AERIAL FUMIGATION IN COLOMBIA: THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

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Author: Jaya Nayer
Date: Wntr 2021
From: Harvard International Review(Vol. 42, Issue 1)
Publisher: Harvard International Relations Council, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,998 words
Lexile Measure: 1370L

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Right as the scales of justice slowly began to tip in favor of the people, Colombia's counternarcotics practices have tilted back towards destruction and damage as it reconsiders the practice of aerial fumigation. From 1994-2015, under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, the United States government sprayed a chemical called glyphosate over coca crops in an attempt to decrease cocaine production. After the World Health Organization (WHO) raised health concerns about the chemical in 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos ended the use of aerial fumigation, and the Supreme Court of Colombia banned the chemical for said health reasons. Now, under pressure from the Trump administration, Colombia's new president Ivan Duque has vowed to restart fumigation. Earlier in the year, it looked uncertain as to whether Duque would be able to meet the stringent requirements the Court laid out for resuming fumigation, but with President Trump whispering in his ear--or rather, ranting about Colombia's drug problem on live television--Duque's has had much more motivation to try to meet the requirements. For further encouragement, Trump even threatened to cut off aid and loans unless Colombia decreased cocaine production. For reference, the majority of aid the United States gives to Colombia is explicitly for "International Narcotics and Law Enforcement." The loss of this funding would devastate any attempt at alternative development programs meant to decrease drug production. As such, this financial pressure holds grave implications for Colombia, only exacerbating their drug trade problem.

Yet restarting aerial fumigation seems like the wrong response. Colombia is the only coca-producing country in the world to have used glyphosate to destroy coca crops. While Duque pledged to not fumigate in protected areas and national parks, his promise doesn't resolve most of the concerns with aerial fumigation. For example, the wind carries the chemical beyond the coca crops since pilots spray from high up in the air. Furthermore, these pilots can accidentally spray the wrong crops since it's hard to tell the difference between coca and non-coca crops. Even if the pilots can discern the difference, there's often no way to eradicate coca crops without spraying non-coca crops since farmers frequently hide illegal plants among legal ones. Finally, farmers might still be out in the field while fumigation is occurring.

Coronavirus has put a pause on Duque's plans. The Constitutional Court ruled that in order to pursue aerial fumigation, the government would have to inform affected communities. The Court mandated this in order to give communities time to prepare for fumigation; they wanted people in affected areas to be able to ask questions and voice concerns about the new policy. However, many of these communities don't have access to the internet, and therefore can't be reached via online platforms. As such, coronavirus has stalled Duque's plans since there's no way to notify the communities of fumigation when travel and large gatherings, that are necessary to provide information, have been restricted. But, rest assured, the government is finding ways around this mere temporary road block.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A680930820