Critics of the initiative also claimed that elements within the Colombian security forces, which received aid and training from the U.S., were involved in supporting or tolerating abuses by right-wing paramilitary forces against left-wing guerrilla organizations and their sympathizers. Another controversial element of the anti-narcotic strategy is aerial fumigation toeradicate coca. This activity has come under fire because it damages legal crops and has adverse health effects upon those exposed to the herbicides.
Original Plan Colombia
The original version of Plan Colombia was officially unveiled by President Andres Pastrana in 1999. Pastrana had first proposed the idea of a possible "Marshall Plan for Colombia" during a speech at Bogotá's Tequendama Hotel on June 8, 1998, nearly a week after the first round of that year's presidential elections. Pastrana argued that:
"[Drug crops are] a social problem whose solution must pass through the solution to the armed conflict...Developed countries should help us to implement some sort of 'Marshall Plan' for Colombia, which will allow us to develop great investments in the social field, in order to offer our peasants different alternatives to the illicit crops."
After Pastrana was inaugurated, one of the names given to the initiative at this early stage was "Plan for Colombia's Peace", which President Pastrana defined as "a set of alternative development projects which will channel the shared efforts of multilateral organizations and [foreign] governments towards Colombian society". Pastrana's Plan Colombia, as originally presented, did not focus on drug trafficking, military aid, or fumigation, but instead emphasized the manual eradication of drug crops as a better alternative. According to author Doug Stokes, one of the earlier versions of the plan called for an estimated 55 per cent military aid and 45 percent developmental aid.
During an August 3, 1998 meeting, President Pastrana and U.S. President Bill Clinton discussed the possibility of "securing an increase in U.S. aid for counternarcotics projects, sustainable economic development, the protection of human rights, humanitarian aid, stimulating private investment, and joining other donors and international financial institutions to promote Colombia's economic growth". Diplomatic contacts regarding this subject continued during the rest of the year and into 1999.
For President Pastrana, it became necessary to create an official document that specifically "served to convene important U.S. aid, as well as that of other countries and international organizations" by adequately addressing US concerns. The Colombian government also considered that it had to patch up a bilateral relationship that had heavily deteriorated during the previous administration of President Ernesto Samper (1994–1998). According to Pastrana, Under Secretary of State Thomas R. Pickering eventually suggested that, initially, the U.S. could be able to commit to providing aid over a three year period, as opposed to continuing with separate yearly packages.
As a result of these contacts, US input was extensive, and meant that Plan Colombia's first formal draft was originally written in English, not Spanish, and a Spanish version was not available until "months after a revised English version was already in place".
Critics and observers have referred to the...