On July 3rd, members of the U.S.-backed, Colombian Anti-Narcotics Police began forcibly eradicating coca plants in the community of La Caucasia near Puerto Asis, Putumayo. The community protested the operation as many of its members had been engaged in negotiations with the government to participate in a voluntary substitution program. However, those negotiations were cut off by the government using the pandemic as a pretext. As the protests grew larger, the Anti-Narcotics Police opened fire into the crowd of unarmed protesters, killing two and injuring at least three others.
Killings by U.S.-backed security forces have become all too common in Colombia. In a recent report, the Fundación Ideas para la Paz registered 15 violent actions by security forces between January and April of 2020, with at least 7 campesinos killed and dozens more injured.
These forced eradication operations have skyrocketed in recent months as the Trump administration pressures the Colombian government to increase them while providing most of the funding to do so. This includes a quarter billion dollar assistance package and a large deployment of military trainers to train and assist U.S.-backed, Colombian forces carrying out counter-insurgency warfare against left-wing guerrillas as well as progressive political movements in regions deemed of strategic importance to U.S. multinational corporations, all subsidized by U.S. tax-payers under the cover of the so-called “War on Drugs”.
As landless peasants are indiscriminately killed by U.S.-backed security forces, a highly effective crop substitution program goes virtually unacknowledged by international media outlets and the U.S. State Department. The National Program for Illicit Crop Substitution works with marginalized communities living in some of the most remote regions of Colombia to voluntarily eradicate their coca crops in exchange for investment in social programs, basic infrastructure and technical training. Since 2017, at least 99,000 families have enrolled in the program. However, the Colombian government, under intense U.S. pressure has mostly ignored these families, freezing the entire substitution program shortly after the election of right-wing President, Ivan Duque, in August 2018.
The U.S. government continues to promote a policy of militarization and policing in response to every social problem. Encouraging the Colombian military to carry out campaigns of terror against the civilian population while undermining almost every point of the 2016 peace accord. Despite the historic demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), U.S. foreign policy towards Colombia has remained mostly unchanged.
Colombia’s ruling elites, with the help of their U.S. allies, are now mobilizing their forces against an emerging grassroots movement, hostile to the ruling elites’ narrow economic interests, that is gaining ground in territories previously controlled by the FARC. This is no doubt behind the current waves of horrifying violence towards community leaders and civilian populations to make way for “development” projects geared towards meeting the U.S. and Europe’s insatiable thirst for natural resources and endless pools of cheap, obedient, and flexible labor.