When George W. Bush took over as U.S. president at the beginning of 2001, the United States had just embarked on its massive $1.3 billion, much-criticized “Plan Colombia” aimed at stopping the production of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin in that country. Already, there were 500 U.S. troops in Colombia in support of an army that itself deals in drugs and has one of the worst human rights records in the world, including providing regular support for right-wing civilian death squads. As the year commenced there were an estimated two million Colombian refugees, while both the former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and the economist Milton Friedman had joined the swelling ranks of those who argue that the war on drugs is causing more harm than drug abuse itself. Another eminent American, William Ratliff of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, argued at the end of 2000 that Plan Colombia was heading for crisis. Adding to the growing sense of confrontation in Colombia, where a long-standing civil war between left and right shows no sign of abating, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) issued a New Year's message in which it threatened “to defeat the evil war plans of the governments of the United States and Colombia.” And to drive home the contradictions inherent in U.S. policy, José Vicente Rangel, the foreign minister of neighboring Venezuela, challenged Washington to explain why $4 billion worth of marijuana is grown in the United States. 1