Jens Gould

Jens Erik Gould regularly contributes to The New York Times and is a correspondent for Platts energy publications. He is based in Caracas, Venezuela.

Recent Articles

The Failure of Plan Colombia

If it weren't for the modern-day logos on some of the men's T-shirts, a snapshot of the Colombian village of La Balsa could be easily mistaken for a print taken a century ago. Rickety wooden homes that evoke images of an old Deep South backwater line the town's avenue -- which is no more than a grassy pathway. The seemingly-forgotten village has no electricity, no running water, no doctor, and no mayor. Its school doesn't go past the fifth grade. The village is situated just four miles from the Ecuadorian border in the hot and sticky coastal lowlands of the far-flung Nariño department. It is cut off from the nearest road by a motorboat ride across a river and a two-hour walk on a path that gets so muddy when it rains villagers are ashamed to make their horses traverse it. Much of rural Colombia is subject to this dearth of basic services and infrastructure. What villages like La Balsa do have, though, is an abundance of coca plants. Seven years ago, the U.S. government launched a $4.7...