The European Commission and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) co-hosted this meeting of the Donors Support Group, supposedly to support the Peace Process in Colombia. Tight control ensured that it was mostly a friendly audience. Trade unions were excluded.
Richard Howitt, the MEP who earlier this year was one of those who had successfully pushed for the European Parliament to adopt a position critical of US military intervention, had to insist on his right to attend against opposition from Pastrana.
Despite heavy policing groups of Colombian refugees and their supporters did their best to get the Colombian people’s voice heard outside, and ocassionally also inside, the conference.
Certainly the outcome of the EU resolution and the political mobilisation meant that the EU Commissioner Chris Patten had to say that the Europeans would not extend funds for the military aspects of Plan Colombia, and that the pledged donations of some $300 million were to support the peace effort. But sadly this should not be seen as a victory by anti-imperialists. The outcome was an endorsement of the Pastrana government’s misnamed "peace process", and, in effect, further finance for the social component of Plan Colombia.
There was no condition placed on the Colombian state to remove the impunity from justice that it grants the paramilitary death squads, which is the essential step towards a negotiated solution. The paramilitaries’ disruption of the ELN talks is but the latest example of their determination to block the peace process.
The European politicians may have done enough to salve their consciences, but nowhere near enough to help the Colombian people.
April in Brussels was the third in a series of meetings instigated by Pastrana to draw in the international community: Madrid July 2000 at which $871 million was pledged, Bogota October 2000 saw another $280 million on the table, and in November 2000 the
IDB announced a loan worth $300 million. Altogether these come to $1.7 billion.
Whatever their specific budget headings, this is all money made available to the murderous Colombian state and legitimising its standing.
The IDB is not a neutral force as it appears, but a highly experienced and sophisticated instrument of neo-liberalism (see What is the IDB? article in this bulletin). In 1997 the IDB lent Colombia $90 million for an alternative crop development program, and the next year three more loans totaling $134.3 million for roads, sanitation, and energy efficiency. The IDB has a $30 million project to strengthen public security. There is no real consultation with the Colombian popular organisations about the advisability of these loans.
Through its representative Carlos Binetti, the IDB has strongly supported Plan Colombia. From the beginning the IDB was part of the strategy to raise international finance. In the USA its called the war against drugs, in Europe its sold as the ‘peace process’. In reality both elements are strands of the same counter-insurgency strategy.