Spraying Blitz Cripples Colombian Drug Crop

Spraying Blitz Cripples Colombian Drug Crop
Posted by FoM on July 30, 2001 at 08:10:11 PT
By Juan O. Tamayo
Source: Miami Herald
It is harvest time in the mint-green hills of southern Putumayo state, the epicenter of Colombia's coca cultivation. But coca farmers such as Gabriel Nieto are in no mood to celebrate.The price of what everyone here calls simply ``the merchandise'' has plunged following a U.S.-backed aerial defoliation campaign in December and January that turned huge expanses of coca bushes into dead brown stalks.
Stepped-up army patrols have limited supply and driven up the cost of chemicals needed to make cocaine, and thousands of farmers and itinerant leaf pickers have moved out, leaving behind half-filled brothels and churches.``Now we can barely squeeze a few pesos out of this,'' Nieto, 38, grumbled as he mixed 750 pounds of coca leaf with lime and gasoline under an open-sided hut, grandly called a ``laboratory,'' to produce a pound of unrefined cocaine known as coca base.Seven months after the spraying blitz in Putumayo kicked off the counter-drug campaign broadly known as Plan Colombia, early results suggest that the offensive has dealt a powerful blow to the local coca industry.U.S. and Colombian officials caution that it is too early to assess the campaign, backed by $1.3 billion in U.S. aid. The plan aims to cut Colombia's cocaine output in half by 2005 and shave the drug income of leftist guerrillas and right-wing militias waging Latin America's most violent conflict.The impact has not yet been felt in the price of cocaine on U.S. streets, and the campaign -- a three-point strategy of spraying, army interdictions and giving subsidies to farmers who agree to uproot their coca bushes -- is in danger of losing its spraying leg.Growing OppositionOne reason is growing opposition inside and outside Colombia to the use of chemicals, which critics say sicken peasants and poison the land.A Bogotá court Friday issued a preliminary injunction against all spraying but gave the government three days to reply and said it would issue a more detailed ruling in 10 days. The government said it was studying the ruling.Still, for now the coca business in this critical production region is faring badly.``Here, the coca business is over. Production is way down, maybe 60 percent,'' said Flover Mesa, mayor of La Hormiga in the Guamuéz Valley, a part of Putumayo that holds one-quarter of Colombia's 402,600 acres of coca.U.S. and Colombian officials toss out all kinds of impressive numbers for the Putumayo campaign's progress -- numbers that skeptics say are the drug-war equivalent of Vietnam's meaningless ``body count.''Between sprayings and interdictions, ``we've taken 100 metric tons off the market, and that's not insignificant,'' said U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson.Colombia's total cocaine production is estimated at 560 tons per year, while U.S. consumption is put at 300 tons. Colombia's Defense Ministry reported last week that soldiers and police had sprayed 128,000 acres of coca and destroyed 663 ``laboratories'' in the first half of this year, almost double the totals for same period in 2000.Seizure Decline Cocaine seizures were down in the same period -- from 38 tons to 23 tons, largely because of the shortage of leaves, said Gen. Gustavo Socha, head of the Colombian National Police Anti-Narcotics Division.Mesa said the spraying blitz in the Guamuéz Valley killed some 26,000 acres of coca and initially drove up the price of coca base from $1,050 to $1,400 per kilogram -- 2.2 pounds -- because of the shortage of leaf.``It was a very green Christmas -- dollar green,'' recalled a smiling Nieto, who farms two acres of coca and works as a hired hand in a neighbor's much bigger plot, earning $4 for every 25-pound sack of leaves he picks.But prices have now plummeted to $750 per kilo as intensified patrols by three U.S.-trained army counter-narcotics battalions scared off major buyers of base, usually sent by cocaine refineries in central and northern Colombia, and left the field to locals who are less willing to pay top prices. `Too Many Soldiers'``The buyers say there are too many soldiers, that they have to pay extra to smuggle the merchandise from here to the refineries,'' said Ancizar Ardila, 43, as he showed visitors his nursery of 25,000 tiny coca plants just one mile from La Hormiga.On the edge of the drab town of 13,000 people, more signs of the coca industry's downturn: a half-dozen shuttered brothels and a dozen more open but nearly empty except for a few bored-looking girls sitting on the sidewalks.``There used to be 300 prostitutes and lots of happy business with the leaf pickers who came into town on weekends to spend their salaries, but now there are less than 100,'' said parish priest Julián Gómez. ``But most of the pickers are gone now, and even attendance at Sunday Mass is down.''In a possibly more significant sign of the impact of the counter-narcotics crackdown, Guamuéz Valley peasants say they have begun to believe that coca has turned into an unprofitable business.``The farmers have been doing their math and thinking that it's time to quit,'' said Harold Montenegro, who lost two of his three acres of coca when they were sprayed Jan. 14. ``If they spray again, we're all dead.'' Predictions FailPerhaps just as significant for the long-term effectiveness of the counter-narcotics campaign, none of the hoary predictions of disaster that accompanied the start of the spraying blitz in Putumayo have come to pass.The sprayings did not drive waves of refugees into neighboring Ecuador, and leftist guerrillas from the 17,000-member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, who collect hefty ``taxes'' on the coca business, have not significantly increased their attacks around the region. No Rights Complaints Nor have human rights complaints been filed against the three Colombian army counter-narcotics battalions, trained by U.S. Special Forces, that are spearheading the Putumayo campaign, U.S. officials said.``We're extremely pleased with the results'' of the U.S.-trained force, said a military officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá. ``That's got to make a dent on the drug trade.''For all its success, the Guamuéz Valley offensive has not been without problems.Fields of coca bushes only a foot high show that many farmers whose crops were sprayed either replanted or pruned their bushes immediately after the spraying, to keep the leaves from absorbing the herbicide.Montenegro estimated that one-third of the Guamuéz farmers whose crops were sprayed have replanted, most of them owners of large fields who had already invested money in fertilizers, pesticides and a new high-yield strain of coca just brought in from Bolivia. Their first harvest is four months away.``I am replacing coca with coca. Yuca or plantains bring in even less money,'' said Manuel Palacios, a 46-year-old farmer whose two-acre lot in the village of La Vega was killed by the spraying campaign Dec. 22.Farmers said that many of the new fields are in areas declared off-limits to spraying by the government -- in Indian tribe reservations and populated areas along the edges of main roads -- or in the neighboring state of Nariño to the west.And there is a black cloud on the horizon -- mounting attacks on the aerial spraying by a broad range of Colombian politicians and activists who insist that the herbicide glyphosate makes peasants ill, poisons the land and only drives coca farmers elsewhere. No Faith in Spraying ``Fumigation is easy but does not work . . . You need more, a lot of economic and social development programs, or farmers will just plant somewhere else,'' said Klaus Nyholm, head of the U.N. Drug Policy office in Bogotá.The governors of Putumayo, Nariño and four other drug-producing states have demanded a stop to the spraying, and a senator from the Conservative Party of President Andrés Pastrana announced two weeks ago that he would submit legislation decriminalizing small coca fields. Pressing Ahead So far, Pastrana has stood by the spraying. ``It is not in the government's plans to halt the fumigations,'' said Gonzalo de Francisco, Pastrana's national security advisor and point man on the Putumayo campaign.The U.S. government's position is much the same.``Manual eradication has a role to play but, given the amount of coca and opium poppy cultivation in Colombia, it can be only part of the solution,'' Patterson, the U.S. ambassador, said.``Especially in areas of large-scale production or where guerrillas are most active, it takes too long, is too dangerous and -- frankly -- it's too expensive.''Patterson said Washington is paying for a study that will test blood and urine samples from 1,000 people -- 500 living in areas sprayed and 500 in areas far from the spraying -- for any signs of glyphosate.``We have a moral responsibility to be sure what we're doing is right,'' the ambassador told reporters Wednesday.Source: Miami Herald (FL)Author: Juan O. TamayoPublished: Monday, July 30, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Miami HeraldContact: heralded herald.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Indians Win Drug Battle Judge Suspends Fumigation of Coca Fields Articles - Glyphosate 
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Comment #9 posted by freedom fighter on July 31, 2001 at 17:44:51 PT
Doc is right..
Just recently Colorado has the biggest bust ever..250 pounds of snow..price of buying a 8ball is the same as ever..ff
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Comment #8 posted by Dr. Ganj on July 30, 2001 at 18:18:48 PT
Still Plenty of Blow
The price is low, and there's plenty around. That tells me all I need to know. No matter what these pigs try and do to stop the flow of drugs, it will never work. With that fact in hand, what should be done? You bet, decriminalize cocaine. If people want to snort coke, let them. We have no business spraying poison that could affect other plants, and the health of innocent people.What's the alternative? Keep pretending the U.S. can stop world drug production? Yeah, right. 
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Comment #7 posted by jorma nash on July 30, 2001 at 15:17:25 PT
Harm Maximization
FoM (comment #3): if this does happen, the NarcoJihad considers it a beneficial side effect.since you are already ingesting moral poison,adding a little physical poison serves you right, they figure.Just like criminalizing bongs or vaporizers.They reduce the danger of the smokewhich is supposed to be part of the justificationof declaring War on You and Me in the first place.listen to the contempt with which they dismiss Harm Minimization policies;they obviously prefer Harm Maximization.
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Comment #6 posted by Rambler on July 30, 2001 at 12:14:55 PT
Right on Dr Nemo.The papers,and the journalists are on thepayroll.The money comes from the various black holes of theondcp and friends.Did anyone seriously believe that the ondcpstopped funding propaganda after their exposure in Salon?
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on July 30, 2001 at 10:40:06 PT:
More "brown, smelly stuff" from the Herald
Friends, it would seem that the Miami Herald has pimped itself to the DrugWarriors: here is Mr. tamayo's email address:jtamayo herald.comThe question is, has has Mr. Tamayo actually set foot on Colombian soil? ? Has anyone from the Miami Herald done so? Or are are they merely parroting an AP or Reuters McJournalism designed by a former(?) CIA mouthpiece?Have a look, here:Propaganda and Disinformation: How the CIA Manufactures History CIA Use of Journalists the above link:"For roughly ten years, between 1967 and 1977, Americans learned something of their secret history. From the perspective of twenty additional years, the results were mixed and much remains secret. But it's scary to think of where we might be now if the counterculture had never happened.During the last half of those ten years, sandwiched between Watergate coverage on one end, and Congressional investigations of the CIA on the other, the media showed some interest in examining their own intelligence connections. The first shoe was dropped by Jack Anderson in late August, 1973, when he revealed that Seymour Freidin, head of the Hearst bureau in London, was a CIA agent. Freidin, already in the news because the Republicans paid him $10,000 in 1972 to spy on the Democrats, confirmed Anderson's story. At that point William Colby, the new CIA director, was asked by the New York Times and the Washington Star-News if any of their staff were on the CIA payroll.I wonder if Mr. Tamayo is "double-dipping" like so many of his journalistic friends have, at the CIA's watering hole?James (Scotty) Reston of the NYT was satisfied with an evasive answer, but when the Star-News editorial board met with Colby, they made some progress. The other shoe dropped with an article by Oswald Johnston on November 30: the Star-News learned from an "authoritative source" (Colby) that the CIA had some three dozen American journalists on its payroll. Johnston named only one -- Jeremiah O'Leary -- who was one of their own diplomatic correspondents. (The Star-News stopped publishing in 1981, at which point O'Leary joined Reagan's national security staff. From 1982 until his death in 1993, he was with the Washington Times.)     Hmmmm. Given the CIA's long involvement in the Miami area, and that so many journalists have had very discreet paychecks sent to them for moonlighting as CIA mouthpieces, perhaps Mr. Tamayo has a reason for such cheerleading support for poisoning babies.
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on July 30, 2001 at 09:14:37 PT
I've wondered the same thing about contaminated cocaine,but I think that the process that goes into producing cocainewould quite likely rinse off the glyphosphate.Sam Adams is right on about the propaganda thing.It's thesame as all reporting on the drug war,,,articles areproduced to support both success and failure.One articlewill say the drug crop is crippled,,the next one will saythat there is much more spraying needed....Todays "news",is no longer the product of a free press.....dddd
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on July 30, 2001 at 09:00:29 PT
I was wondering if people got contaminated Cocaine here in the states what harm can be done by ingesting Glyphosate. I wondered about that and Paraquat years ago when they were spraying marijuana with that substance in Mexico. I sure hope they stopped that.
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on July 30, 2001 at 08:57:50 PT
Heil Hitler!
wow......pure propaganda. Really scary to see this stuff. Let's see if it engendered the sought-after reaction, "Gee, we really hit those cocaine cartels hard. That'll really knock down the amount of cocaine in the world. Good job, US military!"Too bad the reality is that after year 1 of Plan Columbia, the total amount of coca harvested increased 11 percent. The year before, it had increased 22 percent. We may have ever-so-slightly slowed the INCREASE in production for one year. So even though some crops in some areas were killed, some buyers are scared and some labs are shutting down, all our efforts are like firing a kid's slingshot at a charging grizzly bear.Which makes this yellow journalism article a SHAMEFUL piece of propaganda. It's like the rest of the Western world is moving forward and we're moving backward, culturally.  The plan is working perfectly....keep everyone dumbed-down, kids watching MTV, mesmerized by big tits and trying to imitate rappers, Mom & Dad working harder & harder to buy the stuff they need at WalMart, Home Depot, and Circuit City...then the government can keep growing out of control each year, and law enforcement and the military can go use their fancy toys on poor brown people in the U.S. and around the world! And just pay for some moron to sit in the White House to preside over the whole thing! Yippee!
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on July 30, 2001 at 08:39:12 PT:
The price of cocaine on the streets in the USA will stay low. Overall cocaine production may decrease in some areas only to be replaced with more than enough in other areas. The spraying will not stop the Colombian insurgency or solve the issues. Poor farmers will suffer and die. American corporations will continue to profit. Plan Colombia is a dangerous and expensive farce.
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