Plan Colombia in Putumayo: An Ethnography of U.S. Anti-Drug Policy

February 10, 2009 - 4:00 pm

María Clemencia Ramírez, Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History

Desmond Arias, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Graduate Center, CUNY

US foreign policy has been a key factor in shaping Colombia’s internal responses to its problems of drug trafficking and insurgency. After 9/11, the line between the drug war and the counter insurgency was blurred: guerrillas became “narcoterrorists” and the over-emphasis on a military response to social and political pr oblems was reinforced with the authorization given by the United States Congress and signed by President Bush in August 2002 to use counterdrug assets for counterterrorist activities, reversing President Clinton’s executive order banning the sharing of non-drug intelligence. This new policy accelerated the militarization of marginal regions, where it was acknowledged that armed conflict and/or drug trafficking had become well established due to the weakness or absence of the state. In this context, President Álvaro Uribe prioritized counterinsurgency operations over development plans to break the link between drug trafficking and the guerrillas. In an analysis of Plan Colombia in the southwestern department of Putumayo, Ramírez argues that the implementation of Plan Colombia with a focus on security has deepened the criminalization of peasant coca growers and invisibilized their needs while undermining the sovereignty of the Colombian state.

María Clemencia Ramírez is Research Associate and former Director of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History. She attended the Universidad de los Andes and the National University of Colombia, earning a B.A in Anthropology and an M.A. in History, respectively. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. Her work explores the intersections of violence and identity through the lens of public policy and state/citizen relations, focused on the Amazon Region of Colombia, specifically the department of Putumayo, where the implementation of Plan Colombia began in 2000. She is author of Between the Guerrillas and the State: The Cocalero Movement, Citizenship and Identity in the Colombian Amazon, a revised and updated English-language version of her book Entre el Estado y la Guerrilla: identidad y ciudadanía en el movimiento de los campesinos cocaleros del Putumayo. The English version is forthcoming from Duke University Press. She is also the author of Frontera Fluida entre Andes, Piedemonte y Selva: el caso del Valle de Sibundoy, Siglos XVI-XVIII; and co-author of the Atlas Cultural de la Amazonia Colombiana: la construcción del territorio en el siglo XIX.