Thursday, February 03, 2005

Misreading the lessons of El Salvador, again

No sooner did I discover CIP's blog, Plan Colombia and Beyond, that Adam Isacson has come up with a great post on the whole issue of the demobilization of paramilitaries in Colombia.

Isacson takes on a prominent columnist in Colombia, as well as the U.S. Ambassador, both of whom use the example of the post-war crime wave in El Salvador and Guatemala as a reason why the Uribe government, with the support of international donors, should be quick to demobilize and reintegrate those very nasty paramilitary forces.

Isacson does a good job in skewering their main argument -- that Colombia should avoid the mistakes of El Salvador's peace process, in which insurgents and military forces were supposedly demobilized without any attention to education or jobs. This was certainly not the problem. Donors provided plenty of aid to these guys.

Donors provided plenty of aid to these guys. But international donors will likely never provide enough aid for the kind of rehabilitation needed for persons for whom guns and violence have become a way of life. And, of course, if you want to avoid having lots of criminals running around, you'll also need to make sure you have a more equitable society, a functioning judicial system, and good law enforcement.

I won't go on with this, but I hope Adam goes further in contesting this fallacious "lesson learned" from Central America. If the topic interests you, you should read the whole post, and don't neglect to check out my comment as well.

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