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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Colombia: We’ll Spray Toxic Chemicals to Keep Americans from Doing Drugs

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat  TY GUS  VICE

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The Colombian government has published a proposed law that will allow it to resume a controversial program of aerial fumigation of coca crops using glyphosate, a weed-killer thought to cause cancer in people exposed to it regularly and in high doses.

“The resumption of the spraying would increase the capacity of the Colombian state to confront drug trafficking in less time and in a more effective way,” said Colombia’s Ministry of Justice in a statement announcing the decree in late December.

The decree, similar in legal status to an executive order in the U.S., calls for a program of new crop-spraying flights, with national police oversight. The plans are in the final stage of their passage to law, and spraying is expected to begin “in the second half of this year,” said Ricardo Vargas, an expert in crop fumigation and coca at National University of Colombia.

The proposals by the Colombian president, Ivan Duque – after a five year hiatus in coca spraying – have been criticized by local government officials, environmentalists, drug policy experts and rural communities living under the proposed toxic flight paths.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who last year admonished his Colombian counterpart for failing to stem record coca crops. In a speech last year, Trump said Duque had “done nothing for us” on cocaine. Trump has also threatened to cut aid and de-certify Colombia, the most U.S.-friendly nation in Latin America, as an ally in the war against drugs if the nation did not do more.

U.S. embassy officials in Bogotá called the move “a critical step." “The US supports the efforts of the Colombian government to achieve our joint objective of halving coca cultivation and cocaine production by the end of 2023,” said an embassy statement. Last week, in what looks like a sweetener for Duque, U.S. officials announced a $5 billion rural aid program for Colombia, via the new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

Glyphosate is used as a weedkiller worldwide, albeit at lower concentrations than those generally deployed in Colombia. But U.S. courts have ruled that it has caused cancer in three cases. The German firm Bayer now owns Monsanto, which has sold the chemical in its Roundup line of weedkillers to millions of U.S. householders for decades. Bayer is now liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

In May 2019, an Oakland, CA, jury ordered agrochemical giant Monsanto to pay more than $2 billion to a husband and wife who contracted non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a type of cancer, after using Roundup. A jury ruled that Roundup caused Alberta and Alva Pilliod to fall ill. Monsanto appealed, and the couple eventually settled for a joint $86 million in July 2019.

This was the third verdict against the company over the product. Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, won a $289 million victory in state court last year, and Edwin Hardeman, who used Roundup at home, was awarded $80 million.

Colombia already destroys coca crops using manual eradication, in which workers pull the plants up by the roots, and also with small-scale, targeted drone spraying of glyphosate.

But the world’s biggest cocaine producer suspended the aerial spraying of coca fields by U.S. contractors in 2015 after a study by the World Health Organization found that glyphosate is carcinogenic.

During those nearly 25 years, during U.S.-led anti-drug war action Plan Colombia, U.S. pilots and Colombian police sprayed glyphosate on 4,420,000 acres of Colombian territory, said Adam Isacson, of WOLA, the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and advocacy organization. The scale of the proposed new spraying campaign is yet to be decided.

In August 2018, Kevin Whitaker, who was then U.S. ambassador, told the Wall Street Journal that “seven or eight of the crop dusters that had worked the coca fields here remain in Colombia. I told embassy staff and the Colombians the same thing: We need to be ready for a restart.”

Cocaine production has grown despite hopes that the historic peace deal with Farc guerillas in 2016 would curtail it. As part of the peace deal, which put an end to the world’s longest-running civil conflict, the government pledged to help coca farmers move into legal agriculture. But that has not happened in most cases – and so the coca trade has flourished, with cocaine prices dropping, and purity rising to unprecedented levels across the U.S. and EU.

Up to 120 community leaders, some of whom had called for alternative investment in the demilitarized areas including coca alternatives, have been killed in Colombia this year in a wave of extrajudicial killings, according to research this week by human rights group, Frontline Defenders.

Vargas said communities have not had the help they needed to move away from the coca trade and now will take the brunt of the new spraying program. “Many social leaders, some of whom have been for promoting the substitution of coca, have been threatened or killed. The government is failing to offer physical security for them.

“Fumigations disrupt the poor stability of people living in these territories, pollute water, affect people's health, generate forced displacements and with them schools, or sources of income for parents, causing social upheaval. It affects forest and woodland, creating conflict and uncertainty for all communities.”

Colombia is today producing a huge volume of cocaine, with the UN reporting that 1,379 tons were produced in 2017 – up a third on 2016. The UNODC also says the area under coca cultivation in Colombia has tripled over the past five years, reaching 169,000 hectares (417,600 acres) at the end of 2018.

But experts have decried the return to aerial spraying before it has even begun.

“The resumption of aerial spraying is about as effective as shoveling water,” said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, a U.S. think tank. Tree says the cycle of rural poverty and coca-planting is exacerbated by spraying programs, and that investment in roads would be more effective.

“Coca farmers live in remote areas without access to the infrastructure necessary to get hundreds of kilos of food crops to market. A kilo of coca paste is easy to transport and sell,” said Tree. “When the state destroys their livelihood, they are forced into food insecurity and yet they must continue to feed their families. What’s the one crop they know how to grow, for which there are ready and willing buyers, and doesn’t require modern transportation infrastructure? Coca! Lather, rinse, repeat,” he said.

Vargas said spraying crops is 83 times less effective than state aid: “What is observed in Colombia is that in the medium and long-term aerial fumigation does not mean a reduction in supply,” he said. “On the contrary, according to a UNODC evaluation in Colombia, coca re-planting is 0.6 percent when a farmer receives voluntary crop substitution plans, but forced eradication prompts a replanting level of almost 50 percent.”

The new move could force coca farmers to plant in isolated national parks, where spraying of any kind will remain illegal. Coca monoculture and land clearance in these untouched areas causes devastating habitat loss; Colombia is one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries, and is home to 10 percent of the world's species.

Eleonara Davalos, professor of public policy at Universidad EAFIT in Medellin, Colombia, said the plan to fumigate crops from planes was “a short-term strategy.” She said despite the prior 25-year spraying campaign and ensuing eradication efforts, most of the areas under cultivation in the 1990s are still growing coca today. “About 90 percent of the coca growing in Colombia today is growing in the same areas as it did in the past,” she added.


  1. Oh boy this is not good

    1. @1:42 what you saying??? This is GREAT and it makes perfect sense!

      This way we show the American public that we are doing SOMETHING forceful (the best would be if we could nuke 'em though). At the same time it will not make dent in the supply so the drugs will keep on flowing and those getting rich from bribes and the war on drugs will get even richer!

      Cool, rite?

    2. Our lax laws and self entitled society is the reason for this. I’m super pro American, big trump supporter etc but the reality is we create most of the demand and unless we are prepared to make it so severe to be caught with drugs, this is only a waste and hurting poor farmers in rural lat am something most ina a bubble people can’t comprehend while they wait in line for Starbucks. If anything we are moving in a different direction. Of becoming more lax

  2. There is always Bolivia or Peru.

  3. Sure they will, and stop all that cash from pouring into the country..ha ha

  4. they already do this in the USA

  5. I would love for drugs to dissappear and then what are LE agencies going to do for a living ... the war on drugs along with the pigs that feed their families from it is the biggest hypocrisy in existence ... even more than religion

  6. Go ahead and contaminate your country. This will have a toll on colombianos ya que ya estan enfermos. Cancer will spread.

  7. Be careful there! The yanks will haunt you for endangering 'American lives' (meaning only US citizens mind you).

    1. Yeah right....White US citizens maybe.

  8. Hmm so the alternative solution to reduce the supply of drugs by the governmentddoing what it is supposed to would help alleviate poverty and help the poor. I wonder what motivates the Colombian government to not choose that option?

  9. They said the same thing years BACK, who ever believes this still believes in the Tooth fairy

  10. As a Colombian drug lord I would looking for ways to replace the chems with something else, maybe fertilizer.
    At one day we will see how they shoot down those planes.
    History repeats itself.

  11. cocaine is for fhs bourgeoisie... Meth and H FTW!!!

  12. question for debate: Without Americans/if US legalized cooking/growing, distribution of drugs in America, would there be no drug wars?
    I say there still would be, but with less casualties, and less turf wars around Border Towns. i will not act like US consumption is not the main driving force behind the drug wars in Mexico, but we cannot forget that the drugs are made to be addicting and crippling, and that is why they are lucrative.people like to forget that the socialites and young people in Mexico love drugs too, and buy them. Central America its the same thing in small spaces but you see a lot more impoverished people addicted to crack. Also lets not forget that Colombia is slinging coca to every other major seaport in the world..this spraying cant stop the beast of this cycle but neither can even the end of US consumption of drugs cause they would just sell to the next guys and infiltrate a new market even more. thats how bleak it is.

  13. It's not only US consuming drugs, it's world wide problem, but hey let's continue to blame the US.

    1. 731 your right. I don’t doubt the USA has a drug problem especially with Hollywood glorifying it use. But this entire hemisphere has the problem as well. Latin America and Canada both indulge. The amount of drugs pushed onto US streets has to have something to do with the economy. Latin America is close to the USA and the American dollar is worth around 25 pesos so where does it make most sense to sell the product? Not hard to figure out where the money is to be made.
      This article makes it sound as if Colombia expects a prize for doing the right thing for the good of mankind but to me it sounds as if it’s just another line of BS to blame someone else for problems created within their own borders. Coca is grown exclusively in northern and western South America . None of the economies in Latin America can compete with the US economy and Latin America is notoriously corrupt.
      Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to decide to sell your dope to one of the richest nations in the world especially when they live across a porous border that is controlled by criminals and a corrupt government.
      For some reason Mexico and according to the title of the article Colombia wants to blame all of their violence on American guns that they are not forced to buy and American addicts that they helped create.
      Enabling people to get high and then turning around and blaming those same people for your problems that you helped create is getting old. No drug user is using and hoping that a five year old gets shot or a journalist gets killed because they got in the way of some narco....

      Oh and spraying Farc guerrilla coca plantations in Colombia is not gonna work because it’s grown in
      other countries

  14. It's not like production and routes haven't relocated before the hub will just be elsewhere.

  15. Those damn narco terrorist are destroying this world! Meanwhile their criminal organizations get smarter, bigger, stronger and richer. How Is that going to help!!!


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