“Waiting for Consolidation” examines the role of the US’s military and development aid programs to Colombia in bringing government presence to areas of the country long-affected by violence.
Published in February 2012 , the report is a joint initiative between the Center for International Policy, the Washington Office on Latin America, Asociacion Minga and Indepaz. It is the result of 2011 visits to Tumaco in Nariño province, La Macarena in Meta and Montes de Maria in the northeast, which are among 14 areas of focus of a US-aided scheme known as the “Consolidation program.” This is the successor to Plan Colombia.
The Consolidation program begins with increasing the military’s presence in the area concerned, to establish “security conditions.” The idea is to reduce the level of violence, remove armed groups, and significantly limit the capacity for drug trafficking. This would then allow the military to withdraw and the police to take charge of the zone.
The visits involved interviews with community leaders, analysts, government officials, the military, and human rights defenders. In each of the areas, the report found the aims of the program to be a long way from completion. According to the report, despite there being signs that the US and Colombia have learned from the failings of Plan Colombia, there are worrying signs regarding the effect the program may have on land tenure, the inefficient coordination between government bodies, and the role of the military.
Furthermore, the report states, the programs in the three areas, and nationwide, appear to be in a state of flux since President Juan Manuel Santos took office in 2010, with the president focusing on a land restitution program over Consolidation. Though he has addressed Consolidation by spending a great deal of bureaucratic energy on a process to redesign the program’s framework and inter-agency cooperation, the program is still very much in a holding pattern, the report notes.
However, as the report states:
The Consolidation program’s apparent loss of momentum in 2011 is not fatal. In fact, the “rethinking” process could bring more robust participation of the rest of the government. Plans to spend significant resources through 2014 are encouraging, and the land-restitution program could bring the desired end-state closer. Even a recharged and reinvigorated program, however, must confront the same daunting challenges as before. These include the military’s outsized role, civilian agencies’ slow response, uncertain land tenure, unaccountable local governments, persistent security challenges, and the justice system’s continued absence.
The report goes on to outline specific findings from the three areas before concluding with eight recommendations for the Consolidation program that it says should be urgently adopted.
Click here to read the full report (pdf).