Reality of US Motivations
The US administered fumigation programs in Latin America are backed by sophisticated satellite and targeting equipment that makes, as Ricardo Vargas (a fumigation expert at Accion Andina) agrees, the possibility of a "mistake" very slim. Yet the effects of the opening stages of aerial spraying (as indicated above) have had devastating consequences on humans, livestock, and the ecology of Colombia and the surrounding regions. Towns, legitimate crops, and water sources have been repeatedly sprayed, with the unpleasant conclusion, as Ricardo Vargas stated in an interview with the Dutch journalist van Royen, that "spraying" could be being used "as a strategy to consciously affect the survival of communities".
This, as a central objective of Plan Colombia, is not as far fetched as it sounds especially when one understands the way in which the US government and various multinational corporations would benefit from such a policy.
Various oil corporations, for example, including both Occidental Petroleum and British Petroleum, were fervent supporters of Plan Colombia whilst it went through Congress and this is without doubt because they saw it as being favorable to their interests in the region - Occidental indeed spent $350,000 in the US Congress ensuring that Plan Colombia was passed. The departments of Putumayo and Bolivar, both primary targets for fumigation, have huge, and as yet unexploited, mineral and oil deposits. The effects of fumigation, and the paramilitary activity that preceded it (see below), has forced thousands off their land - terrain that is now conveniently open for speculation by multinationals, free from the annoyance of concerned local environmentalists and residents. A further, and no doubt intentional, effect is to deprive the guerrilla movements in these areas of their civilian support bases. This has obvious benefits, as the guerrillas are generally hostile to both US foreign policy objectives and the exploitation of Colombias natural resources by foreign companies.
When one looks at the loses taken by companies such as Occidental Petroleum as a result of guerrilla attacks it is clear to see that the weakening of the insurgency, by displacing local communities and thus destroying their base among the civilian population, is an effort to secure the profits of corporations and create the conditions for future multinational exploitation in Colombia - something that is especially important in the light of the IMF-imposed economic reforms.
A fundamental part of Plan Colombia is to create the image of narco-guerrillas being deeply involved in drug trafficking and then use this as the justification to heavily militarize the region and subsequently blur the lines between counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics operations. However, the theory of the narco-guerrilla is highly dubious and there is in fact no hard evidence to suggest that guerrillas are involved in the drugs business at any level above the taxation of coca cultivation and processing. Even the DEA admits to the fact that "To date, there is little to indicate the insurgent groups are trafficking in cocaine themselves, either by producing cocaine HCL and selling it to Mexican syndicates, or by establishing their own distribution networks in the United States."
The northwestern region of Latin America is however of strategic interest to the US - an area that the War-Peace Studies Group (which consisted of the US State Department and the Council on Foreign Relations) referred to as a "Grand Area", meaning a "region whose economic subordination is necessary for world domination".
More specifically at the moment it is the oil of the northwestern region that is of primary interest to the US. The energy debate was high on the agenda during the US elections and with this in mind, and as the worlds biggest consumer of petroleum, developments over the last few years in Latin America must worry the US. The recent loss of the Panama Canal and increasingly strong radical movements in Ecuador and Bolivia are emerging as firm threats against the hegemony of the US and the neo-liberal policies that go it. The nationalist government of Hugo Chavez, in Venezuela (which is the single largest supplier of oil to the US), is sympathetic to the Colombian guerrillas, is very anti-imperialist and, furthermore, is tremendously close to socialist Cuba with Chavez calling Fidel Castro his mentor.
On top of this and of most concern, the Colombian insurgency, especially the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - Peoples Army (FARC-EP), continue to strengthen themselves and there is now serious fear in both the US and among the Colombian elite that a revolution is in the making. Plan Colombia and the war on drugs is obviously an attempt by the US to pacify the region and regain control - a strategy which closely resembles US operations in Central America in the 1980s when the alleged Soviet threat was the covering pretext.
A closer look at the destination of much of the US military aid included in Plan Colombia reveals where other interests of the Clinton administration lay. The vast majority of the money will never be seen by Colombia, but instead go straight to the manufactures of the military hardware that the US is donating to the Colombian military. These companies lobbied hard for the passage of Plan Colombia, with those profiting most including Textron (manufacturers of Huey military helicopters), Lockheed Martin (manufacturers of radar systems), United Technologies (manufacturers of Blackhawk ground attack helicopters), Northrop Grunnman (manufacturers of airborne reconnaissance aircraft) and the now notorious mercenary company DynCorp (fumigation and training contracts).
It is no coincidence to note that these five companies between them donated nearly $4 million to members of the US Congress during the period that Plan Colombia was being debated in Congress, nor is it surprising to find that the companies that make the fumigation chemicals (Monsanto and DuPont) also donated around $600,000 during the same period. It is also no coincidence that the equipment and services provided to Colombia by these companies will probably do little to decrease world cocaine production but at the same time will do much for the economic interests and profits both of these companies and others that have an involvement in Colombia.