Friday, October 13, 2006

USAID Cuts Colombia's Development Funding

Sources: The Guardian, U.S. Cuts Economic Aid for Colombia Area; New York Times, Less Aid for Colombian States Rich in Coca.

Under its new $350 million, 5-year plan for Colombia, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on October 11 that it will completely eliminate development funding for Caquetá and three other impoverished southern regions. The cuts come despite the fact that these areas have seen a recent explosion in coca production, the plant from which cocaine is made. Since shortly after the initiation of Plan Colombia, a multi-faceted anti-narcotic initiative started by the Colombian government in 1999, USAID has provided money for development programs in high coca-production areas in hopes of discouraging farmers from growing the crop.

Around $70 million out of Plan Colombia’s $4 billion effort is spent on these development programs annually. Strikingly, the regions where coca production is most concentrated typically receive the least amount of aid. For example, Caquetá, an area that produced approximately 24 percent of the coca that the United States detected in Colombia during its most recent survey, has been allotted only $5.6 million for development programs since 2000. USAID’s new plan, however, means that from now on Caquetá will receive nothing.

Critics claim that by failing to provide money for the regions where alternatives to coca cultivation are most needed USAID completely undermines the United States’ war on drugs. The number one cash crop in Caquetá is coca, and most coca farmers grow the crop because there are few other sources of income. Consequently, with USAID’s recent refusal to provide financial support, the alternatives for Caquetá’s 450,000 residents have been further diminished.

USAID claims that the development money it previously spent in Caquetá is better used in areas where there is a higher likelihood of long-term success in eradicating coca; the security risks and lack of private investment have made work in the region unfeasible. Plan Colombia will still affect Caquetá, however, as the program’s "non-development" wing has no plans to diminish searches for coca, arrests for growing the crop, and wide-spread aerial fumigation. Notably, not all development programs in the region have been abandoned. Nestle SA will continue to operate a dairy plant in Caquetá with aid from the United Nations.


(1) One critic of the USAID’s funding cut has declared that it is “all stick and no carrot.” What are some of the potential consequences of using aggressive coca eradication tactics, including potentially harmful aerial fumigation, without providing citizens with realistic alternatives to participating in coca production?

No comments: