Policy Forum

Plan Colombia: Should We Escalate the War on Drugs?

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Date and Time
March 13, 2001 5 - 6:30 PM EST

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In recent years, Colombia has seen a dramatic expansion in coca production, the strengthening of paramilitary groups, and the control of large parts of the country by Marxist rebels. Washington has responded by approving $1.3 billion in military and foreign aid to fight drug trafficking. But will an escalation in the drug war work, or will it fuel violence and civil war? Russell Crandall will explain how Colombia got where it is today and suggest that the U.S. policy focus on drug trafficking has helped destabilize the country. Amb. James Mack will explain how U.S. support of Plan Colombia can reduce narcotics production and stimulate peace initiatives. Ian Vásquez will call for a fundamental reevaluation of U.S. policy toward Colombia. Is the United States being dragged unnecessarily into a messy and complex foreign conflict? What will be the likely effects of Plan Colombia on neighboring countries? As the lines between the drug industry and the country’s belligerent forces blur, how effective can anti‐​drug efforts be?

Featuring Russell Crandall, Davidson College; James F. Mack, Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Ian Vásquez, Cato Institute.