The U.S. War on Communism, Drugs, and Terrorism in Colombia


On Thursday, September 6, 2012, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, rejected a proposed bilateral ceasefire by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels aimed at bringing an end to Colombia’s decades of armed conflict. In fact, he declared that he had asked operations to be intensified and stated, “There will be no ceasefire of any kind.” [1] These comments reflected Colombia’s half-century dirty war, the actors involved, and some of the motives behind U.S. policies that have only served to worsen the conflict.

Today, more than 150 days of negotiating have passed since the start of the peace process between the FARC and the Colombian government. Undeniably, President Santos took the risk of agreeing to peace talks that have thus far failed to make significant inroads; an inability to reconcile the main source of friction, agrarian reform, is derailing positive advancement on other critical points in the process (i.e. political inclusion).

Delegations from the two sides were scheduled to reconvene on April 2; however, both have agreed to work on issues separately for the first two weeks and meet at the end of the month. The slow process of addressing comprehensive agrarian reform, a sensitive and critical part of the negotiations, is not paying off for the somewhat embattled Colombian president and is decreasing the possibility of reelection in 2014. Neither delegation made reference to a planned nationwide demonstration in support of the peace process that is set to begin on April 9.

Back in late October 2012, a poll carried out in Colombia showed that as many as 72 percent of Colombians supported the peace talks. Meanwhile, a poll in late February showed that only 3 percent of Colombians have a favorable view of the FARC, while a whopping 94 percent are against them. It seems clear that most Colombians approve of the peace talks, even though this does not necessarily mean that they see any legitimacy in the guerrilla movement’s objectives and declared goals.

The population’s support for the peace talks is an important tool that Santos has at his disposal to continue pushing for them to succeed. Unfortunately, there have been some troubling and tragic developments, such as the recent murders of peasant organizers, which follow on the heels of multiple reports of “police harassment.” The Colombia office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Todd Howland, expressed serious “concern” over the ongoing murders and called for investigations. However, the echoes of unrecognized calls to address human rights abuses are plentiful in the lawless rural areas of Colombia, where the police are not often the harbingers of law and order. This does not mean that Bogota should give up on the peace talks, especially since they proved to be successful in the late 1980s with the demobilization of the guerrilla movement, M19, and later with the demobilization of the paramilitary groups known as the, AUC. Unfortunately, the longer the talks with the FARC drag on without any progress to show for it, there will be more pressure placed on Santos to make some kind of drastic decision (i.e. continue with them or return to a “military solution).

Today, Colombia is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military training and aid in the world, ranking it eighth in the world, at $185 million USD, in 2010. During the Cold War, the United States was involved in counterinsurgency operations in Colombia and provided to the Colombian state millions of dollars for the purpose of combating drug trafficking with the continued flow of military funding and training being sent as a result of President Bill Clinton’s “Plan Colombia” (2000 – 2006) and George W. Bush’s “Andean Regional Initiative” (2008 – 2010).  The programs were successfully aimed at the forced eradication of coca shipments as well as the fighting of Colombia’s left-wing guerrillas. Through continued initiatives, billions of dollars have been spent fighting Washington’s war on drugs and its subsequent war on terror. Colombia, however, remains one of the top three cocaine exporting countries in the world.  Its internal armed conflict between state forces and right and left-wing armed groups continues to rage.

Despite numerous studies that have concluded that the cheapest and most effective way to deal with the drug situation is to redirect funds from law enforcement and forced eradication into treatment and prevention, [2] over the years the U.S. government has maintained its multilateral approach to the “war on drugs” both at home and abroad. Given the resounding failure to achieve such initiatives, one must ask: is there an alternative objective that the current strategy could be used to achieve comparable goals by other means?

Coca, not Cocaine

U.S. anti-drug policy disproportionally targets the cultivation of coca leaves, thus blurring the line between coca (the natural raw crop) and cocaine (the processed illegal drug). Growing coca has been a tradition of the indigenous people of the Andean region for centuries for multiple uses. People chew on the leaves of the plant or drink them brewed in tea, providing a mild stimulant similar to caffeine. The plant can also be used for the treatment of medicinal conditions such as soroche (altitude sickness). Coca was sacred to the Incas and continues to be an important part of the indigenous cultures of the region. However, Colombian authorities currently do not distinguish between large-scale industrial coca farms and peasants growing the crop in order to survive.

In the other two top cocaine producing countries in the world, Bolivia and Peru, this lack of distinction and the subsequent negative effects that forced eradication policies on indigenous peasants resulted in the formation of a syndicate of coca growers, the cocaleros. It was through this movement that Bolivia’s current president and former cocalero leader, Evo Morales, ascended to the presidency. Coca consumption and a limited amount of cultivation is now legal in Bolivia under the policy “Yes to Coca, No to Cocaine” (Coca Sí, Cocaína No). Despite coca’s legalization, and its cultivation for legal purposes being expanded, illicit cocaine production in Bolivia has not increased. [3]

The Neoliberal Effect

The U.S. has long held a policy of pushing neoliberal economic polices in Latin America. This has been achieved as a result of NGO activity, strategically allocated aid, coercive interventions, qualified conditions attached to International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank loans, and bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements attached to partnership agrements. There is substantial literature exposing the resultant social stratification these policies have brought about in Latin America [4] but one particular effect of neoliberalism is that it has directly resulted in increased cultivation of coca for export.

The neoliberal model aims to re-orientate agricultural production to the export market. While neoliberal policies want to remove protective tariff barriers on agricultural goods, subsidized U.S. agricultural imports make such a reproach difficult for domestically produced crops. Larger farms and ranches with sufficient resources can move into growing large scale export crops, such as coffee, but these crops are soon found to be more labor intensive, require more land, and cost more when it comes to transportation. Many small farmers and peasants, therefore, find that the only economic area in which they can maintain a competitive advantage is in the cultivation of coca. This was also evident in Mexico after President Carlos Salinas de Gotari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. subsidized corn imports undermined Mexico’s domestic agriculturalists could not afford to invest in the production of other export crops began growing illicit drugs or left their rural plots for the city. Therefore, a lack of employment opportunities pushed many rural immigrants into the hands of the drug traffickers.

If the United States wished to reduce the cultivation of coca in Colombia, the most effective policy would be to redirect military aid into funding government subsidization of legal crops, even though the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement prohibits such action. Under this agreement, which was signed in 2006 and came into effect on May 15, 2012, Colombia is obliged to dismantle all of its domestic protections, while the United States is permitted to maintain its own agricultural subsidies—an unfair advantage in the trade of agricultural products. In 2010, Oxfam International commissioned a study, which revealed the unequal terms of this trade pact. It demonstrated that the agreement would lower the prices local farmers would receive for major crops such as corn and beans, which would reduce domestic cultivation of these crops and substantially impact the income and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Colombian peasant farmers. [5] 

Biological warfare

One major objective of Plan Colombia has been the destruction of coca fields by aerial chemical fumigation, thus impacting the cocaine trade at its source. Glyphosate, the chemical substance used to fumigate illicit crops and known by its brand name Roundup, was originally patented and produced by the U.S. agricultural corporation, Monsanto. Monsanto classifies Glyphosate as a “mild” herbicide, but the World Health Organization classified it as “extremely poisonous.” [6] Roundup is sold over the counter in the United States as an herbicide that carries the warning,

Roundup will kill almost any green plant that is actively growing. Roundup should not be applied to bodies of water such as ponds, lakes or streams…After an area has been sprayed with Roundup, people and pets (such as cats and dogs) should stay out of the area until it is thoroughly dry…If Roundup is used to control undesirable plants around fruit or nut trees, or grapevines, allow twenty-one days before eating the fruits or nuts. [7]

In Colombia, two additives, Cosmo-Flux 411 and Cosmo InD, are added to the lethal cocktail, which increase its toxicity four-fold and produce what is known as Roundup Ultra, or as some call it “Colombia’s Agent Orange.” [8] In addition, the concentrations in the mixtures prepared by the Colombian military (under the guidance of their U.S. colleagues) are five times stronger than is recognized as safe for aerial application by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). [9] This product is regularly sprayed over inhabited areas, farmland, livestock, and areas of invaluable biodiversity. [10] The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, a Federal Advisory Committee to the EPA, issued a letter on July 19, 2001 stating, “Aerial spraying of the herbicide has caused eye, respiratory, skin and digestive ailments; destroyed subsistence crops; sickened domestic animals; and contaminated water supplies.” [11] Even anti-drug development projects, including ones funded by USAID, the United Nations, the Colombian government and international NGOs, have been destroyed by fumigation. One of many examples is that of COSURCA, an organic coffee cooperative founded to provide peasant farmers with an alternative to coca cultivation. COSURCA was prepared in 2005 and again in 2007, and ended up destroying the coffee crop and the project’s organic certification for future crops. [12]

As well as the clear human health, food security, and environmental risks involved in the fumigation campaign, it has also been a massive failure in achieving its stated goal of eradicating the coca crop. Coca, unlike most other food crops, is quite resistant to aerial spraying of glyphosate. Many farmers, who are destined to have their food crops destroyed are left with few options when coca is all that will grow on their land after the spraying of glyphosate has been applied. Ironically, the fumigation campaign has therefore provided an added stimulus to coca cultivation. [13]

Militarization of the War on Drugs

The militaristic approach to fighting the drug war has intensified the conflict in Colombia. The result has been mass displacement and disenfranchisement of the country’s population, which has pushed more people into various facets of the drug trade. Furthermore, numerous studies dating back to the 1980s have almost universally concluded that militarizing the drug war would have little to no effect on the consumption of illicit drugs in the United States. [14] The effect of the militarized strategy has led to an increase in drug-related violence, wherever it has been applied. There is not a more clear-cut example of this than Mexico. Before Mexican President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) militarized Mexico’s drug war, the violent crime rate was actually falling. Since this approach has been adopted, with avid U.S. support including the allocation of $1.4 billion USD over a three-year period (2008 – 2010) through the Mérida Initiative (a security pact between the U.S., Mexico and Central America that includes significant financial aid from Washington to the region to combat drug trafficking), the homicide rate has more than doubled, the violent crime rate has increased by more than 200 percent, and the level of human rights abuses committed by the military in their attempts to reign in the drug cartels have increased six-fold. [15]

In terms of preventing the flow of drugs into the U.S. the militarized approach has one simple economic paradox at its core. By disproportionally tackling production and distribution (the supply side of the equation) without equally tackling consumption (the demand side of the equation), the price of the product is increased. This approach thus provides a greater profit incentive for people to take the risks involved in trafficking and producing illicit drugs.

War on Narcoguerrillas?

Plan Colombia’s original objective was the eradication of coca plantations by targeting leftist narcoguerrillas directly involved in the drug trade. Evidence of a direct link between left-leaning insurgent groups and the illicit drug trade, however, did not emerge until the early 2000s after the launch of Plan Colombia. In fact, into the late 1990s, little evidence was available to suggest that these groups’ involvement in the production and distribution of drugs actually extended beyond the taxation of coca cultivation in the regions controlled by narcoguerrillas. In 1997, while testifying at a congressional hearing, Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Donnie Marshall admitted,

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. [16]

The primary objective of Plan Colombia was to apprehend left-wing narcoguerrillas; consequently, the mission failed to target equally right-wing Colombian paramilitaries. While a few high-profile paramilitary figures have been tried in court for drug trafficking. The government’s focus remains principally on the abuses committed by left-wing groups. This is despite the fact that, at least as early as 1997, the DEA was aware of their involvement in the government’s greater control of deployment and communications. In the aforementioned congressional testimony, Marshall stated that the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), which was once Colombia’s largest Colombian right-wing paramilitary group, was “closely linked” to the Henao Montoya organization, otherwise known as “the most powerful of the various independent trafficking groups that comprise the North Valle drug mafia.” Marshall went on to explain that the AUC’s former leader, Carlos Castaño, was, “a major cocaine trafficker in his own right.”

Fumigation also has been widely concentrated in left-wing guerrilla strongholds in the south east, despite the fact that right-wing paramilitaries are known to be involved in cocaine production and trafficking in the north of the country. Suspicions have thus emerged on the basis that the real aim of the fumigation campaign is to remove one of the guerrilla’s key revenue streams (the taxation of coca cultivation in areas they control) rather than coca cultivation in general.

The differential treatment of right and left-wing groups has also led many critics to suggest that the United States tolerates, and possibly even supports, right-wing paramilitary activities due to their ideological alliance with neoliberal U.S. economic interests in South America. In 2001, an investigation by Amnesty International led to a lawsuit against the U.S. government to obtain the CIA records of “Los Pepes,” a vigilante organization set up by Carlos Castaño. The court found, “an extremely suspect relationship between the U.S. government and the Castño family–at a time when the U.S. government was well aware of that family’s involvement with paramilitary violence and narcotics trafficking.” [17]


The War on Drugs and The War on Terror

Colombia was one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid and training throughout the later phases of the Cold War. During the Cold War era, the communist threat was used to justify counterinsurgency operations against the FARC, ELN, M19, and EPL rebels, whose communist and socialist roots posed a particular threat to U.S. economic interests due to Colombia’s extensive natural resources and strategic geographical location. Even if the idea of leftist guerrillas gaining control of the Colombian state has diminished in credibility, rebels regularly attack U.S. interests, including the infrastructure (railways, pipelines, etc.) of U.S. energy and mining multinationals in Colombia. According to Marc Grossman, former U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, “[Colombian insurgents] represent a danger to the $4.3 billion USD in direct U.S. investment in Colombia…Colombia supplied 3 percent of U.S. oil imports in 2001, and possesses substantial potential oil and natural gas reserves.” [18]

After the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, the communist threat could no longer be used to justify U.S. counterinsurgency operations in Colombia or elsewhere in Latin America. As a result, the U.S. military’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) often used the drug war as a justification for maintaining the same levels of military spending and counterinsurgency training of Latin American militaries. Thus, “low intensity warfare strategies employed in Central America were easily adopted to fight a war on drugs.” [19] In Colombia, left-wing rebels, previously labelled “Communists” became “narcoguerrillas,” and as of post-9/11, they morphed again into “terrorists.” President George W. Bush used the war on terror to redefine the Colombian conflict as well as to describe counter-insurgency operations against the rebels as counter-terrorist operations. Nevertheless, the target of this campaign remained the left-wing guerrillas, despite the Colombian Army and closely linked armed right-wing paramilitary groups’ guilt in committing countless human rights abuses. [20]

The Historic Importance of Military Training to U.S. Foreign Policy

Military training and the formation of allied militaries, whose interests and ideologies would faithfully reflect those of Washington, historically have been one of the main methods of U.S. control in Latin America. Several military training facilities, including the notorious School of the Americas (SOA), have been established specifically for training Latin American officers, who went on to routinely commit human rights abuses. [21] Nearly every officer involved in the 1973 Chilean coup trained there, and many members of the Colombian Army continue to train there today. Beyond the training these officers receive in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism, and unconventional warfare (among other forms of attack), SOA (renamed WHINSEC) intentionally cultivates a glorified image of “privileged capitalist modernity and a strong belief in the right-wing capitalist model.” [22]

What resulted from such instructions in the past was the creation of highly politicized right-wing military entities. These entities remained allied to the state only insofar as the government in power reflected a similar ideology. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, this atmosphere resulted in military coups against left-leaning governments throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. As Latin American states transitioned to democracy, the strength of these right-leaning militaries (as well as well-grounded fears of U.S. military intervention) led to the establishment of “pacted democracies,” whereby elite and military support for a democratic transition was conditioned on the formation of certain economic parameters and were eventually enshrined into the national constitutions. Although many democratic movements were mobilized on the basis of wealth redistribution, these pacts generally guaranteed the continued presence of foreign multinationals in extractive industries as well as ruling out the nationalization of resources and the socialization of land as trophies resulting from electoral outcomes. [23] Where specific pacts did not exist, the left leaning elected governments remained very wary of their right-wing militaries when making policy decisions. In Chile, one of the more modern examples is that, even though the Concertación (Chile’s democratic movement) could be skeptical about neoliberalism, the intimidating power of the right-wing military caused them to accept a moderately reformed version of Pinochet’s 1980 constitution which enshrined the neoliberal model. [24]

This is also the reason why very few Latin American countries, with the exception of Argentina and Guatemala, have tried to hold military personal accountable for the atrocities in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, in many places, the army personnel, who took part in grave atrocities continue to hold high ranking positions in the military. In Colombia, military abuses continue to this day, although at a lower pace, and a culture of impunity has been created, which remains a hindering factor to any potential for peace and reconciliation. [25] Many high ranking members of the Colombian military trained in the U.S. as counter-insurgents during the Cold War and were taught to define a number activities associated with healthy democratic ties, as “Insurgent Activity Indicators.” Such indicators listed in the manuals used by U.S. trainees included,

Characterization of the armed forces as the enemy of the people…Increased unrest amongst labourers…Increased number of articles or advertisements in newspapers criticizing the government. Strikes or work stoppages…Increase of petitions demanding government redress of grievance” and “Initiation of letter-writing campaigns to newspapers and government officials deploring undesirable conditions and blaming individuals in power. [26]

The Stability of Instability

It is clear that the war on drugs and the subsequent war on terror in Colombia have been used as fronts to justify the continued counter-insurgency war against the country’s left-wing. Or, as Stan Goff, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer for counter-insurgency operations and former military advisor to Colombia, stated,

The ‘war on drugs’ is simply a propaganda ploy…We were briefed by the Public Affairs Officers that counter-narcotics was a cover story…that our mission, in fact, was to further develop Colombians’ capacity for counterinsurgency operations. [27]

U.S. and Colombian anti-terror and anti-drug policies have failed. Peasant farmers, who depend on coca for their livelihoods have been forced to rely on the armed guerrillas to protect their coca crop from planes spraying chemicals. The displacement and terrorization of people and the destruction of subsistence crops in rural areas due to fumigation and military and paramilitary activity have created a large amount of unemployed, disenfranchised, and angry young people, who gravitate towards the guerrilla movement due to the impunity of the armed forces and the perceived inability of the Colombian justice and democratic political systems to hear their grievances or reflect their interests. The Colombian army and paramilitary groups continue to see coca-growing peasants as guerrilla collaborators and therefore legitimate military targets (due to the taxes they are forced to pay on their coca crops).

Activities such as Naomi Klein, [28] have argued that the real aim in Colombia is in fact to maintain a state of constant conflict,  This state should have not only sufficient order to protect investments and transport links, but also, sufficient disorder and terror, so as to maintain a subservient and flexible workforce as well as an economic system which allows only a small local elite and foreign multinationals to benefit from the country’s resources. Colombia’s official military protects investments and transport links important to the extractive industries, while paramilitaries closely linked to the official army are revealed as a connected to the U.S. government, sufficiently intimidating any move toward reform of the system. This is achieved through a policy of assassination, suppression, and terrorization of the political left, human rights activists, trade unionists, and peasant and indigenous movements.

Economic Imperialism

In 1996, four years before Plan Colombia was passed by the U.S. Congress, the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership, representing U.S. companies with interests in Colombia, was founded. This organization launched a well-financed lobbying effort for U.S. intervention in the resource rich Andean state. Among the companies represented in this Business Partnership were Occidental Petroleum, Enron, Texaco, and BP. [29] A survey released a few months prior to the passage of Plan Colombia in the U.S. Congress indicated that there were a large number of commercially viable and unexploited oil fields in the Putumayo region of Colombia, [30] incidentally, the same area that experiences the highest intensity of paramilitary activity and aerial fumigation.

This correlation was enough to arouse suspicion that these policies are actually aimed at displacing local people from their land in order to open it up to speculation by foreign multinationals [31] while simultaneously clearing the dense rainforest that makes identifying and pinpointing the location of oilfields difficult. [32] This seems to be a recurrent theme in local impressions of the U.S. war on drugs in a number of different countries. In Guatemala, for example, locals have criticized militarization of the resource rich north-eastern province of Petén. While it is well known that this area is used to facilitate the transport of drugs to Mexico, local residents suspect the heavy military presence has more to do with oil interests in the region. [33] Similar complaints have emerged from the Moskitia region of eastern Honduras, which has experienced increased militarization in recent years, particularly so since the 2009 coup. According to Norvin Goff Salinas, president of an indigenous Miskitu federation, “More than anything else, they’re militarizing because of the natural resources that are in the Moskitia, especially the strategic spots where there is oil.” [34]

Foreign direct investment (FDI) flowing into Colombia rose from $2.4 billion USD at the outset of Plan Colombia to $14.4 billion USD by 2011. In the mid 1990s, oil and gas constituted only 10 percent of all FDI in Colombia but by 2010 this had increased to almost one third. [35] However, Colombia remains the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist and one of the most unequal countries in the world with the top 10 percent of the country’s population controlling nearly half of the country’s wealth. [36]


It is evident that in the stated objective of eradicating coca cultivation and narcotrafficking in Colombia, the United States’s anti-drug strategy continues to be a resounding failure. From the perspective of the U.S. State Department, however, Plan Colombia was not a failure at all but instead, “allowed for the creation of an effective new model for U.S. intervention.” [37] As the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s director of international affairs and trade put it, “international programs face significant challenges reducing the supply of illegal drugs but support broad U.S. foreign policy objectives.” [38] These objectives, throughout the period of U.S. hegemony, have remained the same. U.S. imperialism is not based on territorial control but on economic control. The adoption of the neoliberal capitalist model across Latin America greatly benefited U.S. companies by making resource extraction less expensive (due to reduced corporate tax), labor cheaper (due to labor flexiblization practices), and domestic markets easier to dominate (due to the removal of all state subsidies and the breakup of state-owned companies). The last point holds a particular level of hypocrisy, because, while other countries face the prospect of  abandoning all state subsidies, the United States maintains high levels of protectionism in the one area that developing countries would hold a competitive advantage in a free market system-agriculture.

The difficulty lies in maintaining a system in which the main beneficiaries of economic production in a country are a tiny, local, elite, and foreign multinationals. This, historically, has been achieved through substantial repression. Throughout the Cold War such repression was justified by labelling as communist any movement or political party whose views fell outside of radical right-wing capitalism. One crucial method of ensuring the maintenance of this economic model in Latin America has been the cultivation of allied militaries, whose ideological beliefs fall exactly in line with those of Washington. The end of the Cold war necessitated a new justification for the continuation of this practice and thus, the war on drugs was born. After the 9/11 attacks, the initiative evolved into a war on terrorism.

It is established that U.S. “war on terrorism” policies in Colombia and beyond further alienate the populations of countries, where they are implemented and swell the ranks of the militarized “terrorist” forces the United States claims to be fighting. Nevertheless, the purpose of this war, like the war on drugs and the war on communism before it, is the creation of a façade that justifies U.S. economic imperialism. The ‘terrorists,’ therefore, like the ‘narcoguerrillas’, play a crucial role in maintaining this façade. The United States’s Colombia policy is certainly aimed at making sure left-wing insurgent groups never gain sufficient strength or political unity necessary to overthrow the state. These groups are also a necessary to have as an enemy, just as the continuation of the internal conflict is necessary, to justify continued U.S. military training, aid and intrusion in the affairs of the strategically located, oil and resources of this rich Andean state.

Jenny O’Connor, Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated.

For additional news or analysis on Latin America, please go to: Latin News


[1] “Colombia’s Santos Rejects FARC call for Ceasefire,” Reuters, September 7, 2012,

[2] See for example, C. Peter Rydell (1994), Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs, Rand Drug Policy Research Center. 

[3] Frye, Alexander, “Spotlight on Bolivia: The “Coca Diplomacy” of Evo Morales, Council on Hemispheric Affairs,” April 25, 2012,

[4] See for example: Stokes, Susan C. (2001), “Mandates and Democracy: Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America,” Cambridge University Press; Weyland, Kurt (2004), “Neoliberalism and Democracy in Latin America: A Mixed Record,” Latin America politics and Society. 46 (1): p135 – 157; Gwynne, Robert N. and Cristóbal Kay (2000), “Views from the Periphery: Futures of Neoliberalism in Latin America,” Third World Quarterly. 21 (1): p141-156.

[5] Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2010), Will the U.S.–Colombia Free Trade Agreement Help Colombia’s Small Farmers? March 10 

[6] Bigwood, Jeremy (2001), Toxic Drift: Monsanto and the Drug War in Colombia.

[7] Robin, Marie-Monique (2010), The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Coruption and the Control of our Food Supply, pg 138.

[8] Robin, Marie-Monique (2010), The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Coruption and the Control of our Food Supply, pg 138.

*This nickname no doubt originates from the fact that Monsanto produced the chemical Agent Orange which was used for aerial fumigation during the Vietnam War resulting in birth defects, poisoning of land and outbreaks of cancer. After the war it emerged that Monsanto had known of Agent Orange’s toxicity years before but had tried to cover it up. Due to the side affects seen in Colombians living in areas that have been sprayed with Roundup Ultra, and Monstanto’s less than savoury record, many fear that, like Agent Orange, Roundup Ultra will hold future health implications yet unknown.

[9] Robin, Marie-Monique (2010), The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Coruption and the Control of our Food Supply, pg 138.

[10] Chemical War: Herbicides, drug crops and collateral damage in Colombia. After the Fact (a publication of the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies), Winter 2001.

[11] Chemical War: Herbicides, drug crops and collateral damage in Colombia. After the Fact (a publication of the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies), Winter 2001.

[12] U.S. based NGO Witness for Peace

[13] U.S. based NGO Witness for Peace

[14] See for example: RAND Corporation, Sealing the Borders; The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction, The study also noted that seven prior studies on the same topic over the preceding nine years had resulted in similar conclusions, including one done by the Center for Naval Research and the Office of Technology Assessment.

[15] Upside Down World, Interview with Peter Watt. ‘The drug war in Mexico; politics, violence and neo-liberalism in the new narco-economy’.

[16] DEA Congressional testimony July 9, 1997. Statement by Donnie Marshall, Chief of Operations of the Drug Enforcement Administration, before the Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice.

[17] Villar, Olivar (2011), Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia, pg. 79.

[18] Stokes, Doug (2005), America’s Other War: Terrorising Colombia, Canadian Dimension Vol. 39, No. 4; Pg. 26.

[19] Gill, Lesley (2004), The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas. Pg 10.

[20] Human Rights Watch, (2011), World Report 2012.

[21] See for example the website of SOA Watch, an organisation that documents Latin American  military officers that have attended SOA/WHINSEC and have allegedly committed human rights abuses:

[22] Gill, Lesley (2004), The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas. Pg 10.

[23] Karl, Terry L. (1987), Petroleum and Political Pacts: The Transition to Democracy in Venezuela, Latin American Research Review. pg82.

[24] Likewise, electoral law results in overrepresentation of rightwing parties, giving nonelected senators and institutions veto power over the legislator. Olavarría, Margot (2003). “Protected Neoliberalism: Perverse Institutionalization and the Crisis of Representation in Postdictatorship Chile”. Chile since 1990: The Contradictions of Neoliberal Democratization, Part 2. Latin American Perspectives. 30 (6): p10-38.

[25] European Commission, Colombia Country Strategy Paper 2007 – 2013.

[26]  Stokes, Doug (2005), America’s Other War: Terrorising Colombia, Canadian Dimension Vol. 39, No. 4; Pg. 26.

[27] Feinberg, Leslie (2003), War in Colombia: Made in the U.S.A, International Action Center p. 81.

[28] Klein, Naomi (2007), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Gorman, Peter (2003), PLAN COLOMBIA: THE PENTAGON’S SHELL GAME, From the Wilderness

[29] Gorman, Peter (2003), PLAN COLOMBIA: THE PENTAGON’S SHELL GAME, From the Wilderness.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Craig-Best, Liam and Shingler, Rowan, Cultivation of Illicit Crops, Spectrozine 

[32] Gorman, Peter (2003), PLAN COLOMBIA: THE PENTAGON’S SHELL GAME, From the Wilderness

[33] Paley, Dawn (2012), Guatemala: The Spoils of Undeclared War. Upside Down World.

[34]   Cuffe, Sandra and Spring, Karen (2012) Botched DEA Raid in Honduras Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World, AlterNet.

[35] Paley, Dawn (2012), Colombia and Mexico: Drug War Capitalism, Against the Current.

[36] World Bank

[37] Paley, Dawn (2012), Colombia and Mexico: Drug War Capitalism, Against the Current.

[38] Ford, Jess T. (2012), DRUG CONTROL: International programs face significant challenges reducing the supply of illegal drugs but support broad US foreign policy objectives, Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

2 thoughts on “The U.S. War on Communism, Drugs, and Terrorism in Colombia

  • April 13, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Interesting article. There's something very 1984 about the concept that enemies (like terrorists and narcoguerrillas) are necessary to justify American military policy.

  • May 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Please send me more information in relation to this topic.


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