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Peace Is Slipping Away in Colombia

How the United States Can Help Win It Back

A Colombian flag next to the FARC Political party flag at a reintegration camp in Pondores, Colombia, August 2019  Luisa González / Reuters

Between 2000 and 2015, the United States provided Colombia—a country plagued by political and social strife—with more than $10 billion in aid in order to bring stability to the Andean nation. The U.S. government also sent hundreds of U.S. military trainers to help reform and professionalize the Colombian security forces. Partly as a result of these efforts, the South American state signed a peace deal in 2016 that promised to put an end to five decades of armed conflict within its borders.

Implementation of these measures was meant to take place over 15 years and bore a price tag exceeding $30 billion. Washington and other foreign capitals regarded the agreement as a triumph for U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the accord. 

The 2016 deal promised to disarm and reintegrate the members of the Marxist-Leninist insurgency known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) into Colombian society. The accord included a plan to develop Colombia’s long-abandoned countryside and a substitution program for illicit drug crops, which were fueling the violence. It also guaranteed justice for victims of the conflict as well as the right of the FARC to participate in elections as a lawful political party.

Today this agreement is in jeopardy. What’s worse, Washington has turned a blind eye to the Colombian president’s slipshod implementation of the accord. The Trump administration’s negligence may abet the spread of drug violence or reignite the conflict. To prevent this, the United States should step up its financial and political support for the full implementation of the hard-won peace deal.

A FRIEND IN NEED

In 1999, the U.S. government took a gamble on Colombia, the world’s largest producer of cocaine and a longtime U.S. ally. The United States vowed to help the war-torn nation restore order and establish the rule of law in vast stretches of ravaged territory. At the time, Colombia faced one of the worst humanitarian crises

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