Venezuela's "troubling" military spending?

Secretary of State Clinton has urged Venezuela to be "transparent" about its military spending - implying that Venezuela's military spending is something that should be of concern to Americans. The blog publishes a pair of graphs that help put this concern in context. Looking at military spending for 2007-8, among Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Venezuela, Venezuela comes in last, both in absolute terms, and as a share of GDP.


Congress Members Urge Caution on Colombia Base Agreement

Sixteen Members of Congress - fifteen Representatives and a Senator - have written to Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates, urging caution in expanding the U.S. military presence in Colombia. The letter is here.

Can We "Reset" Relations with Colombia?

President Obama wants, quite reasonably, to "reset" relations with Russia. He also said, quite reasonably, he would "go through the federal budget line by line, programs that don't work, we cut."

Our relations with Colombia also need to be reset. "Plan Colombia," which was supposedly going to cut the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S., doesn't work, neither to reduce the flow of illegal drugs, nor to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Colombia. Since Plan Colombia doesn't work, it should be cut.

An October report from the Government Accountability Office found that coca-leaf production in Colombia had increased by 15% and cocaine production had increased by 4% between 2000 and 2006, and recommended cutting funding. Plan Colombia has cost U.S. taxpayers over $6 billion.

Plan Colombia has also failed to promote human rights. Broadly speaking, the practical political meaning of Plan Colombia in the Colombian political context has been: "Washington supports the Colombian government, and therefore the Colombian government can do whatever it wants without restraint." The human consequences of this political blank check have been disastrous.

A recent report by Human Rights First found human rights defenders in Colombia are frequently accused by the government and its supporters of belonging to leftwing guerrillas, and are secretly investigated for months or years before being "illegally detained," Inter Press Service reports. "The steadfast investigation of spurious criminal complaints against defenders stands in stark contrast to the failure to investigate attacks, threats, and other forms of intimidation perpetrated against them or against civilians more generally," HRF said.