Although Colombia has been pushed off the front pages by Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, Colombia remains one of the largest recipients of US foreign assistance. Colombia is also a US foreign policy priority in terms of the “wars” on drugs and terror as well as our commitment to strengthening democracies. Not only is Colombia America’s staunchest ally in the hemisphere, it offers an underappreciated model of successful cooperation with the U.S. Santa Rosa del Sur, a small town in Colombia’s Southern Bolivar Department, was once in the heart of northern Colombia drug production with a heavy involvement of leftist guerilla groups. The farmers had no choice but to grow coca for peanuts, so to speak. Ten years later they thrive by growing cocoa and other legally marketable crops. USAID helped to make that happen. Our speaker was part of this durable transformation, and this program will tell us how it came about.

Santa Rosa del Sur, a small town in Colombia’s Southern Bolivar Department, was once in the heart of northern Colombia drug production with a heavy involvement of leftist guerilla groups. The farmers had no choice but to grow coca for peanuts, so to speak. Ten years later they thrive by growing cocoa and other legally marketable crops. USAID helped to make that happen. Our  speaker was part of this durable transformation, and this program will tell us how it came about.

Since 2000, via Plan Colombia I and II, the US has provided well over $8 billion in economic and military assistance to Colombia, but with mixed results. Because further investment is anticipated over the next few years, it is essential to understand from every angle the drug business and the guerrilla conflict it feeds, an inconvenient fact that is all too often ignored. As a result, initial program successes routinely suffer severe deterioration over time.

Santa Rosa, however, is doing well, as our presenter discovered when he revisited his old stomping ground ten years later. The Santa Rosa story, he discovered, offers exactly what policy makers need to know as they evaluate what works and what doesn’t work in policies designed to assist the disadvantaged in rural poverty settings. He’ll be sharing the formula with us.

The Speakers

John HeardSenior 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.
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, John Heard served as Associate Mission Director for Operations in El Salvador, where 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 (1996-98), he supervised a massive business development program that was instrumental in reactivating industry in the devastated economy of the time.
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. John has since remained in close touch with Colombia through multiple consulting trips.

Where

St. John’s College, Junior Commons Room. January 26, 2015, from 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm

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Parking

The Visitors Parking Lot is on your left as you enter campus. A few handicapped parking spaces are located at the Visitor’s Circle right in front of the fishpond area and below the Peterson Student Center. A few more are located behind the Peterson Center as follows. Just before the Visitor’s Circle, look for the fork in the road where you would normally drive to the left to get to the Visitors’ Parking Circle just below the Peterson Center. Instead, turn right and follow the drive up to the other parking area. There are two or three handicapped parking spaces on the left. Please note that this parking lot is not open to the public, but handicapped folks are allowed to park in the designated spaces.