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Foreign Aid in Colombia: A Tool of Domination.

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

10 August 2009

This article was originally published in Spanish on the Colombian site 

This article aims to take a look at foreign aid in Colombia and its role in the war, a role that various NGOs deny exists.  Although it is a look at foreign aid in and of itself we have to compare US and European aid as the NGOs often state that Europe’s aid is good and the North American aid not so much.

In the month of February the European Union launched its report on the European aid to Colombia in 2008.  The report explains various truths about the European Union in Colombia, truths that many social organisations are unaware of and that the NGOs wish to hide.  So it is worth reading and analysing it.

The report is full of the supposed good nature of the EU and a few statements that show up the real interest they have in the country.  It has not one, but two introductions.  The first is from the Ambassador and head of the European Commission’s Delegation in Colombia, Fernando Cardesa.  Under the grandiose title of The European Union, partner for Peace and Development, he explains the importance of the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and the Andean region countries, the fight against drugs etc.  He hardly mentions peace, and well development, one presumes, comes from an FTA with Europe.  At the launch he stated that in the negotiations no topic was excluded i.e. access for European companies to the natural resources, the energy sector and the banking sector  etc. will all be negotiated.

The French Ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud continued in a similar vein explaining that the EU is the country’s second commercial partner (although he got the figures wrong).  He informs us that “The European Union and its members States wish to achieve a lasting peace that serves development.   He doesn’t explain what he means by development, but it is obvious, free trade, foreign investment etc. and we all know that the EU is not just concerned about development in Colombia but also in Iraq and Afghanistan (here the reader can take a break and laugh).

When one tries to link the topics of the EU’s economic interest with its aid programmes the NGOs inevitably shout out that it is not so, that one does not understand the good nature of the EU and its selfless pursuit of the welfare of the poor in Colombia (go on, have another laugh if you wish).  But this document on aid devotes an entire chapter to economic relations, as it is self evident to the EU that the two things go hand in hand, despite the angry cries of the NGOs that receive their money (with which they pay their pensions, private health plans etc, things the supposed beneficiaries in the countryside will never have).  So then, what are the EU’s economic links with the country?

Well, the report explains it well. “Between 2006 and 2007 the European Union became Colombia’s second trading partner, surpassing the Andean Community (CAN) and Venezuela.  The total flow of trade between the bloc and the country reached € 6,339 million, some $8,240 millon dollars”  compared to $18,000 million dollars of trade between the USA and Colombia in 2007.   In other words its rise to the position is recent and comes after many years of effort.  Although the volume of trade is lower than that of the USA, the trade balance with Europe is positive.  Colombia imported €2,764 million from Europe and exported €3,575 million leaving a positive balance of €811 million.  With the USA, Colombia exported $8.600 million dollars of goods and imported leaving $9,400 million giving a trade deficit of $800 million.

Despite the supposed ‘development’ that Europe has been implementing in Colombia for years the same report points out that “In terms of the exports to the EU in the period 2006-2007, coal occupied first place with 32% followed by bananas (16.2%), coffee (13.8%) nickel (11.6%), fish and crustaceans (3.4%) and flowers (3.4%).   What is blindingly obvious is that Colombia’s exports to the EU are primary products with any major ‘value added’, an economists term to tell us that the money is made outside Colombia.  In the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU, the Europeans aim to “achieve national treatment and opening up of markets”  for their companies.  With the SPG+ (a European version of the ATPDEA of the US which conditions market access on support for the war on drugs) 7,200 Colombian products already enter the EU paying zero tariffs (or a very reduced tariff).  Now the Europeans wish to formalise the relationship in exchange for national treatment i.e. European companies may operate in Colombia as if they were Colombian and the government cannot restrict their operations in any sector of the economy.  This means the Europeans could take over everything in sight, natural resources, services, banking sector and even government contracts.  The list of items up for discussion is the same list that is discussed at the WTO and also the same list that was discussed with the USA prior to signing the FTA with the northern giant.

1. Market access, including tariffs and non tariff measures (general rules and non agricultural sectors)
2. Market access, including tariffs and non tariff measures (agriculture)
3. Asymmetries and special and differential treatment.
4. Rules of origin
5. Customs issues and the facilitation of trade
6. Technical obstacles to trade
7. Health and phitosanitary measures
8. Instruments of trade protection
9. Services, establishing and moving capital (investments)
10. Public purchases
11. Intellectual property rights
12. Competition
13. Resolution of differences, horizontal and institutional differences
14. Trade and sustainable development. 

One can’t see any difference between the items of the EU’s list and those of the WTO because there isn’t any and as the report makes clear when it refers to the Doha round of the WTO: “The Doha Development programme is based on: opening up of markets (agricultural goods, industrial goods and services), responding to civil society expectations (transparency and sustainable development) and norms (the creation of new norms on fair competition, investment, public contracts, trade facilitation).   Neither is there any difference with the issues put forward by the USA.

I should point out here that it is not I who makes the link between foreign aid, trade and international free trade agreements.  It is the European Union which does this and even the Bush government published a document titled “Foreign Aid In The National Interest”.  The said document published by USAID describes foreign aid as the third pillar of national security alongside defence and diplomacy.   They feel no shame, no reason to hide their aims and motives as it is, for them, as natural as drinking water (albeit privatised water).  The NGOs are the ones who lie to their ‘social base’, or better put, their unfortunate clients.  They feel the need to delink the issues as it is difficult to go to a peasant and say “I want you to get involved in a peace laboratory or such and such a project because the Europeans wish to extend their economic power and influence”.  The peasant would think twice.  It is more useful to put one over him, saying the Europeans are generous.  The EU, fortunately, occasionally tells the truth, but not as often as the North Americans (neither is it the case that they paragons of virtue, but they are more direct on certain issues and there is a greater wealth of information available).

Aid in Colombia

So, what then is the EU aid in Colombia? And what is it invested in?  The report contains some detailed information on this and some statements to show how different the Europeans are when it comes to working with the Colombians.

The first thing to be said is that it is substantial.  The EU does invest in Colombia, which for some is a sign of their commitment to the country, but for others (amongst them myself) a clear sign that this country is of strategic importance to the EU.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, sooner or later everything is paid for.  “The European Union’s Aid projects underway in Colombia in 2007 reached the figure of €372 million.  The European Commission represents 53.24% of the community’s commitment followed by Germany (20.33%), Sweden (9.29%), Netherlands (5.87%) and Spain (4.2%)”   These €372 million are a down payment on Colombia’s assets.

When one looks at the how the budget is divided up it would seem that this contradicts the affirmation of a selfish interest on the part of the Europeans in Colombia.  Despite the EU’s wish to foment regional integration (FTAs) and trade (FTAs again) it only earmarks 4% of its aid towards productivity and competition, the same figure as education and health, whereas its sets aside a massive 58% for development, peace and conflict.   For example, the three Peace Laboratories received €92 million from the European Commission as part of its contribution to development, peace and conflict.  However, a large part of this is spent promoting exotic crops such as African palm, rubber, and cocoa.  This is part of their “conflict resolution” projects, which at the same time promote the planting of exotic crops whose fruits will be exported to Europe.

Lets take cocoa as an example.  The sectorial agreement on competition foresees an increase to 130,000 hectares of land under cocoa and a yield of 156,000 tonnes by the year 2020.   The EU has promoted cocoa amongst the peasants, particularly in the department of Santander in the north of the country, with funds from the Peace Laboratory.  It works in the following way:  the EU donates the money to the Colombian government which loans it to the peasants to grow cocoa.  In order to receive the money the peasants sign an agreement with a company in the sector that has the capacity to market the product.  In the case of cocoa, there are only two main companies, Empresa Nacional de Chocolates (National Chocolates Company) and the Casa Luker S.A. (House of Luker plc) both are companies of the Colombian oligarchy and represent 87% of the national market for cocoa.  The peasant is obliged to sell to the company with which he signed the contract.  He can change to another company (neither is it the case that he has much choice).  The company gives him technical advice for the crop to meet with the needs of agribusiness in terms of quality, pest control and other phitosanitary aspects i.e. the necessary conditions to place the product in a foreign market.  The company charges the peasant for this technical aid.  This means that the peasant carries the weight of all expenses associated with producing a crop in such conditions as allow its exportation to Europe. 

The company buys it and sends it to Europe.  So, as the peasants meet all the expenses, the company has no costs and buys it cheaply.  As it has no costs it also exports it as a grain (unprocessed) to Europe at a very competitive price.  Upon arrival in Europe the cocoa grain is not subject to tariffs and enters the market cheaply where it is bought by Nestlé, Barry Callebaut etc. and they turn it into chocolate which is exported around the world and sold at a high price.  If the Colombians turn it into chocolate they have to pay a tariff in order to import it into Europe, but if they send it as a grain they pay nothing.  So what exactly happens with cocoa?  The EU through its foreign aid budget gives money to peasants to cheaply produce cocoa for European companies that later sell it a high price when they turn it into chocolate.  A square deal, where the beneficiary is the European company.  However, for the EU these funds are not destined to trade and competition but rather development, peace and conflict!!!

What does the USA do?

Is there a difference between what the Europeans and the North Americans do?  Well, not much.  USAID also implements the same model.  They oblige the peasants to go into the so called Strategic Alliances to promote set crops.  Without any qualms or the slightest blushing they recognise that they are not willing to finance crops that enter into competition with US products, such as corn, beans and rice etc.  In fact, they are forbidden by law from doing so.  The Europeans talk of marketing, competition, market position etc. they have no law like the US but they also refuse to finance projects that compete with their products alleging viability, but at the end of the day it amounts to the same thing.  They only finance what is convenient for them and not the presumed beneficiaries.

Human Rights. The Big Difference!

The big difference, according to the apologists of European imperialism in Colombia is that the Europeans are concerned about the human rights situation in the country and what’s more they finance human rights projects and have made various statements against the government etc. etc.  The argument is so cretinous that it does not even deserve a response, but the reality is that cretinism is so rampant amongst certain NGO sectors that we are obliged to do so.

Firstly, the argument implicitly recognises that US imperialism does exist and treads upon people’s human rights, so there is no need to go into any detail on the sins of US imperialism (although with the election of Obama there is no lack of cretins that tell us the US imperialism has ceased to exist).

They forget that it was the European countries that conquered the world and that the rise and domination of the USA is a product of the 20th Century, particularly the post war era which saw Europe destroyed and from which the USA came out of relatively unscathed.  In the post war period the southern countries rose up against the Europeans and fought bloody wars in order to gain their independence.  These wars caused the deaths of millions.  They forget that Great Britain invaded Egypt in an attempt to prevent the nationalisation of the Suez Canal and they did so long before t Henry Kissinger overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile.  The British, together with the US, overthrew the democratic government of Mossedeqh in Iran before the Americans did the same in Guatemala in 1954.  In one case the special interest was oil (the British) and in the other bananas and tropical fruits (the USA).  In more recent times, we have British support for the racist regime of South Africa and its support for the Pinochet government in Chile.  We also have the case of France’s nuclear tests in the South Pacific on indigenous land and the murder by the French State of two members of the environmental organisation Greenpeace in a stupid attempt to silence them.  Or we could look at European participation in the wars in Iraq or the invasion of Afghanistan etc.  At the end of the day European Imperialism exists, the facts that we can cite are as abundant as those we can cite in relation to the USA.

But the definition of imperialism is not a list of barbarities, although these are an integral part, it is rather a power relationship.  We don’t have space here to discuss all the aspects, concentration of capital, markets etc. but it is essentially an economic relationship where one country is exploited or oppressed by another.

But they will say, and what of the Europeans’ human rights projects?  Yes, it is true that the EU finances such projects and in its report it proclaims itself to be something which “promotes a global process of conscientisation of the importance of human rights within and beyond its borders.”   There is more than one immigrant in Europe, more than one torture victim in the Spanish State or Afghanistan who would strongly disagree with that statement.  How unreal these declarations are can be seen in the description of Colombia as a democratic country par excellence when it says that “The EU recognises Colombia as a middle income country which proclaims to be a State under the rule of law, democratic par excellence, with an interesting economic growth and a commercial partner with huge potential and politically stable despite the historic conflict.”   There isn’t the slightest criticism of Colombia to be seen, but rather the backing not only of the current government but of all the genocidal rulers that have governed the country throughout the 20th Century.  The EU’s commitment to human rights is to be seen in its support for the justice and peace law when they openly vouch their support for the said law stating “that if the law is applied in an effective and transparent way it will actively contribute to achieving peace in Colombia.”   For the EU, putting thirty thousand murderers on the streets and pardoning them for tens if not hundreds of thousands of crimes, numberless peasants quartered with chainsaws, millions of internally displaced people etc. is the way to achieve peace and promote human rights!

Returning to the theme of the projects.  A project, even if it is a good one, tells us nothing about the intentions of the funders.  One has to take into account their interests.  The EU earmarked 13% of its foreign aid investments in human rights issues.  It is a substantial figure, but in and of itself, it tells us nothing.  USAID finances the Public Defenders Office and other human rights initiatives.  It does so within the framework of Plan Colombia.  No NGO has vouched for Plan Colombia (or at least they don’t do so explicitly), however, many receive funds from Plan Colombia.  Currently, 9,400 people receive protection from the Ministry of the Interior due to the threats they have received.  The protection comes in the form of avantel radios, cell phones, bullet proof vests, bullet proof cars and a bodyguard service.  Amongst the beneficiaries of these measures, one finds; trade unionists, community leaders, lawyers, the bosses of various NGOs. All political currents are represented, social democrats, liberals, revolutionaries and one or other self proclaimed revolutionary, people committed to causes, others to their pockets.  None of them back Plan Colombia because they receive this protection.  One can’t explain, why then, they feel the need to vouch for the Europeans and deny the existence of European Imperialism when they receive aid from Europe.  Or is it the case, that they don’t deny the existence of US Imperialism? But that they would like to, and some day, they will do so.  I am afraid so.  We have already heard voices that talk of Obama in those terms, forgetting that Clinton, the architect of Plan Colombia, was also a charismatic democrat, albeit a white one.

Currently the threat of mining by multinationals like Anglogold Ashanti, Glencore, a company led by convicted criminal Marc Rich and companies like BHP Billington hangs over the communities of Colombia.  None of these companies are from the US, they are European, Australian, African etc.  In fact, Canada is a mining power.  It doubles US investment in mining prospecting in the world.  Restrict the definition of imperialism to one country, not only indicates that the person does not know what imperialism is but also commits the biggest mistake of not recognising his enemies.

Cauca, the good laboratory.

The defenders of European Imperialism in Colombia point to the department of Cauca as an example of how the Europeans are staking it all on the development of Colombia in favour of the communities.  They usually draw a distinction between the Magdalena Medio region and Cauca.  They say that there is no African palm nor monocultures in Cauca, unlike the Peace Laboratory of Magdalena Medio.  This difference is usually attributed to the role of the Jesuit priest Francisco de Roux.  As if what is wrong with the project in Magdalena Medio were a question of disastrous personalities and not one of substance.

Some clarification on the lack of monocultures in the Peace Laboratory of Cauca is needed.  It has nothing at all to do with the EU’s will.  It is due entirely and exclusively to the socio-economic realities of Cauca, such as land tenure and topography.  The peasant farms in Cauca are barely a couple of hectares in size, which hinders the development of a monoculture  and the land is very hilly.  Palm requires flat land and the only flat lands in Cauca are already under a sugar monoculture and in the hands of the sugar barons and not the peasants.  This is what explains the lack of monocultures in the EU’s projects in Cauca.

The crops promoted in Cauca are crops like asparagus, chilli peppers, onions etc. and niche coffees.  This is no accident.  The Colombian government in its document Export Stake (Apuesta Exportadora) made it very clear that priority crops for Cauca are fruits and vegetables.  The EU finances certain crops in agreement with the Colombian State and in case anyone has forgotten, Colombia signed a FTA with the US and is negotiating one with the EU.  There is no difference between what USAID promotes and the Peace Laboratory.  A look at the USAID web page would point this out and they even have a special section for niche coffees, those projects that one hears so much about.  The global coffee industry is dominated by a handful of US and European companies.  The niche coffees are a very special sector which for publicity reasons and marketing require the participation of the peasantry, but even in this case the biggest slice of what the economists euphemistically call ‘value added’ is made outside of the region, as happens with normal coffee.

Neither is it the case that these other crops are more progressive.  They are grown for an export market, as is the case with coffee (in some cases they partially supply the local market).  They reproduce the neoliberal model.  The southern countries produce for a foreign market and not to meet the needs of the communities or producer countries.  Some organisations like the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) or the Committee for the Integration of the Macizo (CIMA) have lent their support to these projects arguing that they benefit the communities and it is the communities that decide what to do.  The CRIC is an indigenous organisation with a long track record of struggle in defence of the indigenous communities.  It organised a referendum against the FTA with the US.  One cannot understand their silence on the FTA with the EU nor their support for European neoliberalism in Cauca through the Peace Laboratory.  They are fooling themselves or their social base.

What’s more, both organisations take part in coordinating bodies in Colombia which are affiliated to Via Campesina, the largest international organisation of peasants.  In the Nyeleni Declaration this organisation opposed production models that require production in far away lands of crops that can be grown in Europe itself.  Although it is cheaper for Europe, the environmental impact of transporting vegetables from Africa, Asia or Latin America is greater than producing them in France, for example.

According to Peace Laboratories promoters, the benefits accruing to the communities are increased incomes.  This is debateable, but even were it true, this income is spent buying foodstuffs that were previously grown on land where the cash crops are grown (literally referred to in Colombia as exportables).  However, the biggest lie is that the communities are the ones who decide upon their own future.  Álvaro Gómez from the Cauca Peace Laboratory in a speech given during the Third Environmental Week in the University of Cauca explained that the communities form a nucleus (outside the structures of the pre existing organisations).  These nuclei discuss what they want to grow and later present a project to the Peace Laboratory of Cauca which approves the project or not following a discussion with the community.  Lies!  The communities come together and discuss what they want to do, but within the terms of reference of the competition, which is logical but nevertheless it is a limiting factor.  But who makes the final decision about whether to disimburse funds is Acción Social, headed until recently by the fanatical Uribista Luís Alfonso Hoyos.  It is the Colombian government that decides what is grown in Cauca (and Colombia in general) and not the communities.  No amount of pretty meetings, nice speeches nor having convinced some communities changes that reality one iota.

Nowadays, the issue of the Peace Laboratories is surrounded by a lot of controversy, but it wasn’t like that in 2002.  Back then, the Director of the Programme for Development and Peace in Magdalena Medio, Francisco de Roux explained without any hesitation the reality of what he was promoting with World Bank funds and what he would later do in the framework of the first Peace Laboratory.

The peasantry has to associate itself with the large scale processes that make the land of Magdalena Medio attractive to large investments of money.  And those projects are the permanent tropical products [palm, rubber etc.].  If the peasant doesn’t enter into this, he will have to leave the region. 
It couldn’t be clearer.  He is not promoting a peasant economy, as he sometimes hints, but rather what he wants do to is attract large amounts of capital to the region.  Needless to say, De Roux didn’t state his intentions as clearly once the controversy was unleashed.  Back then he also spoke of another supposed benefit for the communities.  His comment is extremely cynical, but very telling.  It shows to what degree they are willing to lie, or utter any stupid comment.  They were used to a docile press and academia and so said more than was prudent.  It is worth citing, due to its contempt towards the common sense of the peasantry.  In order to avoid any accusations of manipulation, it is reproduced in its original syntax without any modifications.
The most dangerous thing for peasant is to be an isolated peasant.  A peasant that is in a rural zone and the paramilitaries arrive and they attack him, will leave and all the peasants will do so, because they are not connected.
If the peasant grows rubber or cocoa and is affiliated to a cooperative and they have a Forward contract with the companies that manage the product, [the companies] will immediately react if the peasants are attacked.  If they have a loan with a private bank under just conditions the banks will immediately react because the banks will lose out if the peasants leave.  If they have a cooperative to improve the technical aspects and if the technicians are from Fedecacao, Fedecafé and the Umatas.   If anyone touches one of those peasants he is not alone, he is well connected.  There are social interests that back him.  There are economic interests that back him. 
The first point is that the text begins with a lie.  No palm or rubber company signs Forward contracts where the sale price is fixed in advance.  I would like to know which bank gives loans with just terms and conditions.  Well now, in 2009 and in the middle of financial crisis there are millions of people around the world who would also like to know this.

The most interesting part is that De Roux gives us a vision where the peasant only counts in as much as he has a monetary value to the banks and business associations.  He tries to make us believe that they will intervene when faced with a possible displacement of the peasantry.  The business associations of the Colombian oligarchy, the same one that has acknowledged its role in setting up of paramilitary groups.  In the municipality of Regidor, Southern Bolívar, 16,000 people lost 27,000 hectares under palm, literally from one day to the next.   No bank intervened and the land came into the hands of the affiliates of the business associations, which, according to De Roux would protect the peasants.  From their own experience the peasants know that none of these entities will protect them and so they can judge the other statements about the benefits of the Peace Laboratories in the light of this delirium of Francisco de Roux.  It is curious, but Uribe has just nominated Gabriel Silva Lujan , the former head of Fedecafé, as the new Minister for Defence.  Perhaps De Roux would have us believe now that the Ministry of Defence will protect the peasant.

How to get the cash with doing any harm.

There are those who say that what they are trying to do is get their hands on the European cash without doing any harm to the communities.  These positions range from those who say they do what they want with the money, without paying any heed to the EU to those who say the communities use the money but it has no major repercussions, as the communities continue to do their own thing.

The first position makes no sense at all as every community and organisation has to hand in a report and whilst there may be some room for manoeuvre, the funders don’t allow any organisation to whatever it likes with their money.  They demand and receive an account of everything that is done.

The second position is more common and I wish it were true.  But there are a number of consequences.  The first is that the communities become used to depending on projects.  They are demobilised in relation to their own State.  This demobilisation is not one hundred percent.  Communities that receive projects continue to fight, but it is notable in Colombia that on many occasions the first thought is how to get money from a project.  The EU and USAID also demand a certain behaviour from the communities.  The most infamous one is that there not be a single coca leaf in the areas where there are projects.  But there are other more subtle ones.  In Cauca the mining companies have used the affiliation of the peasants to USAID forest ranger programmes as a pretext to demand access to the land in order to carry out mining prospecting.  This is the reality today

I recall an invitation I received to speak at a forum on the privatisation of water in Cauca.  The peasants that organised the event have a very clear position on USAID and the Peace Laboratories.  They see in them imperialism and want to have nothing to do with either.  They invited nearby indigenous communities to the forum.  Initially they said yes, but later they asked about food and transportation to the event.  They were told that it was up to each area to pool resources and organise food and transportation between them.  The indigenous suggested asking the Peace Laboratory for money, because they were, they said, used to someone putting up the transport and good food at the events (how true this is, is another issue).  The peasants said no, that under no circumstances could they ask those entities for money.  So, the indigenous organisations withdrew from the event.  Though, I must recognise that it was very pleasing to see how various indigenous walked up to five hours to get to the event, despite the negative response of their organisations.  However, it is a sign that sometimes, the fight only goes as far as the EU finance.

The other point is that even when the communities set up their own projects with their own resources, they see their future in terms of the model.  When it comes to growing something, they no longer think of fighting the model that keeps them in poverty but rather how to place their products in a foreign market, when really the problem is solved by changes in the economic policy of the State and not by substituting one product for another.

It is the case that foreign aid can limit the actions taken and even have influence over defining which struggles to participate in.  There are human rights NGOs that have refused to present certain lawsuits or have refused to take them to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a result of pressure from their funders.

The War

However, there is another point which should worry all the social organisations.  The Peace Laboratories and USAID form part of a war strategy.  Before I am accused of being a cheap lefty, the statement that they are part of a war strategy is not mine, it is the Colombian government’s and moreover it is Acción Social, the governmental agency in charge of rubber stamping all projects by both entities that says so.  And as already pointed out Acción Social has the last word.

The Coordinating Centre for Integral Action (CCAI) an entity, which is dependent on Acción Social, is in charge of what is termed Social Recovery of the Territory.  The then Minister for Defence, Juan Manuel Santos describes Integral Action in the following terms.
The Doctrine of Integral Action, in aiming to consolidate territorial control, combines the legitimate use of force with social actions of the State and the community in a way that the members of the Security Forces apply principals and protocols to carry out an adequate coordination with the rest of the state institutions.
The Security Forces will work closely with the Coordinating Centre for Integral Action (CCAI) wherever it has a presence and when this is not the case, it will carry our with the local authorities and state agencies that are to be found in the area coordinated actions of a social nature that satisfy the most urgent needs of the population. 
The document proceeds to sketch an integral vision of how to beat the enemy and implant a model of society.  For those who would rather not recognise this reality we should remind them that the nature of the CCAI was clearly highlighted by the Colombian government in its 2006-2010 development plan.  For once, Uribe wished to explain reality to us, but there are NGOs that operate in a reality all of their own.  However, we shall give the president some space to explain what it is that he aims to do.
Firstly, in this sense, it is noteworthy the founding in 2004 of the Coordinating Centre for Integral Action (CCAI) led by Acción Social and to which various entities of the Colombian government belong, that complement and support military recovery of the territory (bold not in original) with social and economic projects. 
On the same point, another official State document also makes it very clear.
This doctrine should take into account the possibility of acting on two different fronts.  The first front is where the Coordinating Centre for Integral Action (CCAI) of the Presidency lacks the means to rapidly arrive in an area and consequently the Security Forces must act in order to stabilise the zone.  The other front is where the Security Forces, given the resources that they have, directly support the efforts of the CCAI,.  In either case the coordination between the CCAI and the Security Forces is a prerequisite (bold not in original). 
But, what does this have to do with the EU?  The CCAI is made up of permanent members and liaisons.  Amongst the permanent members is Acción Social, the EU’s principal partner in Colombia.  The Ministry of Defence is also a permanent member.  Amongst the liaisons are USAID and the oil company Occidental Petroleum.  Perhaps this last entity reveals the real nature of the CCAI.  Although the Peace Laboratories are not formal members of the CCAI, Acción Social lists them as achievements in the social recovery of the territory, a term employed to describe the joint efforts of that agency and the army.

Part of the confusion about the role of foreign aid in Colombia may have its origin in the language used.  The German researcher Bettina Reis states that:

Whilst the Ministry of Defence refers to a region and population in terms of carrying out a ‘war plan’, or that the army enters areas to ‘clean’  them, Acción Social, principal entity of the CCAI employs a language that reminds one of the way human rights and peace NGOs express themselves.  The word ‘war’ is nowhere to be found, rather they refer to “life options to build peace” or they talk of “the legitimate and complete exercising of the rights to peace, sovereignty and freedom of conscience. 
However, just as Bettina Ries did, a quick look at the public documents from Acción Social, the Ministry of Defence etc. shows up the reality.  The social organisations that have a positive view of the Peace Laboratories and the USAID projects owe an explanation to their social base as to why they support imperialism in Colombia.  The State’s documents are clear and there is no duplicity there.  The only duplicity is on the part of some social organisations and the NGOs.  None so blind as those that do not wish to see.  There is no lack either of erstwhile lefties.  They know how to reach out to the communities with a language that is even revolutionary in form, but with the aim of betraying the communities.  The bureaucrat has always been the enemy of the people, more so, when his/her high income is dependent on pleasing foreign governments.

The CRIC is obliged to explain to their social base how they square their support for free trade with Europe with their opposition to an FTA with the USA.  The CRIC’s internal debate (and there is more than one position within the CRIC) must be settled in favour of their communities and in opposition to imperialism in all its shapes and forms, whatever its origin.

Foreign Aid in Colombia is what it always has been here and in other parts of the planet.  It is weapon in a war to impose a model.  This neoliberal model, just like capitalism itself does not have one homeland.  To believe that Europe is not imperialist or that its imperialism is softer shows a complete ignorance of history and the nature of capitalism and prepares the indigenous communities and peasantry for their eventual defeat.  One doesn’t beat one’s friends only one’s enemies and in order to do that, they must be considered as such.


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