An overview of Plan Colombia and its evolution throughout the years.
Created by insightcrime on Oct 27, 2010
Last updated: 01/26/11 at 04:48 PM
Tags: InSight Plan Colombia Colombia FARC
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In another indication that U.S.-Colombia relations are entering a new era, White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske emphasized drug use prevention and alternative development as key pillars to counter-drug strategy in Colombia, during his visit to Bogota in early January.
After a meeting with the Colombia government, a U.S. delegation, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, lists “human rights,” “energy,” and “science and technology” as the top three priorities for future U.S.-Colombia relations. Noticeably absent from the agenda was terrorism or drug trafficking.
In a complete turnaround from what happened in Las Delicias military base fourteen years earlier, 27 FARC guerrillas are killed in what authorities call "Operation Fortaleza II" along the Colombian-Ecuadorean border, including the commander of the feared 48th Front.
Colombian Military, Police and Air Force combine to assault a large FARC camp in southern Colombia, killing dozens of rebels, including Jorge Briceño Suárez, alias 'Mono Jojoy,' the guerrillas military commander. President Santos tells the United Nations General Assembly that the "symbol of terror in Colombia has fallen."
In what authorities dub "Operation Chameleon," the Colombian Army rescues four officers that were taken hostage in separate attacks of the FARC in the late nineties. One of them was captured by the rebels in the siege of Mitú in 1998.
The governments of Colombia and United States sign a military agreement that allows the US the use of seven military bases in Colombian territory. The agreement increases US troop levels for the first time in years. It also causes friction in the region. Brazil and Venezuela's governments see the agreement as part of subtle US military invasion of the region.
A controversy erupts on the front pages of Colombia's dailies as military officials and personnel are implicated in the murder of nineteen young men from the poor neighborhood of Soacha near Bogotá. The young men were duped by military personnel into believing they were going to work in the countryside but were later killed in cold blood and passed off to the press as "guerrillas." So-called "False Positives" stories emerge from every corner of the country, giving a scar to the Uribe administration's policy of pushing the military for "results" at all costs and leading to the resignation of the country's top military commander. As many 2,000 cases are being investigated.
After months of careful planning and a master charade, the Colombian Army rescues Íngrid Betancourt, the three US contractors and ten Colombian military and police hostages without firing a single shot. The news circles the globe, embarrases the already battered FARC, and envelopes the Uribe administration in a wave of popularity.
In another blow to the FARC, its maximum commander Pedro Marín, alias 'Manuel Marulanda,' dies of natural causes in the jungles of Colombia. The FARC's new leader is Guillermo León Sáenz Vargas, alias 'Alfonso Cano,' who is known as more of an intellectual than a warrior. In this video, Rodrigo Londoño Echeverry, alias 'Timochenko,' gives the fallen leader a homily.
In its biggest victory against the guerrillas to date, the military, police and air force combine forces to assault a FARC camp just inside Ecuador, killing dozens of rebels, including the guerrillas' second-in-command, Edgar Devia, alias 'Raúl Reyes.' The attack evokes ire in Ecuador where the government proclaims that the Colombian Air Force violated its air space, but the Colombian government is unapologetic. 'El Tiempo' newspaper says in an editorial that the death of Devia is the "beginning of the end" of the FARC.
After months of collecting intelligence, Colombian Air Force bomb a FARC camp, killing 17 rebel soldiers, including Tomás Medina, alias 'Negro Acacio,' the head of the 16th Front, one of the guerrillas' most lucrative and innovative columns. Medina was wanted in the United States for drug trafficking.
The Colombian government asks for an extension of Plan Colombia money. The strategy is called the Plan Colombia Consolidation Phase, and focuses on holding the gains achieved thus far. The US offers $4 billion from 2007 to 2013.
Military Special Forces find and dismantle a "secret highway" of wooden planks through the jungles of Colombia that stretches 278 km (175 miles) used by the guerrillas to reinforce their troops throughout the south-central corridor. The "highway" has gas stations and supplies ten camps along the edges of it.
Military and police kill five FARC leaders near Bogotá, and capture another, in what is the government's first push to remove the rebels from the heartland. They call it "Operation Liberator I."
During a routine reconnaissance mission over FARC territory, four Pentagon contractors and a Colombian pilot go down in guerrilla territory. An American and Colombian pilot are killed by the guerrillas and three others - Mark Goncalves, Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell - taken captive. The US accelerates the pace of training and influx of intelligence equipment in an effort to locate and rescue the three men.
A little known former governor of Antioquia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, is elected president of Colombia on a platform of war. Uribe, whose father was kidnapped and killed by the FARC, promises to revamp the military and tax the wealthy to pay for it. The FARC attack Uribe's inauguration in August with several homemade mortars that fall short of their intended target and kill 19 in a poor Bogotá neighborhood.
While campaigning for the presidency, Senator Íngrid Betancourt visits the formerly demilitarized area in southern Colombia where FARC rebels kidnap her. Her case galvanizes support from European countries who isolate the FARC politically.
The Colombian government breaks off peace talks following the FARC's kidnapping of a senator. Three days later the rebels kidnap a Colombian-French presidential candidate named Ingrid Betancourt.
Recently elected President George Bush continues the policy toward Colombia. And following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, Congress opens the way for aid to fight leftist guerrillas and ups the cap number on troops.
After intense negotiations, US Congress approves $1.6 billion in aid for Plan Colombia. The aid, however, is limited to fighting drug trafficking and not guerrillas, has a cap on the number of US soldiers can be in the country and has strict human rights requirements for the units receiving assistance.
President Bill Clinton presents Congress with $1.6 billion proposal to help Pastrana with his Plan Colombia initiative. The proposal is greeted warmly in Washington as bipartisan support is swelling around the idea that Colombia is in crisis.
Colombian President Pastrana personally presents President Clinton and Congress with a copy of Plan Colombia. The $7.5 billion three-year initiative will require funding from the US and Europe. Pastrana receives a warm welcome and promises of $1.5 billion from the United States.
In what many see as the beginnings of Plan Colombia, a top level delegation from the United States government arrives in Colombia. Headed by Thomas Pickering, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs at the US State Department, and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Barry McCaffrey, the delegation meets with Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and pleads with him to be harder on the guerrillas. The meeting includes a pledge of support. The idea for Plan Colombia is germinating.
Three North American activists are kidnapped and killed by the FARC. Investigators pin the murder on a top FARC commander, and there are calls that the government should stop negotiating peace with the group.
President Andrés Pastrana demilitarizes five municipalities in southern Colombia to make room for peace talks with the FARC guerrillas. The area becomes known as 'FARC-landia' and is the size of Switzerland. The FARC, however, does not lay down its weapons during the talks. To be sure, the rebel group continues to launch attacks on government forces and uses the demilitarized zone as a staging point and a refuge. The rebels also continue kidnappings and in the year 2000, Colombia reports 3,572 cases. Most of the victims end up in FARC hands and many of them are housed in the demilitarized zone.
In the early morning hours, 1,500 FARC soldiers sack Mitú, the capital of the Vaupés department. Just over 100 policemen repel the assault. The FARC burns the local airstrip preventing reinforcements from arriving. After three days, the Colombian Army surprises the rebels from the Brazilian side of the border. The FARC flees but not before leaving 24 military and police dead, along with 11 civilians. The guerrillas also take 61 policemen captive. The attack stuns a nation and alters the Colombian political compass.
In another stunning display of tactics and military might, the FARC ambush the military in the tiny hamlet known as El Billar, in southern Colombia. After three days of combat, the army reports 63 dead, and 43 captured.
Six hundred FARC guerrillas attack a military base in the southern department of Putumayo. During the siege, the FARC kills 31 soldiers, wounds 17, and takes 60 others captive. Colombian President Ernesto Samper later demilitarizes the municipality of Cartagena del Chairá, Caquetá, and swaps the captives for FARC guerrillas who were in Colombian prisons setting a precedent for future prisoner swaps.
Following its failed efforts to launch a political party and negotiate a peace settlement with the government, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group begins a rapid rise in capability, tactics and strategy. Using funds from taxes on drug trafficking and increased kidnappings, the rebels start deploying large units, attacking military bases and taking entire villages for days at a time. The government appears increasingly helpless in front of this rising threat.