Commentary from ...
Western Hemisphere
July 28, 2000

July 28, 2000 - U.S. Cuts Another Check For Plan Colombia, But Doubts Prevail

Recent developments in the ongoing war on drugs--notably President Clinton's signing off on an additional $1.3 billion in U.S. emergency spending for Plan Colombia's anti-narcotics offensive, coupled with a promise of additional monies from Europe--stirred up foreign media debate in Latin America and prompted a fleeting interest in Germany and Spain. The prevailing view judged the illegal narcotics business to be a global problem that warranted international attention, and Colombia was just one part "in a chain of international drug trafficking activities." A majority of writers, however, worried that increased U.S. aid to support Colombia's military in the drug war would escalate the "explosive conditions" in that country, risking "unpredictable consequences...for the region." Due to the presumed complex arrangement between Colombia's primary rebel groups and the drug mafia, most observers feared that rather than destroying the narcotics "underworld," backing Plan Colombia with additional money--even with the welcome "balance" offered by the Europeans entering the fray--may do more to "arm the warring parties," thereby threatening any possible peace settlement with the FARC and ELN. Joining the skeptics in Latin America, a German writer lamented that, despite the billions of dollars spent in the drug war, "peace is not in sight." At the positive end of the spectrum, Santiago's conservative, influential El Mercurio, noted that with the latest boost of U.S. aid for Plan Colombia "the optimum conditions for this strategy to be successful are in place." Highlights follow:

WHOSE PROBLEM IS IT?: Although Colombian editorials were sparse, opinionmakers in neighboring countries, preached about the "adverse" consequences Plan Colombia would provoke beyond its borders. Dailies in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Ecuador echoed Buenos Aires's leading Clarin's assertion that the Colombian crisis had "ceased to be an exclusively domestic affair." Sao Paolo's liberal Folha de Sao Paolo expressed a common dire prediction that U.S. "interference" would "lead Colombia down an even more violent and destructive path" replete with human rights abuses and environmental damage. Ecuadorian writers--the most prolific critics--resentful of their government's granting the U.S. access to the Manta air base in support of Plan Colombia, saw signs of a "Vietnamization" of the "Colombian drama."

FUMING OVER FUMIGATION: Rumors that the U.S. was encouraging Colombia to switch from the chemical herbicide glyphosate to a "poisonous" fungus Fusarium in the fumigation of coca crops, though denied by the State Department, provoked editorial indignation in Colombia and Ecuador. While Bogota's leading El Tiempo warned, "Plan Colombia money cannot become the U.S.' carrot in order to use untested biological weapons later as the stick," Ecuadorian writers likened the use of the fungus to a form of "biological warfare."

ANY PLANS FOR DRUG PREVENTION?: Complaints that not enough was being done to curb the demand for drugs, especially in the "rich countries" of the major consumers, surfaced throughout the debate. Support for greater drug prevention resonated with media in most corners. Madrid's center-left El Pais admonished, "If the U.S. and Europe do not get on board with drug prevention...Plan Colombia will remain...just that--a plan."

EDITOR: Irene Marr

EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 38 reports from 8 countries June 24-July 27. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.


ARGENTINA: "Foreign Aid For Peace In Columbia"

An editorial in leading Clarin judged (7/13): "The support group that gathered in Madrid, which backed a political solution to a domestic war that is jeopardizing Colombia's integrity, is further proof of the extent and international implications of this armed conflict. In fact, it's been a long time since the Colombian crisis ceased to be an exclusively domestic affair.... Foreign participation is meaningful because Colombia's drug trafficking is an important part--but just one part--in a chain of international drug trafficking activities where the demand from rich countries is a key issue. The involvement of European and Latin American countries has several consequences. First, it strengthens the Colombian government's plan both politically and economically. Second, it leads to a situation of greater balance as it reduces the key role which the United States played in the Colombian crisis. But we cannot overlook the possibility that the program may lead to a more important armed conflict, with new ways of foreign participation which could trigger serious consequences for the region."

"Increased Suspicion Of Escalation In Colombia's Domestic Conflict"

Nelson Padilla, on special assignment in Bogota for leading Clarin, commented (7/8): "In view of the confusion in Colombia, vis-a-vis Plan Colombia, President Andres Pastrana said that the program 'will make drug trafficking disappear.' Pastrana also stated that the package of at least $7.5 billion, partly funded by the United States and Europe, 'is the greatest political achievement and economic support obtained by (Colombia) in all its history.' Those who criticize the plan believe that the war against drug trafficking will finally target the FARC guerrillas.... The good intentions enumerated by Pastrana are in conflict with the hard position of his own armed forces, which insist that there is no difference between guerrillas and drug traffickers, a view shared by U.S. hardliners. This double speech in Colombia has increased the suspicion that there may be an escalation in Colombia's domestic conflict, with unpredictable consequences not only for the country but for the region."

"Europe Bets On Balance"

Oscar Raul Cardoso, leading Clarin's international analyst, opined (7/8): "The government of conservative Andres Pastrana finally obtained...some $1.3 billion in U.S. economic aid to of the two domestic wars in Colombia--the one in which the enemy is drug trafficking. Yesterday in a special meeting held in Madrid...Europe committed its own effort, starting with an offer of an additional amount of $100 million, which was made by another conservative, José Maria Aznar.... Those who criticize Plan Colombia state that Washington is purchasing a regional conflict--not just a Colombian conflict--like the one in Vietnam, because it is impossible to distinguish in the field between drug trafficking and insurgent activities by organizations like the FARC and the ELN (National Liberation Army). Also, those against Plan Colombia state that it will strengthen the Colombian armed forces whose history regarding human rights violations deserves, at least, repudiation. Washington and Pastrana answer that Plan Colombia was created to strengthen human rights, not to foster their violation. But perhaps the European participation will finally offer a certain balance. It is hard to think that the aid from Europe will have a bellicose destination, and it will grant Europe a role of political surveillance over the implementation of the plan which may become important if the time comes when abuses occur."

"Colombia At War"

An editorial in conservative La Prensa stressed (6/29): "While the FARC's around the world explaining their political and peaceful reasons and looking for some legal is obvious that the FARC have the purpose of accessing the government by means of violence.... The killing of defenseless Colombians at the hands of armed Colombians in the name of social revindication, and their refusal to talk with the national government without arms in their hands are clear signs that Colombia is very far from peace and very near losing its democracy, because the country is badly injured by a real and continued state of war."

"Colombia: Nothing Is For Free"

Oscar Raul Cardoso, leading Clarin's international analyst, opined (6/24): "The problem now is to know exactly what the United States purchased when its Senate approved last week over $1 billion in military aid for Colombia for the next two years--security in the fight against drug trafficking or a new regional conflict in Latin America with unpredictable consequences?... Military aid is never charity or a politically neutral action. The history of the second half of the 20th century shows that Washington systematically used that sort of assistance to buy acquiescence in the region and to keep it in...political captivity, which always spread beyond the common security field to economic areas, such as trade and the handling of national resources, among others.... From this point of view...'Plan Colombia' is something which will not only have consequences related to the two countries involved, but will generate the inevitable effect of deepening the unequal power relationship in the American continent."

BRAZIL: "Legalization Of Drugs"

Liberal Folha de S. Paolo commented (7/10): "For those who defend a greater legalization of drugs, the repressive strategy is failing. The United States, for example, spends billions of dollars every year to fight drug trafficking and there is no evidence that it is winning this war. The next logical step of the liberal strategy is to legalize drugs. And it is exactly here that the main fears emerge.... Obviously, the legalization of drugs would increase the number of users and dependents. A problem that is today restricted to less than one percent of the population could easily affect more than ten percent. Those who advocate legalization argue that if they were legalized, taxes collected on drugs could finance treatment and prevention campaigns. The violence that is associated with trafficking would disappear. Such a thesis may be seductive but it is not yet enough mature to be applied, even in Europe. In Brazil, therefore, the debate is at least timely."

"Plan Colombia Sees Conflict In Its Military Dimension"

Sociologist and president of the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analyses, Candido Grzybowski wrote in a byliner in liberal Folha de S. Paulo (7/5): "An internal conflict that has every indication of becoming internationalized has developed in Colombia and may directly and profoundly involve Brazil. U.S. interference, with President Pastrana's connivance, will lead Colombia down an even more violent and destructive path. Escalation in the violation of human rights, additional murders, the dismantling of productive structures, and ruptures in the already torn social fabric, with clear threats to the fragile institutions, are anticipated. The U.S. Congress' approval of Plan Colombia points to such a scenario. Plan Colombia sees the conflict exclusively in its military dimension.... Such a military escalation is highly explosive in all aspects. It ignores the very origin and complexity of the conflict. It is the greatest threat to the incipient negotiation process with the guerrillas, and will necessarily increase the movement and dismantling of entire communities, in addition to harming the biodiversity of the Amazon

and the rich ecosystems. It will have consequences for Brazil.... Regardless of whether Brazilians want it or not, we are directly involved. We cannot turn our backs. The first risk is the move of the very same drug traffickers to Brazil, with all that it represents.... Even more complex, is the risk represented by a U.S. settlement near the [Brazilian] Amazon region. This can only reheat our military's nationalism, with enormous risks to our still little consolidated democracy.... Brazil must open itself up more to Latin America and build democratic alternatives for the new millennium. Instead of war, peace negotiations. Instead of helicopters and biological bombs, structural reforms and solidarity to reconstruct Colombia's social fabric and hope."

"Drug Trafficking Ignores Borders"

In a byliner in independent, afternoon Jornal da Tarde, Brazilian diplomat Antonio Amaral de Sampaio judged (7/4): "Drug trafficking is an activity that ignores borders; its eradication must take on an international character. Given that U.S. youth are the main victims, it seems logical that Washington will also try to combat the plague at its original source.... Civilization is losing the war being waged against this curse...that means a real world threat to mankind. The enormous U.S. financial assistance to Bogota--to be complemented by an increase in U.S. military advisors in Colombia--could be interpreted as an encouragement for President Pastrana to correct his negotiating posture vis-à-vis the guerrillas. Will then Marines and Green Berets land in Colombia? In Washington there are those who remind us that the involvement in Vietnam, in other times and circumstances, began in a similar way and developed beyond the Pentagon's assessments, resulting in consequences that are much too recent to be forgotten."

COLOMBIA: "Fungus For Chemicals"

Discussing the possible negative consequences of applying the fungus fusarium instead of spraying glyphosate to control coca crops, and the need for alternative development programs, the lead editorial in top-circulation, national El Tiempo argued (7/15): "The UN proposed project to test the fungus fusarium oxysporium on Colombian soil as a coca control agent has few friends. The Colombian environment minister Juan Mayr corrected the New York Times article and its inaccuracy about alleged U.S. pressure on Colombia to accept using fusarium as part of the coca eradication program in Plan Colombia.... Expressing doubts about the massive use of fusarium on coca crops does not mean backing away from the struggle against illegal drugs. On the contrary, only conclusions reached through rigorous and extended scientific studies will neutralize divided opinion on both the real effects of the fungus and its power as a biologic control agent, and the efficacy of the strategy.... Plan Colombia money cannot become the U.S. government's carrot in order to use untested biological weapons later as the stick. Substituting fungus for chemicals is a decision that must be taken by Colombia and the United States together. The same conceptual mistake made with glyphosate--the belief that spraying will make social, economic and military problems disappear--must not be repeated. More than changing inputs, solving the problem requires that alternative development projects be carried out simultaneously with coca and poppy eradication efforts, reconciling the communities in the illicit crops areas and getting support from the international community."

"The Meeting On Illicit Crops"

The lead editorial in top-circulation, national El Tiempo stressed (6/29): "We would hope for 'surgical' changes in the aerial fumigation operation that would affect illegal crops only, and that would not cause massive displacement of small peasants or negative environmental effects. (We would hope for)a fumigation operation that wouldn't give the FARC additional arguments for recruiting people and consolidating their strength in the coca-producing areas.

"That doesn't seem easy to achieve.... The meeting in Caguan is a good opportunity to remind the international community of nations that their assistance in the fight against drugs leaves much to be desired."

CHILE: "Changes In Colombia"

An editorial in Santiago's conservative, influential, newspaper-of-record El Mercurio stressed (7/18): "The globalization of drug trafficking, which originated in Colombia, is a threat to the whole hemisphere. For no other reason, the executive branch and Capitol Hill reached a difficult agreement in Washington to assist a country that exports harmful products to the U.S. population, especially its youth. Many efforts ought to be organized to attenuate...this hemispheric criminal offensive."

"Policy At Risk"

Santiago's conservative, influential, newspaper-of-record El Mercurio had this editorial (7/4): "The decision of the United help Colombia fight drug trafficking is of interest to the world. What has prevailed is President Clinton's thesis that helping Colombia is vital to U.S. national security. The Colombian government considered that his help means that the United States has finally understood that the drug problem is an 'international responsibility.' For years, Washington has led the fight against drugs through prohibition, with all its considerations. Its weak results have been explained by saying that the resources involved in this fight and the political support were insufficient and very weak compared to the money that is handled by drug trafficking. Now, important resources are destined for the fight and there is not only a political decision but also a military decision by the sole superpower. Therefore, all the optimum conditions for this strategy to be successful are in place. And if it's not successful, maybe that strategy will suffer a criticism that today seems unthinkable."

ECUADOR: "Let's Not Mix In Other People's Business"

In an opinion column by Alberto Acosta, Quito's center-left Hoy asserted (7/26): "We must make a decision. We can no longer be immune from the conflict in Colombia. Plan Colombia is already having its repercussions, as is the United States' fight against drug trafficking, as shown by the use of the fungus in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We cannot deny our responsibilities, above all when Mahuad's government unconstitutionally allowed the United States to use the Manta air base. If we look at Washington's fight against the drug trade, we can see how ineffective it has been and how crime is increasing. The next move must be toward the legalization of drugs, if the problem is ever going to be under control. We need only look at the time when alcohol was illegal to learn this lesson. We must lose our fear of discussing this issue. We demand a referendum so that Ecuadorians, and not a corrupt president, can decide if the United States can use our air base in Manta."

"Watch Out: We Have No Security Policy"

Cesar Montufar argued in Quito's leading, centrist El Comercio (7/26): "National public opinion has been involved in an intense analysis of Plan Colombia and its implications in recent days. But the most worrying aspect is not the effect of the plan as such, but the fact that the Ecuadorian government does not seem to have a national security policy. The government has been avoiding the issue. At first it tried to minimize the importance of Plan Colombia by saying it had nothing to do with Ecuador. Panicking would only cause negative effects, such as the migration of displaced Colombians toward Ecuador and the spilling over of coca plantations into Ecuadorian territory.

The government also said that allowing the United States to use the Manta air base has nothing to do with Plan Colombia, when the agreement clearly states that the United States will use the base to fight the drug trade.... It is therefore an absolute priority that the Ecuadorian government define a national security policy to face the consequences of Plan Colombia, and the actions that will take place in the Manta base."

"Difficult Neutrality"

Guayaquil's (and Ecuador's) leading, center-right El Universo had this opinion column by Hernan Perez Loose (7/25): "It is easy to say that Colombia's problems should be resolved by Colombians, but that is easier said than done. Now the two problems--social issues and drug trafficking--have merged into one and it is hard to find the dividing line. This is where the term 'narco-guerrilla' comes from. The guerrillas are now faced with a problem: Drug trafficking funds their movement, so any attempt to eradicate affects them directly. Can Ecuador afford to be neutral on his issue? Can Ecuador risk having drug trafficking penetrate its soil? The problem with drug trafficking is that it is not limited to a certain area, just as fascism wasn't in the l930s. So we can therefore not be neutral in the Colombia struggle. It would be naive to think we can. And what is coming from the north will surpass the conflict with Peru in every possible way."

"Surveying Manta"

Fausto Dutan (acting president of the Socialist Party) opined in Quito's leading, centrist El Comercio (7/25): "Ever since Plan Colombia was about to start, the country has seen intense political and ideological debates. However, there does appear to be severe national worry. And so there should be. The agreement for the United States to use the Manta air base to fight the drug trade was signed amid constitutional irregularities: There was no open democratic debate regarding the issue. All Ecuadorians are concerned that Ecuador will now be involved in the Colombian conflict. In addition, the technological efforts to eradicate coca plantations will only have adverse effects on families who live in the border region. Faced with upcoming events, it is therefore logical that Ecuadorians are concerned. We should therefore defend our sovereignty and have some respect for our country in order to prevent the Colombia problem from affecting our territory. The Ecuadorian government should ask UN observers to come in to survey operations in Manta. We must avoid a 'Vietnamization' of the issue."

"A Little Bit Of Everything"

An opinion column by Edmundo Ribadeneira in Quito's leading, centrist El Comercio argued (7/23): "Vietnam and the chemical war appear to have arrived in Ecuador under the auspices of Plan Colombia. In the so-called dirty war, all kinds of experiments were carried out, world peace was threatened, the Cold War worsened, and many scars were left that persist today. It is actually interesting to see that a U.S. newspaper denounced the use of a poisonous fungus in the Ecuadorian Amazon which is capable of eradicating coca plantations, but is also capable of harming human life and agricultural products in general.... We are seeing how Ecuadorian weapons go over the border to the guerrillas in Colombia and how thousands of Colombians flee the conflict and arrive in Ecuador. So the problem in Colombia could now escalate beyond all expectations."

"Starting At The Beginning"

Guayaquil's centrist Expreso's Jorge Vivanco Mendieta wrote (7/21): "So we must ask ourselves: What does Ecuador receive in exchange for allowing the United States to use the Manta air base?

"It is true that we all have a duty to fight against drugs, but we must also consider poverty. The drug trade gives the poorest people a means to survive. Plan Colombia will mean that the United States and the European Community will give $2 billion to the fight against drugs, $20 million of which will go to the Ecuador. Of course, the main focus is Colombia, but it also affects us. And $20 million is so disproportionate that we shouldn't have accepted any funds at all."

"The U.S.: Fungus Is Not Being Used"

Guayaquil's (and Ecuador's) leading, center-right El Universo expressed these concerns in a front-page editorial (7/21): "The U.S. Department of State denied yesterday the allegation that tests are being conducted with fusarium oxysporum fungus in the Ecuadorian jungle. Peter Romero, U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, in a letter sent to the Ecuadorian ambassador in Washington, confirmed that the press allegations on the use of fungus in Ecuador on in any other part of the world 'are completely false.' He added that the United States tightly observes the terms of the agreement for the use of the Manta base, 'which is an essential part of Ecuador's contribution to the fight against illegal drugs.'"

"Colombia: No To The Vertigo"

Quito's leading, centrist El Comercio explained (7/21): "The wave created by the suggestion that we should review the Manta base agreement grew until it hit a reality the size of a dam: to do it at this moment, when the temperature with respect to Plan Colombia is so high, is a mistake. This agreement will continue to be presented as advantageous for Ecuador in the sense that the joint intelligence operations between the United States and Ecuador will have a deterrent effect and ensure that drug trafficking does not infect the national territory as a consequence of Plan Colombia."

"The Ecuador Alternative"

In an opinion column in El Comercio, Gonzalo Guiz commented (7/21): "Nobody doubts it any more. Plan Colombia is approaching, with severe implications for our country. That is why it is impossible to separate Plan Colombia from the operations launched from the Manta base, which will be devoted to providing sophisticated electronic information on the location of crops and eventual routes used by drug traffickers."

"Colombia's War"

Claudio Mena argued in Quito's center-left, influential Hoy (7/21): "Coca crops, plus cocaine traffic, plus permanent revolutionary settlements, plus paramilitary groups, plus the U.S. government form a combination as terrible as a hydrogen bomb. Drug trafficking is linked to coca crops--one of the most profitable businesses in the world because of its demand, especially in the United States. The only way to attack the problem is to destroy the business. How to do it? By ending the prohibitions and legalizing the crops. Then, will the drugs travel easily to the United States? That is their business. If they don't want the product they have to put the needed barriers in place. If such a defense is strong enough, accompanied by a national campaign against drugs, the U.S. market will shrink, the demand will decrease and the supply will drop.

"Plan Colombia: The Press Has Broken The Silence"

Quito's center-left, influential Hoy explained (7/20): "Last November, Ecuador signed an agreement with the United States to install a military base in Manta.

"The aim was to establish a point from which to continue the fight against drugs. Even back then, it started to take the name of Plan Colombia. The government of former President Jamil Mahuad signed the accord, in the hope of gaining U.S. support to finalize a deal with the International Monetary Fund. Negotiations with the IMF turned into a game of hide and seek and gave Mahuad false hopes of achieving economic growth.... But the Manta air base is not the only thing that links Ecuador to the guerrilla problem in Colombia. We are neighboring countries, and that cannot change, although we can avoid provoking the situation. And now, in July, the press has taken hold of this controversial issue, Plan Colombia, to such an extent that the original agreement may be reviewed. The government is trying to avoid and deny the issue with misinformation, such as with the case of the fungus that has been sprayed over Sucumbios. But the government can only try to calm public opinion.... But the debate has been opened to what Plan Colombia actually means for Ecuador, and the implications it could have on the country's future."

"Manta Base And Realism"

In the view of leading, centrist El Comercio's "Analysis" column (7/19): "The thesis about the need to renegotiate the accord for the use of the Manta base with the United States is gaining supporters. The evidence shows that beyond national discourse, this Ecuadorian military location is being used for the logistics of intelligence operations against drug trafficking in the region. That will end up linking Ecuador in a conflict of unpredictable consequences, if not in Plan Colombia itself."

"War Or...War"

Diego Cornejo had this view in Quito's center-left, influential Hoy (7/19): "If we don't become the Cambodia of Indochina during the Vietnam War, we would probably become the Honduras of Central America at the time of the bloody conflict with Nicaragua. According to the experts, that is exactly what is in store for us if we don't verify precisely the commitments of Ecuador within the imminent armed operation dubbed as 'Plan Colombia.'"

"The Fungus Of Death"

In leading, center-right El Universo, Katia Murrieta opined (7/18): "Being neighbors with Colombia and having the guerrilla activities in the border itself, one way or the other, Ecuadorians were to be affected by the conflict and its consequences. It is enough to visit the shores of Putumayo to realize the changes provoked by the Colombian drama.... Now we are facing the threat of chemical weapons that would be used to destroy coca and marijuana crops. It seems that the fungus to be used destroys all possibility of life, that it is highly polluting and degenerative, that spreads easily and can even be spread by the soles of shoes and the tires of vehicles.... Therefore, the scenario causes concern. Human rights and ecological watch groups have already protested. We have to demand for the Ecuadorian government to reinforce the borders, not only with military personnel, but also by providing development to those populations that have been neglected."

"Plan Colombia And Us"

Guayaquil's centrist Expreso stressed (7/18): "To say that Plan Colombia concerns exclusively that country, is an evident error. It affects the whole region and all the neighboring countries such as Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and specially Ecuador. We have a vast and complicated borderline; we have historical commercial and family links. Many things link Ecuadorians with the so-called Plan Colombia. Thus, it affects us and we have to be very careful, without holding back on the support we can provide our neighbor in its crusade to recover peace."

"From Manta To Colombia"

In an opinion column by Alfonso Oramas, Guayaquil's leading center-right El Universo held (7/17): "From Manta to the Colombian border there is considerably less distance than from Washington to Miami. We know that, but President Clinton does not. Maybe that will help us understand why Plan Colombia is truly a Pandora's box for Ecuador. It is stated that the Colombian crisis is of such magnitude that the armed conflict will be especially serious for Ecuador.... It seems fine that Ecuador supports this fight against drug trafficking, but it would have been better if the country had received important help, not simply some handouts, to cite a case of effective reciprocity. We are still waiting for the aid that was going to arrive after the peace accord with Peru."

"Plan Colombia Might Turn Ecuador Into The Honduras Of The Andes"

In the view of center-left Hoy's opinion column by Carlos Viteri (7/15): "Plan Colombia leads us to think that the settlement of the conflict with Peru was of interest to the United States in order to open the way for an intervention without obstacles in Colombia. They had to eliminate any spark of international conflict in the area in order to let Ecuador concentrate on one only front.... Plan Colombia might turn Ecuador into the Honduras of the Andean region. Honduras yielded territorial sovereignty to the Contras, advised by the United States, in order to combat against the Sandinista regime. Ecuador is following that path because it yielded the Manta base. What else does Plan Colombia bring along? For the signing of peace with Peru there were discussions and consultations, but getting involved in the United States's war of geopolitical interests was done in absolute secrecy. It would be valuable to listen to the criteria of the people from Sucumbios and other Amazon provinces along the border with Colombia. A referendum to decide the Ecuadorian participation in Plan Colombia would be advisable."

"Plan Colombia And The Manta Base"

Quito's leading centrist El Comercio ran an opinion column by Hernan Ramos (7/14): "The result of our foreign policy management along the northern border is negative. And it is particularly ominous for the officers of the Mahuad era who burned all the bridges in exchange for nothing, believing that the benevolence from Washington would save them.... We should not be fooled. Ecuador is involved in Plan Colombia because the Manta Base links Ecuador even more to the Colombian crisis. For Ecuador, Manta is the symbol of a negotiation gone awry. For the United is a little jewel of strategic military importance."

"Our Plan Colombia"

Enrique Ayala Mora opined in leading, centrist El Comercio (7/14): "Putumayo is one of the most vast and most violent zones included in the war taking place in Colombia. In reality, Putumayo is closer to Quito than to the Colombian capital, Bogota. These are some of the facts that should have been considered by former President Jamil Mahuad and his Minister Bejamin Ortiz before embarking in an accord that allows the presence of armed forces from the United States in our national territory.... Of course we have to fight against the scourge of drug trafficking, but the concession of the facilities in Manabi for the operation of aircraft that would spy and support war operations in Colombia, puts us in the center of a conflict of unpredictable consequences."

"Plan Colombia: Ecuadorian Hangover"

Gonzalo Ruiz Alvares commented in leading, centrist El Comercio (7/14): "The solicitous former U.S. ambassador, Leslie Alexander, warned after the peace accord was signed with the southern neighbor, that the military attention should be concentrated on the north where the most dangerous enemy was. When the accord for the use of the Manta Base by the United States was signed, the country was numbed by the overwhelming Mahuad effect (a mixture of his monastic contemplation and the technical knock out dealt by the freezing of banking accounts.) It did not react, ask or question a situation that was leading us into a conflict with Colombia and into a commitment to fight against drug trafficking under U.S. terms. Now, Plan Colombia is here and we have nothing to do--we are in the mud up to our noses."

"To Build Peace, In Peace"

Xavier Lasso expressed these concerns in Quito's leading centrist El Comercio's (7/13): "We are already included in the tragedy of the neighboring country. Now, things have become dangerously complicated and it is necessary to start a sincere debate.... Colombia and its officials have allowed themselves to be permeated with the biased vision of the United States. In the North, little is done to curtail consumption. There can't be supply without demand. Down here we combat the 'cartels' of production, but one has to wonder 'why the actions against the 'cartels' of consumption are not equally passionate?' Perhaps the time has come to legalize drugs. If you need it, then you should be able to get it in broad daylight without the sordid conditions that create that underworld which profits from drugs. It is a war under our noses and we're going to be stuck with the bill. The United States, Europe, Japan--developed countries with important arms industries and a strong cultural tradition in devastating conflicts-they don't have to look at things through our eyes."

"Colombia: A Two-Way Plan"

Daniel Granda Arciniega judged in leading, centrist El Comercio (7/13): "Washington policy towards Latin America does not conceive of the possibility of a state rising from a revolutionary process, let alone one linked to drug trafficking, such as the FARC. The objectives and strategies to fight against rebel forces linked to drug trafficking have been designed in Washington. This is a two-way strategy that supports peace dialogues while continuing with military preparations. The strategy will affect neighboring countries--Ecuador above all. Regrettably the Ecuadorian government decided to get involved in it through the least advisable action, the military one, when it agreed to allow the use of the Manta base by U.S. planes and military personnel. This decision should have been included into more global and integral strategies to be able to define the position of the country within this conflict as a whole. For this reason it is convenient and urgent that the foreign ministry, the ministry of government, the military, along with political parties and social movements open a national debate."

"Plan Colombia"

Sensationalist Extra argued (7/4): "The specter of Plan Colombia is causing concern in the political and administrative fields, because many people consider it a mechanism to involve Ecuador in a war that, as irregular as it may be, has the characteristics of an international armed conflict. Ecuador has no reason to get involved in such a conflict, except to defend its actual and potential oil reserves and sovereignty. The aid approved by the U.S. Congress apparently has the purpose of eradicating drug trafficking, a scourge that would not be erased if supply channels are not severed, despite the intention to replace illicit crops with legal ones. Some critics of the plan believe that an armed intervention from the United States may turn the anti-guerrilla fight into another Vietnam....

"The conflict has very serious repercussions and we hope we don't get involved in what would be a blood and deadly conflict."

MEXICO: "Colombian Plan Reveals Power Of State Not Consolidated"

Nationalist El Universal carried a column by Guillermo Guajardo stating (7/21): "Colombian President Andres Pastrana's plan to end the crisis affecting Colombia has been the subject of a great deal of discussions lately. The military will play an important role in the implementation of the plan. And the U.S. financial and technical assistance will be key to strengthen the operational ability of the Colombian armed forces against the guerrillas, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. Plan Colombia, however, reveals that the power of the state is not consolidated in Colombia, and that the lack of legitimacy on the part of government agencies has increased their shortcomings and has allowed the spread of corruption, drug trafficking and guerrilla activity."


GERMANY: "The War That Nobody Understands"

Andreas Lehmann said in an editorial in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (7/27): "Colombia has now got a courageous president. Mr. Pastrana has now made it his goal to end the war, which he only calls an 'armed conflict.' So-called peace talks happened again and again, but they also failed again and again such as the negotiations between representatives of the ELN and the government in Geneva. The course of such talks is always the same. The government makes a few concessions...while the guerilla forces release a few hostages as a gesture of good will, but the war continues afterwards. The international community does not like to intervene in Colombia. What would that mean? To send a mediator, who can only fail. Or to send blue helmets? The international community has decided to back Pastrana's 'plan for Colombia' with money. This is the easiest approach. The IMF, the World Bank, Japan, Norway, and Spain have made available 1.8 billion DM, and the United States $2.6 billion. This is a lot of money that should mainly be used for the fight against the drug mafia. But not only human rights organizations are afraid that the money only serves to arm the warring parties. Peace is not in sight in Colombia."

SPAIN: "Plan Colombia"

Center-left El Pais commented (7/10): "First, the European Union must not be a passive accomplice in the intensification of this conflict.... If the United States and Europe do not get on board with drug prevention and simply show themselves determined to continue the old policy of suppressing consumption, Plan Colombia will remain, in the meantime, just that--a plan."