corp.


Whirlpool Corp.

Brazil trade

June 1999

Whirlpool Corp.

60,000 $40,000

Colgate-Palmolive Corp.*

Colgate-Palmolive Support of international trade and Corp. investment related to Brazil, including acquisition of a Brazilian company

1996 (all)

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP



Colgate-Palmolive Support of international trade and Corp. investment related to Brazil

1997 (all)

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

(not required to specify if under 10,000) $40,000

DynCorp Aerospace Technology

DynCorp Aerospace Technology

Anti-drug issues

June 2000

Colex and Associates


DynCorp Aerospace Technology

Anti-drug issues

Dec. 2000

Colex and Associates


GPU International, Inc.


GPU International, U.S./Colombia relations; OPIC/ExIm Inc. reauthorization

June 1997

Jefferson Waterman International


* Member of the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership, a corporate consortium that promotes U.S. business interests in Colombia. Source: CPI 2009


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