On the campaign trail, Joe Biden boasted of his role in transforming Colombia and Central America through ambitious economic and security programs. Colombians and Hondurans tell The Grayzone about the damage his plans did to their societies.
US Vice President Joe Biden meets with the Northern Triangle presidents, Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, and Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, in January 2016
While campaigning for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, former Senator and Vice President Joseph Biden has touted the crucial role he played in designing US mega-development and drug war campaigns that transformed the socio-political landscape of large swaths of Latin America.
“I was one of the architects of Plan Colombia,” Biden boasted in a July 5 interview with CNN, referring to the multibillion-dollar US effort to end Colombia’s civil war with a massive surge of support for the country’s military. According to Biden, the plan was a panacea for Colombia’s problems, from “crooked cops” to civil strife.
But Biden’s plan for Colombia has contributed directly to the country’s transformation into a hyper-militarized bastion of right-wing rule, enhancing the power and presence of the notoriously brutal armed forces while failing miserably in its anti-narcotic and reformist objectives.
More than 50 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in the first four months of 2019, while coca production is close to record levels. And as Colombian peace activists lamented in interviews with The Grayzone, the US is still in complete control of Bogotá’s failed anti-drug policy, thanks largely to Plan Colombia.
Biden has also pumped up his role in an initiative called the Alliance for Prosperity, which was applied to the Northern Triangle of Central America. The former vice president was so central to the program’s genesis that it was informally known as “Plan Biden.”
Marketed as an answer to the crisis of child migration, Biden’s brainchild channeled $750 million through a right-wing government installed by a US-orchestrated military coup to spur mega-development projects and privatize social services.
The Grayzone visited Honduras in July 2019 and documented, through interviews with human rights defenders, students, indigenous activists, and citizens from all walks of life, how the Alliance for Prosperity helped set the stage for a national rebellion.
In recent months, teachers, doctors, students, and rural campesinos have been in the streets protesting the privatization plans imposed on their country under the watch of Biden and his successors.
The gutting of public health services, teacher layoffs, staggering hikes in electricity prices, and environmentally destructive mega-development projects are critical factors in mass migration from Honduras. And indeed, they are immediate byproducts of the so-called “Biden plan.”
“Biden is taking credit for doing something constructive to stop the migration crisis and blaming the concentration camps [on the US-Mexico border] on Trump. But it’s Biden’s policies that are driving more people out of Central America and making human rights defenders lives more precarious by defending entities that have no interest in human rights,” explained Adrienne Pine, a professor of anthropology at American University and leading researcher of the social crisis in Honduras, in an interview with The Grayzone.
“So $750 million US taxpayer dollars that were allocated to supposedly address child migration are actually making things worse,” Pine added. “It started with unaccompanied minors and now you have children in cages. Largely thanks to Biden.”
‘I was one of the architects of Plan Colombia’
In an interview with CNN on July 5, Biden was asked if he favored decriminalizing the entry of Latin American migrants to the United States. Responding with a definitive “no,” Joe Biden stated that he would be “surging folks to the border to make those concrete decisions” about who receives asylum.
Biden argued that he had the best record of addressing the root causes of the migration crisis, recalling how he imposed a solution on Central America’s migration crisis. “You do the following things to make your country better so people don’t leave, and we will help you do that, just like we did in Colombia,” he said.
“What did we do in Colombia? We went down and said, okay, and I was one of the architects of Plan Colombia,” Biden continued. “I said, here’s the deal. If you have all these crooked cops, all these federal police, we’re sending our FBI down, you let us put them through a lie detector test, let us tell you who you should fire and tell you the kind of people you should hire. They did and began to change. We can do so much if we’re committed.”
With the arrogance of a pith-helmeted high colonial official meting out instructions on who to hire and fire to his docile subjects, Biden presided over a plan that failed miserably in its stated goals, while transforming Colombia into a hyper-militarized bastion of US regional influence.
Plan Colombia: ‘They come and ask for bread, and you give them stones’
Plan Colombia was originally conceived by Colombian President Andrés Pastrana in 1999, as an alternative development and conflict resolution plan for his war-torn country. He considered calling it the “Plan for Colombia’s Peace.”