HomeNewsBriefThe Controversial New Deployment of US Troops in Colombia
BRIEF

The Controversial New Deployment of US Troops in Colombia

COLOMBIA / 2 JUN 2020 BY JUAN DIEGO POSADA EN

The decision to send US troops into Colombia to help against drug trafficking is a troubling one, whether as part of the two countries' security strategy or connected to broader efforts against Venezuela.

On May 28, the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) issued a statement that its 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) would support "enhanced counter-narcotics cooperation" in Colombia with no limit set on its deployment.

The head of Colombia's armed forces, Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro, later added some details about the anti-drug mission. According to El Tiempo, he stated the SFAB troops would be in Colombia for four months, providing "tactical" advice to "improve operations against drug trafficking."

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

These troops will provide support in areas across Colombia high in coca production and drug trafficking, including Bajo Cauca, the south of Córdoba, Catatumbo, Arauca, the Pacific Coast of Nariño and the national parks of Chiribiquete, Sierra de La Macarena, Catatumbo Barí, Nudo de Paramillo and Sanquianga.

Opposition politicians were quick to warn that the move may be an unsubtle way to ramp up pressure on Venezuela.

On June 2, Colombia's Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común – FARC) said on Twitter that the United States was not trying to "fight drug trafficking" but "coming to start a regional war." The FARC political party was created after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) in 2016.

This is not the first time US troops have been deployed in Colombia. As part of Plan Colombia (2000-2014), a US-funded plan to help fight criminal groups and armed insurgents, American soldiers provided military training, intelligence support and tactical support during operations.

InSight Crime Analysis

The deployment of US troops to help in Colombia's fight against drug trafficking is controversial for two reasons, quite apart from any potential links to Venezuela.

First, their arrival is seen as yet more evidence of pressure from the White House for Colombia's President Iván Duque to provide results. Both governments have largely measured the success of anti-drug trafficking operations on the eradication of coca, an area in which Colombia has fallen behind this year.

President Donald Trump has not been shy about airing his discontent at Colombia's strategies against drug trafficking, telling reporters that Duque "has done nothing for us" in March 2019.

SEE ALSOGlyphosate Alone Won’t Fix Colombia’s Complex Coca Woes

There is also concern that these hardline methods will inevitably lead to the return of aerial spraying of the controversial herbicide glyphosate. Its use to destroy coca plants has been suspended since 2015 after it was linked to health problems in people -- but Trump is a known supporter of this method.

The second is that this deployment has reportedly been carried out without the approval of Colombia's congress. Lidio García, the president of the Colombian Senate, wrote on Twitter that the decision to allow foreign troops into Colombia was a constitutional prerogative of the Senate.

And while military officials in both countries made no mention of Venezuela -- neither the SOUTHCOM statement nor Gen. Navarro named the country in reference to the SFAB's role in Colombia -- the move cannot be taken in isolation.

The deployment comes amid a campaign of military pressure from the White House against both Venezuela and drug traffickers. In April, SOUTHCOM deployed naval warships to the Caribbean, specifically to target "narcotraffickers who work in and out of Venezuela."

Sergio Guzmán, director of the advisory firm Colombia Risk Analysis, told Business Insider that "that the fanfare and the timing of the announcement suggest that although their stated goal is anti-narcotics, the intent may be different."

The SFAB troops are currently beginning a two-week quarantine, due to Colombia's response to the coronavirus. It will be crucial to see how they are deployed once they leave isolation but for the moment, it is unclear how they would be a threat to Venezuela.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 23 MAR 2016

This study focuses on four countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Colombia. Each presents different challenges and opportunities for research, and…

COLOMBIA / 24 SEP 2015

Colombia's government and rebel group the FARC have reached an agreement on transitional justice and announced that the longest-running conflict…

COLOMBIA / 23 MAY 2012

Colombian police reported breaking up two heroin smuggling rings, pointing to links between major criminal groups and the little-known independent…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.