Aletho News


COLOMBIA: Campesino lives matter too—racism in U.S. aerial coca fumigation policy

By Phil Hart | CPTnet | August 10, 2015

I’ve claimed to be an organic gardener since I originally started planting vegetables in SE Ohio in the early 1970s. At the same time, I confess to having used Roundup and a few other herbicides to deal with poison ivy and a few other invasive species that were frustrating me. I apply it as sparingly and specifically as possible, never when windy or wet.

Here in Colombia this spring when we were sitting in a restaurant watching the mid­day news on the TV I was stunned to see video of US planes flown by US contractors aerial spraying US­ supplied glyphosate on suspected coca farms (the plant used to make cocaine). Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Everything I knew about applying this chemical said aerial spraying had to be a bad idea.

The practice is making the news because in March the World Health Organization’s research arm issued its finding that Glyphosate probably causes cancer. 1) Then on 9 May President Santos called for a ban on all aerial coca fumigation. It has been a controversial program with opponents likening it to Agent Orange use during the Viet Nam War. Residents in the areas of spraying report the loss of food crops, and various illnesses have been linked to the practice. The cancer link has moved Colombia’s Health Ministry to support the ban.

According to Adam Isaacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, the US has spent nearly two billion dollars, paying for the spraying of sixteen acres for every one-acre of coca reduced over the last twenty years. He sees Colombia’s use of glyphosate as a substitute for actual governance in the remote areas where resident access to traditional agricultural markets is virtually non­existent for lack of infrastructure. (2)

Proponents of this kind of aerial spraying are few. Colombia is the only coca producing country that has allowed aerial fumigation. The US, one of the last countries to support the practice, says that in the long run the benefits outweigh the risks. They point to the decline in coca production since 2008. (But see footnote) (3) They also point to GPS units now installed in the planes that allow complaints from farmers to be promptly investigated.

And this is where I’d like to point out two things that I have learned working in Colombia with Christian Peacemaker Teams over the past seven years. First, there is no such thing as a prompt investigation of any incident that involves rural farmers or indigenous people in Colombia. Specific incidents of violence often see weeks pass before police arrive to investigate. There is no reason to expect a crop failure to be investigated any more quickly. But the bigger, more subtle, violation of human rights is the US position that essentially says, “Yes, there is a risk of collateral civilian damage in Colombia, but we are saving American lives and money by keeping cocaine out of our country.”

To this I say, campesino lives matter, too. I cannot imagine the public outcry if the federal government were to begin aerial spraying of Roundup in rural communities to control marijuana planting in the US. How can we continue to treat citizens of other countries as if their lives do not have the same value as American lives?

Colombia’s justice minister recently asked the United Nations to come up with alternative policies to combat drugs, claiming “we declared a war that hasn’t been won. Because of this, it will be imperative to on a global level come up with and agree on policies and interventions that allow us to respond to this enormous challenge in a more humane, intelligent and effective way.” (2)

I totally agree.


(1)NYT March 22, 2015

(2) Washington Office on Latin America…

(3) The proponents are having a hard time explaining why a 14% increase in spraying in 2014 led to a 21% to 39% surge in the total area of land area under coca cultivation. CR – Santos calls for ban, May 10­calls­for­ban­on­aerial­coca­fumigation­in­colombia/

August 10, 2015 - Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , ,

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