David Barrera

PS 472 S98

Colombia: Sanctions Waived


In the post-Cold War era, new threats have emerged to replace the former Soviet Union. These new threats, now deemed rogue by the international community represent a threat to the national security of the United States as well as the international community. As Rogue Regimes, written by Raymond Tanter, describes, there are three criteria which states must meet to be considered a rogue state. They are: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, participation in state sponsored terrorism, and drug trafficking. To be considered a rogue state you must meet all three criteria. There are some states, however, that should be and are subject to economic sanctions due to their actions in certain areas. Countries that are known for drug trafficking or drug transit are subject to sanctions. Yet there are some countries that are waived of these sanctions. It seems puzzling that the United States would impose sanctions yet waive them in many cases.

In 1998 there are thirty-two countries that are subject to sanctions. One such country is Colombia, which is the world's leading producer and distributor of cocaine and an important supplier of heroin to the U.S. Sanctions against Colombia, however, are waived because they are considered a vital national interest. Why would the United States impose sanctions to try to change the Colombian government’s behavior, and then waive them.

According to the 1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Colombia remained the world’s leading producer and distributor of cocaine and an important supplier of heroin to the U.S. Drugs are big business for the cartels. Corruption extends to every level of the Colombian government as well as to the military and police. Problems also arise due to under-funded and inadequate judicial system, as well as a lack of political will on some issues in the executive and judicial branches. Three quarters of the world’s annual yield of cocaine is produced in Colombia. Colombia is the world’s leader in coca cultivation, which is the main ingredient for cocaine. In addition, nearly six metric tons of heroin is produced yearly, virtually all of which is bound for the United States.1 These current statistics are frightening considering that nearly of the narcotics are bound for the United States.

In regards to the flow of drugs to and from Colombia, it is the center of the international cocaine trade, with drugs flowing at a constant rate. Currently cocaine shipments move out by sea (multi-ton loads) or by commercial air (400-800kg shipments) to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In 1996, the DEA estimated that 52% of heroin seized by federal authorities was of South American origin.2

Each year the president determines who is meeting the standards on controlling the narcotics problem in their own country. Under the Foreign Assistance Control Act of 1961, the President must identify and notify the Congress of those countries he has determined to be major illicit drug producing and/or drug transit countries.3 A failing grade in the annual drug-certification process means the loss of U.S. aid and international loans unless the sanctions are waived. With a waiver a country can still receive loans, but its drug fighting efforts are considered unfavorable by United States’ standards. In the case of Colombia, the sanctions have been waived due to efforts made by the police. Colombia was the first major U.S. ally to suffer sanctions.

The Clinton Administration gave President Ernesto Samper a failing grade, but it lifted economic sanctions on the country itself because, it said, the national police have shown courage against heroin and cocaine traffickers. Officials said that they are trying to isolate Samper while encouraging business executives, judges, prosecutors, and especially the national police chief General Jose Serrano to continue the fight against narcotics. While the United States may be pleased with the police, they do not trust President Samper, who has been accused of accepting more than $6 million from Cali drug traffickers during his 1994 campaign. U.S. officials are irritated that Samper’s government has not pushed for harsher penalties against drug traffickers or seized property of the cartels.

The United States government stresses instituion building, primarily within the law enforcement institutions and the judicial system. The judicial system has been the primary source of corruption. In the past cartel leaders would use bribes as well as threats to ease any conviction sentence or to even avoid arrest entirely. Agencies including the DEA, FBI, USAID, and some elements of the Department of Justice, work with the Colombian law enforcement to increase effectiveness. They assist in developing, refining, and training officials. However, training has had uneven results. In fact the U.S. government has provided over $31 million for support of counter-narcotics operations.6

In the wake of the US decision to decertify Colombia, the United States government presented the Colombian government with five criteria, on the basis of which-if they made significant progress-the US could consider reversing the 1997 decertification.

The criteria and the evaluation is as follows:

1. Application of a more effective, safe, reasonably priced granular herbicide against coca.

2. Introduction and/or full support of legislation to repeal article 35 of the constitution, to enable the extradition of Colombian nationals, including four Cali mafia kingpins.

3. Full and effective implementation of laws on asset forfeiture, money laundering and sentencing, and of the agreement to suppress illicit maritime traffic, especially the detection and monitoring provisions.

4. Bringing corrupt officials to justice

5. Tighten prison security.

For its part the Colombian government has made some effort to curtail the flow of narcotics. They have implemented a civil aviation program to inspect aircraft, formed investigative units, as well as create a joint US/Colombian task force to seize narcotics. However, as stated earlier the corruption of government and judicial officials hamper these efforts.

One way to explain this puzzle and the specific case of Colombia is to examine the theory behind these practices. Using theoretical models helps us explain polices. Implementing waivers provides flexibility in foreign policy. In order to change an actor’s behavior, carrots and sticks must be used to change another nations behavior. This is where the policy of waivers comes into play. By rewarding Colombia for its efforts to counter the narcotics threat, the United States waives sanctions. This encourages future Colombian behavior to further curb the flow of narcotics. It also sends a message to other nations, to implement policies that will stop the flow of narcotics. The United States is trying to isolate Samper, yet encourage local authorities to continue the fight against narcotics. In the coming presidential election in Colombia, certification by the United States will be an important issue. Many Colombians feel humiliated that they are recognized by the international community and especially the United States as not doing enough to fight drug trafficking and corruption.

The United States in the future can expect effective cooperation to continue in efforts to curtail the flow of narcotics. The future policy of the United States may be inferred in the following statement by the State Department.

"We must intensify these efforts despite the drawbacks of a weak political leadership in its final year and the distractions of the 1998 presidential campaign. The most immediate threats include endemic corruption, a weak judiciary and the physical risk from the guerrillas who violently oppose police eradication and CNP/military interdiction efforts as they threaten a source of financing for the guerrillas. Increasingly violent paramilitary groups, many of which are believed to have connections to drug traffickers, also pose a threat to our joint efforts. The violence associated with the drug trade, coupled with the violence generated by these twin threats and the weak, ineffective leadership of the Samper government have severely hampered our efforts in the recent past. If they are allowed to grow unchecked, they could, in an atmosphere of declining respect for law and waning adherence to the institutions of civil society, represent a genuine threat to Colombian democracy." 7


As we stated earlier, it seemed puzzling why an actor would impose sanctions on another actor and then waive them. Through studying theory and the specific case of the United State’s policy towards Colombia we can conclude that although the imposition of economic sanctions are used to rehabilitate an actor, they may be waived to allow flexibility in decision making as well as offer rewards to those who comply or make an effort to.







3 http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2R?urn:pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/1997/3/4/1.text.1


4 The Boston Globe Feb 27, 1998


5 Ibid.