Special Event on Limiting Drug Production in Colombia


Speaker: John Heard

Title: Limiting Drug Production in Colombia

Location: The Forum, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, 1600 St. Michael’s Drive

Although for years Colombia has been pushed off the front pages by Iraq, Afghanistan and war on terror, the country still plays a vital role in the stability and security of the Western hemisphere, not to mention its continuing status as the source of the substantial flow of cocaine and other drugs into this country and Europe through Mexico and other channels. For this reason, Colombia today is still one of the largest recipients of US foreign assistance in the world – dwarfing all other programs in Latin America.

The country represents a major priority for US Foreign Policy in terms of the war on drugs and terror and our mandate to export and strengthen democracies in the developing world. It is also our staunchest ally in the hemisphere and represents a model of cooperation with the United States and a bulwark of support for US policy in Latin America.

The US Embassy in Bogota is one of the biggest in the world and includes representatives from over 40 US Government Agencies. The presentation will focus on the evolving state of the war on drug production in Colombia – what has worked and what has not – and offer lessons from experience on new directions for how to maximize the impact of our considerable military and economic investment in Plan Colombia I and II (well over $8 billion since the year 2000 with hundreds of millions more proposed over the next five years). It is important that the nature of the ongoing drug production phenomenon and how to address it be understood by US policy makers and the general public so that it, and the ongoing guerilla conflict that it feeds, can be mitigated. To date this understanding has been lacking, resulting in severe deterioration of needed program impact. How this can be turned around through the application of vital lessons from experience will be covered in the presentation.

John Heard is a former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Peace Corps with tours in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Paraguay, El Salvador, Bosnia and the Philippines plus a number of years in Washington. No stranger to conflict and post-conflict settings, in El Salvador as Associate Mission Director for Operations he managed a major multi-sector portfolio that literally kept the country afloat during the most difficult years of that war (1987-1992). In Bosnia, following the Dayton Accords, he supervised a massive business development program instrumental in reactivating industry in the devastated economy of the time (1996-98). Later, in retirement, from January 2003 through mid 2007, he was Country Director for the Pan American Development Foundation program in Colombia where he supervised implementation of a $160 million USAID financed program dedicated to addressing the drug production problem at the farm level and the need to develop social and economic solutions for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by violence from the ongoing conflict. This involved directing a staff of 160 spread over 18 field offices throughout critical conflict and post conflict zones of the country. John has since remained in close touch with Colombia in a consulting status and has returned several times a year to the present time.

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