Colombia today faces a profound national crisis, more wrenching than any in its history. Political and criminal violence are endemic, fueled by enormous profits from the illegal drug trade. A rapid erosion of the rule of law has led to the widespread perception that civil institutions have lost their legitimacy. More than half of Colombia's national territory is effectively beyond the control of the central government. What was once a proud, self-confident people are losing optimism, confidence, even hope.
The Council on Foreign Relations, in partnership with the Pacific Council on International Policy, convened for the first time a Working Group on Colombia, based in San Francisco. This Working Group operated in parallel with the Independent Task Force on Colombia, jointly sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Inter-American Dialogue. Mathea Falco, president of Drug Strategies and former assistant secretary of state for international narcotics matters, chaired Working Group and served as a member of the Independent Task Force. The Independent Task Force was cochaired by Senator Bob Graham from Florida and former national security adviser General Brent Scowcroft.
The purpose of the Working Group on Colombia was to discuss the implications of Colombia's current crisis for the United States. The Working Group included a cross-section of informed Californians with careers in business, law, the judiciary, law enforcement, education, philanthropy, and journalism. Sharing an active interest in Latin America and deep concern about Colombia, Working Group members exchanged ideas with leading Colombian officials, U.S. drug control and counter-insurgency experts, and scholars and journalists with long experience in Latin America.