By Adam Isacson (WOLA)
Colombia’s Constitutional Court met today to discuss the government’s plans to reinstate aerial spraying of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, using aircraft and the herbicide glyphosate. President Iván Duque was the first to address the high court; he asked the justices to “modulate” their past rulings to allow more spraying.
The U.S. government supported this “fumigation” program between the early 1990s and 2015, when the Colombian government, under then-President Juan Manuel Santos, suspended it. During those nearly 25 years, U.S. contractor pilots and Colombian police sprayed glyphosate onto 4,420,000 acres of Colombian territory (1,790,000 hectares, an area larger than Connecticut but smaller than New Jersey). Colombia was the only country that allowed aerial spraying of glyphosate for counter-drug purposes.
The Santos government suspended the program in 2015, after a World Health Organization literature review found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In 2017, Colombia’s Constitutional Court placed important restrictions on any future use of glyphosate from aircraft, but did not ban the practice. Since 2013, coca cultivation has increased sharply in Colombia; in 2017, more than 119,500 families made a living off of the crop, up from 61,700 four years earlier. Under pressure from the Obama and Trump administrations, the Colombian government has committed to reducing the nation’s acreage by half by 2023.