The Empire’s Colony of Colombia: how the US and the CIA came to exploit and abuse Colombia

Carlton Meyer, “The Empire’s Colony of Colombia” (Tales of the American Empire, 27 May 2022)

For an introduction into the modern history of Colombia, at least since the early 1900s, and its relationship with the United States over the past 120 or so years, you can’t go past this video which bluntly details how the US government and its agencies, especially the CIA, have abused the country, its people and its land resources. The abuse begins some time back in the late 1800s when the US built a railway line across the Isthmus of Panama, then part of Colombia, and stationed marines in that territory to protect the railway line. When the US decided to build a canal through the isthmus, the Colombians wanted a share of the profits the canal would bring – so in 1903, the then US President Theodore Roosevelt sent troops to seize the isthmus. Thus was the isthmus separated from Colombia, later to become Panama.

Through the early half of the 20th century, Colombia served as an agricultural colony of US corporations growing bananas and coffee in plantations that exploited the majority working poor. Like many other former Spanish colonies, Colombia inherited a hierarchical society in which a privileged small elite owned most of the land and dominated the country’s politics, media and financial industry, and this arrangement was exploited by US corporations to their advantage. During World War II, US military advisors and troops arrived in Colombia to protect US corporate profits and US plantations, and to support the political elites in maintaining dominance over the people who were turning to revolutionary socialist movements to address and solve their grievances.

In the 1970s, cocaine became a popular drug in Western societies and this popularity attracted the attention of the CIA. Due to its illegality in the US and other countries, the cocaine trade in Colombia supplying the US and beyond came to be dominated by powerful drug cartels headed by drug lords such as Pablo Escobar. The CIA persuaded US Congress to commit millions of dollars every year to Plan Colombia, a supposed aid project to help the Colombian poor, but which in fact enabled CIA front companies to skim monies in various counter-narcotics schemes. Over time the CIA took over the cocaine trade by getting rid of drug cartel leaders. Senior Colombian politicians and government officials were bribed to ignore the CIA’s participation in the cocaine trade.

Although the US government continues to pour US taxpayer money into supposedly stopping the cocaine trade, the CIA continues to import cocaine into the States from Colombia and other cocaine-growing nations to fund various activities that include overthrowing governments in other parts of the world that the agency disapproves of. The CIA is just as much addicted to keeping this trade going, at the cost of delaying or destroying anything resembling democracy in Colombia and elsewhere, as cocaine addicts themselves are attached to the drug. Economist Michael Hudson appears near the end of the film explaining how Wall Street financial firms assist the CIA in funding the cocaine trade and hiding evidence of its activities away from US federal taxation and other authorities.

As usual, Carlton Meyer presents this information in forthright style, aided by historical archived films, maps, photographs and film stills. Perhaps the only downside of an otherwise highly informative video is the way in which it concludes with Michael Hudson being interviewed about his work in Chase Manhattan Bank in the 1960s at a time when the bank was becoming more involved in the CIA’s money laundering activities. There is no summary of what has gone before and the video, like many other episodes in Meyer’s “Tales of the American Empire” series, has an open ending. Viewers are left wondering what might happen next, especially now that Colombia has become a partner of NATO with its troops answerable to the US government rather the government of their country.