The Governors of the South Visit Washington


The US aid package, approved in July 2000, contains primarily security assistance for the Colombian armed forces and National Police. The plan is the result of a bilateral alliance between the Colombian government and the government of the United States: The Colombian government receives more resources for the counter-insurgency war, while the U.S. government imposes General McCaffrey's antidrug strategy focused on repressing supply by fumigating the illicit crops concentrated in southern Colombia.

This package is not a result of the peace negotiations or of any democratic effort to reach consensus with Colombian society at large or with the regional governments. It has been rejected nationally and internationally, specifically because it accords priority to escalating the war, does not offer sustainable social alternatives to the peasant coca growers, and generally contributes to the deterioration of the social, environmental, and humanitarian situation.

One of the most interesting political responses was seen in the October 2000 elections for governors and mayors in southern Colombia. These elections brought to power governors and mayors from independent political initiatives committed to a mandate that is squarely opposed to the repressive fumigation of the illegal crops, which supports the continuity of the peace processes and which demands the creation of democratic spaces and social solutions that are alternatives to the complex problems of poverty and exclusion that affect most of the population. This followed in the wake of the voices of civil society that made themselves heard in an October 2000 meeting in Costa Rica, which helped to define a position by the European Union and other countries of not wanting to have anything to do with Plan Colombia.


Plan Colombia's defect: Doesn't take account of people


Four of these governors decided to visit Washington in March to denounce the negative effects of the fumigation operations carried out in December and January mainly in Putumayo, and to present alternative proposals. Their critique was put succinctly by Iván Guerrero, the governor of Putumayo: "Plan Colombia's major defect is that it doesn't take into account human beings," as it involves indiscriminate fumigation and fails to provide for human needs. Their proposal is based on the following points:

1. Demand the participation of society, the ethnic minority groups, and the local governments in the decisions related to the peace process, the antidrug policy, and the policies that affect their regions.

2. Opposition to drug trafficking but also to the fumigation of the economic base of the peasant coca growers, and the demand for peaceful and effective alternatives to resolve the social crisis, with social and agrarian reform programs, infrastructure, technical support, and access to markets. Support for manual eradication of the industrial-scale crops and the earmarking of these lands to social programs.

3. Support for the peace processes, respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and rejection of assistance for the war.

4. Rejection of policies that provoke the social and environmental deterioration of the Macizo Colombiano and the Amazon basin, and demand for alternatives based on shared responsibility.

5. The U.S. government should turn away from Plan Colombia and instead embrace a policy to support the peace processes and the reforms aimed at overcoming poverty and political, social, economic, regional, and cultural exclusion.


The governors who traveled to Washington are:

- Cauca: Floro Alberto Tunubalá Paja, Guambiano indigenous leader, elected by the Bloque Social Alternativo.

- Nariño: Parmenio Cuéllar, independent, former justice minister of the Pastrana administration.

- Tolima: Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo, of the Partido del Socialismo Democrático, member of the Frente Social y Político.

- Putumayo: Iván Gerardo Guerrero, Liberal party.


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