Colombia’s contradictory return to coca fumigation


Colombia’s contradictory return to coca fumigation

9 May 2016
Pedro Arenas

Government Calls for Reforms at UNGASS, but Backtracks at Home.

On April 18, the Colombian government restarted use of the harmful and ineffective herbicide glyphosate to destroy coca crops, months after the governmentsuspended aerial spraying because the chemical was found to likely be carcinogenic. While spraying will continue on the ground instead of from the air, the move will still harm the health and welfare of rural Colombian farmers involved in the cultivation of illicit crops. The new practice also undercuts President Juan Manuel Santos’ calls for drug policy reform—most recently, at the April United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drug policy in New York.

Last year, the Colombian Ministry of Health accepted the evaluation from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, that found sufficient evidence to state that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” This finding comes after more than 30 years of aerial spraying of coca, cannabis, and poppy crops, during which local communities repeatedly denounced the negative effects the chemical had on humans and animals alike. In addition to the health effects, the practice puts local food security in jeopardy due to the fact that spraying campaigns have destroyed licit and illicit crops alike. Following the IARC’s announcement, the Colombian Health Ministry called on the National Drugs Council (Consejo Nacional de Estupefacientes, CNE), to suspend fumigation. The CNE ordered a stop to fumigation in August 2015, and the practice ultimately ended in October.

Meanwhile, however, Colombia’s counter-narcotics police began to explore alternative chemicals and techniques to continue forced coca eradication—a policy long-supported and funded by the U.S. Department of State.

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Thumbnail: Flickr Policía Nacional de los colombianos