U.S.-Colombia Coca Eradication Called Destructive, Futile
Posted 04 March 2004 - 02:08 PM
Fri Feb 27, 9:12 AM ET
Jim Lobe, OneWorld US
WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb 27 (OneWorld) -- Aerial spraying of Colombia's coca crops should be halted because of its harmful impact on local farmers and the environment, and because it is not heaving any impact on the availability of cocaine in the United States, three NGOs argue on the eve of the State Department's release of its annual report of countries cooperating in the U.S. anti-drug war.
Although the report will show a significant drop in Colombia's production of coca during 2003, the groups say that such short-term gains are more than offset by environmental destruction and the forcible displacement of thousands of peasant farmers, who either go elsewhere to grow coca or join guerrilla or right-wing paramilitary organizations.
The groups also charge that three years of greatly increased spending on anti-drug programs throughout the Andes have had no appreciable impact on cocaine's price, purity or supply in the United States.
"At best, fumigation has caused a temporary dip in coca cultivation levels in Colombia," said Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Washington-based Latin American Working Group (LAWG). "But the fact remains that fumigation has failed at its main goal--reducing cocaine availability and use here at home--and has devastated small Colombian farming communities in the process. The entire policy needs to be reconsidered."
The aerial fumigation program has been part of the Washington-backed "Plan Colombia" since its inception in mid-2000, when the U.S. Congress approved a $1.3 billion aid package for Colombia and its neighbors as the first installment of a massive increase in aid for counter-drug operations. That aid total has since climbed to nearly $2.5 billion, of which almost $2 billion goes to military and police forces.
From December 2000 to December 2002, the Colombian Antinarcotics police (DIRAN), with the support of U.S. contractors, sprayed herbicide on more than 600,000 acres of coca and another 15,00 acres of opium poppy in Colombia, mostly concentrated in the southwestern department of Putumayo, along Colombia's border with Ecuador and Peru. The program targeted all coca fields, from large plantations to small plots of less than five acres grown by peasant farmers, including indigenous people.
The herbicide used in the spray mixture is glyphosate, a chemical manufactured by Monsanto Corporation, that, in sufficient doses, kills or stunts the growth of virtually all plants and trees. Because of its potential environmental and human health impact, Congress requires that the State Department consult with the Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) (EPA) to ensure that its use in Colombia complies with regulatory controls of the same substance, sold as "Roundup," in the United States.
The fumigation program has been hailed as a great success by both the Bush administration and the Colombian government. Last July White House "drug czar," John Walters reported that coca production in Putumayo declined by 96 percent since 2001.
But these claims, according to LAWG and two others groups, EarthJustice and California-based Inter-American Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), should be seen as a "public relations effort, not confirmation of an effective counter-drug policy."
In a 54-page report entitled "Going to Extremes: The U.S.-Funded Aerial Eradication Program in Colombia," LAWG argues that the fumigation policy has failed to make even moderate headway toward achieving its stated goal of reducing the availability of cocaine in the United States. According to the latest national data, including Walters' own office, the report says, the price, availability, and purity of cocaine sold in the U.S. have remained virtually unchanged since fumigation operations began.
Moreover, according to the report, the short-term reductions in coca cultivation mask the fact that coca cultivation is moving. Not only has increased cultivation in Bolivia and Peru --which have rejected U.S. pressure to launch fumigation programs--more than made up for the decline in Colombia, according to the report.
In Colombia cultivation is spreading from Putumayo to nearby provinces and regions that have previously been free of coca, including Colombia's highly biodiverse national parks, which the State Department has already targeted for spraying this year, according to both LAWG and a second report released Thursday by EarthJustice and AIDA.
"The US aerial spraying policy is spiraling out of control," says Anna Cederstav of AIDA. "Now the State Department wants to spray in Colombia's national parks!"
In the absence of either short-term food aid or long-term alternative development assistance, the spraying has caused considerable hardship for small farmers and their families, who have seen their food crops destroyed alongside coca plants.
Between late 2001 and October, 2002, more than 6,500 farmers filed complaints that spraying destroyed their legal crops, but, to date, only five have been compensated. At the same time, an estimated 50,000 people--roughly 15 percent of Putumayo's population--left the province, many of them to grow coca elsewhere, according to one survey.
EarthJustice and AIDA also take issue with the State Department's latest certification that it is complying with Congressional conditions on the spraying program. Their report charges that spraying operations are not being carried out according to the label conditions for the herbicide's correct use, and that the State Department has failed to carry out an impact assessment to verify its own certification.
Instead, Washington has worked with the Colombian government to weaken its environmental management plan, according to both reports, which call on Congress to withhold funds for the program until a adequate assessments can be carried out.
"Without having conducted comprehensive health and environmental assessments, such as those that would be completed for a spray program of this magnitude in the United States," the LAWG report states, "the U.S. government is carrying out an experiment on Colombian soil with unknown human health and ecological repercussions."
"With so much invested in the program, facts that contradict the campaign's 'success' are ignored, at high cost to the Colombian environment and U.S. taxpayers," said Cederstav.
Despite the expenditure of billions of dollars in anti-drug aid over the past 15 years, according to the State Department's own annual reports, coca cultivation in the entire Andean region has consistently hovered at around 500,000 acres since 1988, added Haugaard.
Besides focusing more on demand in the United States, according to the LAWG report, "we need to assess regional and international, not country, production levels." Given the balloon effect of eradication efforts, focusing on one country, or one region within one country, makes little sense.
"The U.S. Congress should not continue supporting a policy," said Astrid Puentes, AIDA"s legal director, "that is both ineffective and that poses severe risks to vulnerable communities, threatening key environmental ecosystems and now the national parks in Colombia."
Posted 18 March 2004 - 09:49 PM
Posted 19 March 2004 - 02:32 PM
Posted 29 March 2004 - 01:20 AM
Posted 29 March 2004 - 09:01 AM
Posted 28 April 2004 - 08:49 AM
Dramatic eh? Nothing compared to the reality of living through it for near eight years.
Why is this person ranting? What is it I am talking about?
In the rainforest of Columbia, farmers grow a plant called coca from which is extracted a drug called cocaine, a drug our government has seen fit to protect us from. They use a multitude of methods to try to stop cocaine. One of the ways is to “destroy” a field(which coincidently sits above an enormous cache of oil and natural gas) with aerial herbicides. The reports come back describing skin lesions, rashes, and a host of more serious illness from exposure to these herbicides. Many human rights organizations have come out decrying this practice.
Now north a few thousand miles to the rainforest of the Oregon coast range. As office manager of our local medical clinic, my wife was in a unique position to observe just what illnesses were coming in to the office. During certain times of the year skin rashes, kidney and liver ailments and anxiety/depression made up the preponderance of patients.
How can these events be related? Aerial spraying of herbicidal compounds. In our area timber companies to ostensibly halt competitive growth by deciduous trees on Douglas fir timberland do it, but the practice has been picked up by law enforcement to include a spray chopper to follow the sheriff cannabis patrols. The coastal valleys are sprayed with herbicides, rodenticides (rat poison), and fungicides throughout the year, along with their residents.
Largely the effects are so insidious that many people have not yet realized the source of their complaints, we are all busy trying to live active country lifestyles and it leaves little time to ponder the cause of ones nonspecific anxiety or the pock-like rash which comes and goes. Usually it is when, like someone we know, loses their hair within a week of the railroad spraying the tracks with herbicide that the questioning begins. Once the connection is made it usually causes the person to either run or get vocal. Unfortunately the vocal are usually marginalized and ignored. Reasoned and thoughtful letters to the press are ignored and State officials routinely investigate but dismiss damage done by drifting clouds of poison.
Anecdotally when we were leaving our home for good we stopped in at our little local café for dinner. I was lamenting the health issues which were forcing us from our home. The proprietor then popped up and said “ why don’t you talk to her, she’s a reporter” Her ears pricked up and I related an abbreviated tail of our gradual decline in health and the intensification of the number of spray choppers working our valley. She then wanted to further meet with me and wished for me to gather information from others in the area experiencing the same problems. It being a 50 mile stretch of old highway snaking along one of the best salmon streams in the state I put up flyers with contact info concerning the issue at the small stores which dot the highway. I had not heard anything back from this reporter when I E-mailed her about my plans and she stood me up at our meeting time. I had by this time filed her away as another dead end until she called me franticly threatening me with a libel (?) suit and how I should have discussed with her the placing of the flyers. I was dumbfounded, after all I had told her that this was a LARGE issue and many dollars were involved, no small amount including law teams hired by the timber corporations to squelch just such activity. Well to this old timer it seemed she had been threatened about looking into this too closely.
As I write this I am struck by how little recourse a man has in protecting his property if said property is in the way of corporate profits. I can go on listing one event after another in which timber interests have buried private land owners in a legal quagmire when their right to poison the land is questioned.
My place is beautiful right now, the blossoms of spring abound and the new green leaves are growing. A seven acre dell across a bridge on a salmon spawning creek. Pretty Poison is what my life’s work and dream has become.
My name is whiterasta and I am an American victim of chemical terrorism in my own country!
(Message edited by whiterasta on April 28, 2004)
Posted 28 April 2004 - 09:41 AM
Posted 30 April 2004 - 11:18 AM
that's just stupid. nobody has the right to poison other people, for any reason.
Posted 03 January 2004 - 06:25 PM
While consumer countries are largely spared significant environmental consequences, supply-side eradication schemes have a devastating effect on source countries. Aerial herbicide spraying, a key part of the U.S. funded Plan Colombia, is increasing the rate of rainforest destruction in South America. In an effort to eradicate drug crops in Colombia, toxic herbicides are sprayed from above, hitting water supplies, staple crops, and people.
Since the aerial fumigations began, there have been thousands of reports of serious health problems, destruction of food crops and livestock, contamination of surface water, damage to surrounding wilderness areas, and deforestation resulting from the need of peasants to clear forests and plant food crops on uncontaminated lands. As impoverished peasants move deeper into the Amazon basin they become more dependent on coca as a cash crop. Lack of infrastructure and ongoing civil war make it difficult for peasants to bring legal crops to market. Because the illicit drug trade is so profitable, traffickers will meet farmers at the source of coca cultivation.
In the United States, some Midwestern states use herbicides to eradicate “ditch weed,” feral patches of industrial hemp leftover from the U.S. government’s World War II “Hemp for Victory” campaign. Because non-intoxicating industrial hemp has no commercial value, the annual “ditch weed” eradication efforts are mainly used by drug war bureaucrats to bolster statistics. Other states with significant illicit marijuana cultivation, like Hawaii, have banned the use of herbicides in response to environmental concerns.
The drug war’s threat to the environmental is not limited to overzealous drug warriors armed with toxic herbicides. Organized crime groups who cash in on the drug war’s distortion of supply and demand dynamics have little regard for the environment. In Andean nations, illicit cocaine producers dispose of chemical byproducts by pouring excess chemicals wherever it’s convenient. The hazardous methamphetamine labs of the U.S. are reminiscent of the deadly exploding liquor stills that sprung up throughout the nation during alcohol prohibition. Even growers of organic marijuana impact the environment by felling trees in national forests to make room for illicit grow sites.
The greatest potential threat to the environment is the prospect of biologically engineered fungi intended to wipe out illicit drug crops. Scientists funded by the U.S. and British governments have been developing a killer fungus that destroys opium poppies. The genetically engineered fungus is designed to destroy opium poppies but leave other plant species unharmed. Similar fungi are being designed to eradicate coca and marijuana. Due to concerns that the introduction of genetically altered organisms designed to wipe out entire plant species could prove catastrophic, killer fungi have yet to be put into use. Proponents of biological warfare as a "silver bullet" that will win the drug war once and for all fail to recognize that natural drugs have synthetic counterparts. If every last plant in South America were destroyed, methamphetamine production would increase to meet the demand for cocaine-like drugs.
In 2000, the Colombian government vetoed a U.S.-backed proposal to test a killer fungus (Fusarium oxysporum http://ohio.sierracl...herbicide.htm l ) on the bushes from which cocaine is made, citing Fusarium’s tendency to mutate and claiming it might pose “grave risks to the environment and humans.” Florida drug czar Jim McDonough approved the use of a Fusarium fungus engineered to attack marijuana in his home state, but was forced to give up on his plans to introduce a killer fungus into the state’s ecosystem. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection reminded McDonough that Fusarium species are capable of evolving rapidly, are prone to mutation, and remain active in warm soils for years.
Posted 03 January 2004 - 06:39 PM
Posted 03 January 2004 - 07:15 PM
How much brown mexican dirt weed have you smoked that has been sprayed with paraquat?
Posted 04 January 2004 - 07:11 PM
i heard they're already testing it on some hawaiian islands...
Posted 05 January 2004 - 12:09 AM
Posted 18 March 2004 - 09:50 PM
How long until they're hunting down the Colorado River Toads one by one?
Posted 18 March 2004 - 11:02 PM