and Uribe make their shopping list
- and not Mexico, as was the case four years ago - will be the
first Latin American country to get a bilateral visit from George
Bush after his reelection. This shouldn't surprise us: there
are very few governments in the hemisphere that have politically
supported the Iraq adventure, fast free-trade talks, and the
"war on terror" as currently envisioned.
Bush and his foreign-policy team, Álvaro Uribe's Colombia
is a "balance" against the growing axis of center-left
regimes in places like Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina
and now Uruguay. Among the main issues to be discussed with
Uribe will be the question of what will come after Plan Colombia.
At the end of 2005, after six years and $4 billion in U.S. aid
- 80 percent for the armed forces and the police - this program
debate over post-2005 aid will begin in the spring of next year,
when the Bush administration presents Congress with its 2006
aid request. Right now, months before formalizing its request,
the administration is deciding what to ask Congress to grant
Colombia: more military aid, a better balance between money
for war and money for urgent socioeconomic needs, or an across-the-board
cut to free up money for other countries.
President Uribe, then, the November 22 visit is his best opportunity
to lobby on behalf of his preferred "shopping list."
If the past is any guide, this list will not include job-creation
projects, hospitals, schools, or support for the judicial system.
It will be made up of weapons, helicopters, fumigation and perhaps
support to clone "Plan Patriota" and carry out similar
military offensives elsewhere in the country. (Perhaps Uribe's
list will also include a clear signal of U.S. support for his
sell his "shopping list," Uribe and his people will
rain statistics and PowerPoint slides on their U.S. visitors.
Men in uniform will tell of imminent victory over the terrorists.
Officials will assure that, according to their data, fumigation
is finally working and the little human-rights problem is quickly
becoming a thing of the past.
wonderful it would be if, in spite of the security bubble in
which he travels, his first visit to Colombia opens Mr. Bush's
eyes - at least enough to inspire him to ask some uncomfortable
questions. Imagine if Bush sought to learn why, after so many
years of fighting a drug war, the price and purity of cocaine
and heroin has failed to change on U.S. streets.
if Bush asked his own officers if, given the current military
realities in Colombia, we won't see ourselves condemned to keep
on repeating the recent doubling of the legal limit on the U.S.
military presence, until we find ourselves fully involved in
the conflict. Imagine if Bush were to ask why so much U.S. aid
goes to help conquer territory, and so little to help govern
if these questions led Bush to seek to consult with social and
campesino leaders from the zones subject to fumigation; with
brave organizers of innovative peace-building initiatives; with
governors of indigenous groups under fire from all armed actors;
with human-rights defenders and union activists living in conditions
of permanent threat.
is all very unlikely, of course. No matter what, it is at least
reasonable to hope that, instead of another celebration of uncertain
achievements, this visit results in a serious consideration
of the challenges of the near future and the sharp changes in
strategy that will be needed to meet them.