U.S. efforts towards “Antioquia libre de coca”

After half a century of war, the people of Colombia have a chance for peace. However, the continuing scourge of narcotrafficking undermines the chance for real progress for Colombians, leaving a trail of blood, dirty money, and broken families in its wake. Colombians deserve to benefit from the security, development, and economic opportunity that peace will bring. Working as a team with the Colombian government, the Antioquia department government, the mayors of key municipalities, the Colombian security forces, as well as with the private sector and civil society, the U.S. Embassy is taking a new approach to unify our efforts in the Bajo Cauca region. Our efforts focus on participating in a whole-of-government Colombian effort to boost licit economic opportunities, develop and improve key infrastructure, and confront criminal activities, including narcotics production. The United States and Colombia, working side by side, can provide hope to communities affected by decades of conflict and narcotrafficking.

U.S. support in Bajo Cauca by the numbers

KEY U.S. GOVERNMENT PROJECTS IN BAJO CAUCA

DEVELOPMENT

U.S. support for improvements to infrastructure such as roads and bridges helps communities deepen their connection to broader society, better access government services, and bring their products to market, while U.S. government support for reconciliation and land titling helps consolidate the peace.

  • USAID works with the public and private sectors and local communities to develop tertiary roads in Caceres and Briceño. These projects have already improved over 200 km of roads.
  • Planned support for improvements of schools, bridges, and roads in Ituango, Valdivia, and Tarazá.
  • Programs such as USAID’s Oro Legal reduce mercury use in gold mining by formalizing small-scale miners and providing alternative development opportunities such as honey/beekeeping for others. Oro Legal improves the local environment while increasing jobs for the community.
  • U.S. support for land titling increases the economic stability of the region. Farmers with titles have increased access to credit to grow their businesses, and titles for public goods providers, like schools, enable local investment by these municipalities. Farmers with titles to their land are less likely to grow illegal crops, such as coca.
  • The United States works to strength the ability of local governments to recognize all victims of the conflict and implement the Victims’ Law, moving these communities forward with truth and reconciliation, as well as economic compensation for victims.

OPPORTUNITY 

  • U.S. government programs in Bajo Cauca help farmers take advantage of licit alternative economic opportunities, including alternative crops such as cacao and honey. Through support for human rights, access to justice, land titling, rural financial services, and licit agricultural value chains, the U.S. provides communities with the necessary tools to build a better life.
  • USAID supports “Chocolate Colombia,” helping cacao producers in the region – many of them former coca growers – to increase productivity and connections to national and international markets. They also have
    improved access to credit because of USAID’s partnerships with financial institutions.
  • U.S.-supported Cacao for Peace works to increase the quality, productivity, and export potential of cacao through technical assistance
    and research.
  • Education programs such as Ser + Maestro and others will train teachers in the region to integrate reconciliation into education; develop civil education programs focused on rule of law; and English teacher
    training.
  • Reconciliation and reintegration programs ensure the opportunities of peace reach all citizens of the region, particularly youth.
  • U.S. government scholarships will help up to 200 police recruits from Bajo Cauca pay for their training.
  • Support to local civil society organizations, ranging from associations of women victims of the conflict to youth entrepreneurs, and cacao producers, helps to rebuild trust and the social cohesion on which local economic growth and civic engagement are built.

SECURITY

U.S. government programs strengthen the Colombian public forces’ ability to protect citizens in rural areas while reducing cocaine production, attacking criminal organizations, and bringing traffickers to justice.

  • U.S. government support for the Center for Fusion of Operations (CEFOP) at Finca Paraguay, helps the Colombian police better integrate their operations.
  • U.S. supported helicopters provide support for CNP operations to increase rural security and to eradicate coca.
  • A $1.5 million U.S.-funded humanitarian demining effort in the area around Briceño will identify areas of contamination and clear those areas affected by land mines, allowing up to 981 residents of the area to finally use this land.
  • Protective equipment to keep Colombian police safe in the line of duty.
  • Development of youth drug courts and other projects to reduce the use of drugs by young people in Antioquia.
  • Strengthening the government’s ability to protect human rights defenders and social leaders.
  • U.S.-supported community dialogues between police and communities build trust to overcome prejudices and stigmatization regarding vulnerable populations.
  • U.S. programs increase access to justice services to rural populations of Bajo Cauca through use of Mobile Justice Brigades.

The newly repaired 5.4 kilometer road in Caceres will link 90
families (approximately 400 people) to the urban areas of
Caceres and to the main highway between Medellín and
Cartagena. This road not only brings products to market but
helps bring the benefits of peace – security, economic
opportunity, education – to the citizens of Bajo Cauca.

Thanks to USAID support for
Microempresas de Colombia, Matilde
Moreno of Ituango got the credit and
guidance she needed to became a
small business owner.