How Global Battle Against Drugs Risks Backfiring 

How Global Battle Against Drugs Risks Backfiring 
Posted by FoM on June 17, 2001 at 08:51:34 PT
By Hugh O'Shaughnessy in Bogota
Source: The Observer
Franci sits on the veranda and whimpers. The little girl is underweight. Her armpits are erupting in boils. Like most of her people, she has suffered from respiratory problems and stomach pains since the aircraft and the helicopter gunships came over at Christmas and again at New Year dropping toxic pesticides on their villages. The tiny indigenous Kofan community of Santa Rosa de Guamuez in Colombia had it hard enough with pressures from settlers on their reservation, without Roundup Ultra containing Cosmoflux 411F, a weedkiller that is being sprayed on their villages in a concentration 100 times more powerful than is permitted in the United States. 
Aurelio, a Kofan village elder, shows us around his village. The Kofan have been here 500 years. Now it looks as though their time is up. Pineapples are stunted and shrivelled. The once green banana plants are no more than blackened sticks. The remains of a few maize plants can be seen here and there, but the food crops have been devastated. There is hunger at Santa Rosa. He is close to despair. Colombian babies and children are falling ill. Peasants, already miserably poor, are getting hungrier. Indigenous tribes are being torn apart and whole communities pushed into exile. The reason is the US-sponsored Plan Colombia, conceived by President Bill Clinton and roundly embraced by President George W Bush, designed to eliminate all cocaine production in Colombia. A key element is the spraying from planes of a highly concentrated chemical toxin on the coca bushes, whose leaves provide the raw material for the drug. The coca bushes have generally survived. In the front line of America's war on drugs it is humans and the environment that have become the victims. Investigations by The Observer have revealed for the first time the extent of the damage which both the Colombian and the US governments have tried to keep secret since the scheme started in late December. Against a growing mass of evidence to the contrary, they claimed last month: 'The aerial spraying did not cause any injury or significant damage to the environment.' The reality is that the results on the ground are disastrous. The small farmers in this rich tropical valley don't believe the official accounts as they wonder how they can replace their crops and the chickens and fish that have been poisoned in their farmyards and ponds. Meanwhile coca bushes are sprouting anew. Wherever the farmers have been able they have cut off the poisoned leaves to prevent the toxins reaching the bushes' roots and the coca is reviving. On the hills of Putumayo their lime-green leaves are holding the promise of new thrice-yearly harvests from which the narcotic will be manufactured again: their flourishing presence mocks the politicians and soldiers in Washington and Bogota. At a village outside La Hormiga, a group of sick children are gathered by their mothers at the gates of the school whose small garden was ruined by the poison that rained on it early in the mornings on 22 December and 6 January. 'The planes came over at the height of a palm tree accompanied by helicopter gunships which circled around,' said Juana, a young teacher at the school. 'The plants the children were tending in the school garden withered and the pullets they were looking after all died.' Like other Colombians, she did not want her real name used for fear of reprisals by government forces or their allies, the 'paracos' - the paramilitary death squads. Children from local schools are showing signs of serious skin infections, which heal over but continually recur. Gloria, a teacher at the school at El Placer, reports similar illness. 'About 230 of the 450 pupils at our school have gone down with diarrhoea, and respiratory and constantly recurring skin infections,' she said. Domestic animals have fared even worse. The tilapia that have brought a new prosperity to farmers who had built fish ponds are dying in their thousands as are dogs, pigs and other livestock. Plan Colombia, promoted by the US and Colombian governments and gingerly accepted by the British and other European Union countries, is dissolving in failure, death and vast pollution of the Amazonian forest within months of its launch in December. Under the plan, the Colombian armed forces are being given US weapons and training. These are same troops who over the decades have accumulated honours and medals for their battles with unarmed civilians and have frequently committed atrocities with Western help. Now Colombians, disillusioned alike with politicians, the increasingly aimless guerrillas and the death squads, are becoming enraged at America's 'war on drugs' whose front line is in their villages. Thousands have fled the Putumayo for neighbouring Ecuador, adding to the estimated 2,100,000 Colombians who have been displaced within the country by war. Those who stay - and who dare to criticise the war on drugs - complain that Washington is seeking to halt the production of cocaine and heroin while doing nothing to stop the drug trade in the US itself where the bulk of the profits are made - letting senior racketeers go free while filling US prisons with minor offenders from the ethnic minorities. But what is scaring them most is what the chemicals are doing to them. Consignments of the poison being used in Colombia contain labels warning that it causes damage to crops, which must be 'shielded with screens from aerial spraying to prevent droplets falling on the green parts of useful plants'. The warning also says that application must be done on windless days. The people who do the spraying in this valley do not supply screens and the peasants couldn't afford them if they could find them. Nature does not often provide windless days in the tropical Andean valleys. And the coca bushes are often planted among other crops. The chemical, based on the compound glyphosate, is manufactured by the US Monsanto Corporation using British ingredients, hexitan esters, supplied by ICI Specialty Chemicals, and liquid isoparafins manufactured by Exxon. It damages the human digestive system, the central nervous system, the lungs and the blood's red corpuscles. Another constituent causes cancer in animals and damage to the liver and kidneys of humans. The villagers' fears about the chemicals appear to be well founded. The World Health Organisation has found that glyphosate is easily transmitted to humans through foods such as raspberries, lettuces, carrots and barley - with traces of the chemical found in crops sown a whole year after the soil had been dosed with it. Elsa Nivía, a Colombian agronomist who works with the Pesticide Action Network, ridicules the US government's claims that Roundup Ultra is safe and no more poisonous than aspirin or table salt. She has written that in the first two months of this year local authorities have reported 4,289 humans suffering skin or gastric disorders while 178,377 creatures were killed by the spraying including cattle, horses, pigs, dogs, ducks, hens and fish. According to Colombian NGOs, the government, backed by Washington, has done its best to discredit reports of damage from Roundup Ultra, accusing complaining peasants of being in league with the drug traffickers and guerrillas. The first Blair government adopted a similar attitude to the complaints: during and after several flying visits to Colombia, Mo Mowlam, the Minister then in charge of drug problems, belittled reports of the damage Roundup Ultra was causing. 'She kept on saying, "Where's the evidence?" when we told her of the effects of the poison,' remarked one senior member of a UK aid agency. Human rights workers have expressed dismay at their treatment by British officials. 'One official visited me. He was very aggressive, dismissing our reports from the Putumayo of the damage done as "rubbish". I felt insulted. He was trying to intimidate me,' said one. Luis Fernando Arango, a conservative lawyer and university teacher who opposes the spraying, said: 'Anyone who protests about this is labelled a drug dealer. Years into the future a lot of old men with dandruff will get together in Geneva and talk about it. But by then there will be no countryside left.' The drug producers' big league:• Most recent UN Drugs Control Programme production figures are from 1999, before Plan Colombia and the Afghan moratorium. Country: Supply (worth in US$ millions) Coca Base:Colombia - 494 - Peru 134 - Bolivia - 63 Opium:Afghanistan - 251 - Myanmar (Burma) 116 - Colombia 20 - Mexico 9 - Laos 8 - Other Asia combined - 21 Note: The international war on narcotics is going awry. Chemical spraying of coca bushes is poisoning Colombian villages.Source: Observer, The (UK)Author: Hugh O'Shaughnessy in BogotaPublished: Sunday, June 17, 2001Copyright: 2001 The ObserverContact: letters Articles & Web Sites:Colombia Drug War News of U.S. in Colombia Continues To Challenge Workers and Colombia To Negotiate Eradication Farmers' Riots Fuel U.S.-Colombia Spraying Articles - Glyphosate
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Comment #14 posted by kaptinemo on June 19, 2001 at 13:43:37 PT:
Wann see sumpin' scary?
Have a look here:Pharmacia/Monsanto News keep something in mind, friends: modern organo-phosphate bug killers started out life as deadly war gasses. The history of this stuff is horridly fascinating; it was first developed in Hitler's Reich, and had Hitler had the cojones to use it on D-Day, we'd all be speaking German by now...and Jews would be classified an endangered species.The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.NERVE GAS:any of several poison gases intended for military use, e.g., tabun, sarin, soman, and VX. Nerve gases were first developed by Germany during World War II but were not used at that time. These gases generally cause death by asphyxiation, often preceded by such symptoms as blurred vision, excessive salivation, and convulsions. Physiologically, the toxic effect of nerve gases arises because they inactivate the enzyme cholinesterase, which normally controls the transmission of nerve impulses; the impulses continue without control, causing breakdown of respiration and other body functions. Atropine is an effective antidote against most nerve gases. See also chemical warfare.No matter how you water it down, it's still a poison. Period. Take it from an ol'Chemical Corps grunt; you don't want to have this s**t get on you for any reason.             And we are spraying this supposedly 'safe' derivative of something that can kill you if a drop of it gets on your skin or you inhale it's fumes...on little kids?To paraphrase a favorite character on an old sci-fi show: "What do I want? I want to live just long enough to see their heads put on pikes to remind us for the next ten generations that some 'favors' come at too high a price. I want to look up into their lifeless eyes and (gesture: waggling fingers in a wave)." I sincerely hope I live long enough to see these oh-so-moral criminals get theirs. I really do.
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Comment #13 posted by Lehder on June 18, 2001 at 09:46:00 PT
More Drug War Ideology
Luis Fernando Arango, a conservative lawyer and niversity teacher who opposes the spraying, said: 'Anyone who protests about this is labelled a drug dealer'. Anyone who opposes the drug war is on drugs ( or a drug dealer ).George Bush is not afraid of being called a drug addict. Why are you? Americans have been driven into a blind ignorance by their government's public "education" system and by relentless government TV propaganda. When the drug war is finally over, its perpetrators, millionaires all, will be living on large haciendas in South America, beloved guests of their puppet governments. You and I will be dead, killed in prisons built for people who oppose the spraying of children.
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Comment #12 posted by Sudaca on June 18, 2001 at 09:10:22 PT
stand revealed
'About 230 of the 450 pupils at our school have gone down with diarrhoea, and respiratory and constantly recurring skin infections'This sends the right message to your children.
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Comment #11 posted by Steven Tuck on June 17, 2001 at 20:49:31 PT:
In an unjust society jail is last place for just
Thomas Jefferson said," Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gifts of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath". We must stop this madness now. In the vietnam years we had no internet, and we were never this cynical. These stupid  #$%$# $ don't realize this CIA BS doesn't wash anymore as they are too transperant now. How many more generations of children do we have to train to hate us? The future terrorist of the world are being created by the DEA now and I can't say as if I blame them. I also want everyone in Columbia that I have nothing to do with this madness and I support it in no way and as a matter of fact I refuse to pay any taxes from this day forward until this insanity ceases. I refuse to support the murder of any more indigionous peoples for multinational national corperations can take their lands and enslave poor people of the world to work for them in their prison-industrial complex. George Orwell was just off by a few years, If any aliens are listening, please abduct me as I am tired of being surrounded by homicidal idiots and would just as soon be frozen and dissected as tortured in prison. Wake-up Amerika, someday we shall all have to answer to God what will you say? 
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Comment #10 posted by Binky on June 17, 2001 at 14:59:50 PT
My God
This actually brought a tear to my eye, the villagers are losing everything.Just think of the long term effect on the generations of children in those sprayed lands.Doesn't some of our medicines come from that region?? Seems like we're shooting ourselfs in the foot.I was going to say shame on the USA but this is very much an international problem.We have not heard all the horror stories that the US Monsanto Corporation has caused.Binky 
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Comment #9 posted by Lindy on June 17, 2001 at 14:32:27 PT
  Every knee shall bow......
 My heart cries for these people, their country, and our precious earth. God help us all....
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Comment #8 posted by New Mexican on June 17, 2001 at 14:15:45 PT
How's it feel to fund murder with YOUR taxes?
This is your government on drugs! Most likely pharmaceuticals though, Anti-depressents, viagra, Gin and Tonic, who knows what makes these people think they're going to get away with this. Look at Viet Nam!The tide turned and Nixon was forced into exile, the U.S. became a joke and has continued to become an even greater farce, especially with Fraud W. bush pretending to be our 'leader'. Anyway folks, it's time to stop this charade of murder in the name of the war on some drugs. There's no room for dissent in a democracy you know, so good luck speaking out... see you in the concentration camps, home of the last exercise of 'non-violence'. Worked great for the Nazis though, as you see, they are in full control of the Bush family, Repugs, Federalist Society, Supremist Court, and last but not least, the media. I don't know why Greenfoxwould even consider coming back to the U.S., when anyone who escapes is fortunate, as in the pre-Crystal night of pre-war Germany. When we spray unarmed, peaceful citizens from another country for doing what they've done for thousands of years, it's time to wake up and smell the round-up. We're killing them, whats to stop swat teams and police thugs from doing it here? Nothing! As you know, it's already taking place and has been for years...GetIT?
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Comment #7 posted by kindone on June 17, 2001 at 12:40:26 PT
Why can't the US be sued 
Why can't the US be sued for the atrocity's they're comminting in Columbia? Does anyone know?
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Comment #6 posted by lookinside on June 17, 2001 at 11:30:12 PT:
an opinion..
it's gonna get crazier...this sounds like a halfheartedattempt at genocide..(we'll just starve 'em and make themsick and destroy their ancestral homelands)the drug warriors will be given a fair trial and hung whenthe people finally understand the truth...knowing viscerally what awaits them, they will use every bitof force at their disposal to avoid their demise...expectU.S. citizens to be corralled and executed before they losethis vicious, money driven war...expect electricity to be turned off in whole states...expectno phone service...expect only "selected" radio stations tobroadcast the "official" news....expect starvation to becomea real possibility...these things are in the hands of thedrug warriors and their the end, no matter what measures they try, they willlose...evil cannot justify itself...i hope sanity strikes before things reach this point...itcan be stopped...we must educate ourselves...we must protestthe insanity...we must insist on our rights under theconstitution...we must ALWAYS demand a jury trial...we mustdemand justice...for ourselves, and for those who are beingdamaged by our "elected???" representatives and their masters...
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Comment #5 posted by Steve Tuck on June 17, 2001 at 11:20:55 PT:
Roundup tainted Cocaine?
Dr. Russo, How long do you think until this toxin starts showing up in Cocaine from farmers who learn to pick the leaves immediately after spraying. As a botanist this horrifies me more than I can convey. The US gov't is always so quick to blame drug producers for enviromental damage when it suits their purposes, but they have become the ultimate destroyers of the rainforest. As they chase drugs around the planet it makes resource rape very conveinent. Private research must produce a compound that will render glycophosphates inert and soon. There is no excuse to spray poison in the rainforest considering the rates of deforestation and extinction of species in the worlds most diverse ecosystem. These little kids in the gov't are playing with a bomb they have no clue of the danger of. Can we sue US in world court for habitat destruction? Steve Tuck,MS  CEO HRI 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on June 17, 2001 at 09:50:42 PT
Thanks Dave!
I was hoping for an article but I don't think they are going to do one but this link has a video, that I can't copy and paste here, about the program. I watched it yesterday and it sounds like another negative report. I hope they aren't going that route again.Tonight on CNN is a special about Pablo Escobar at I believe 10 pm et. I'll check the time a little later on to make sure.
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Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on June 17, 2001 at 09:50:16 PT:
Ecological Crime Against Nature & Genocide
Does this stuff sound safe to you? Has cocaine disappeared off the streets of Amerika? Has the price gone up? Do you believe in corporate welfare for Monsanto, the same company that would like to eventually sell you hybrid low-potency cannabis seeds that will not produce progeny, but rather require you to re-purchase from Mother Monsanto every year? I am totally disgusted by this ecological crime against nature with its attendant genocide. The Kofan had a vibrant culture and intense knowledge of medicinal plants until 30 years ago. This type of measure will sound the death knell for them and their forest library of secrets. It is irreversible. We can only now attempt to diminish the damage by pulling out our mercenaries and ending an insane policy.
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Comment #2 posted by Doug on June 17, 2001 at 09:50:08 PT:
Unintended Consequences
Once again, the badly-mishandled War on Drugs will prove to have severe unintended consequences. It is interesting that both this article and the previous one on the Taliban appeared at the same time. Both of them illustrate the fact that you really can't win the war on drugs. What may appear to be a win on a local level will prove, when seen on a wider scale, to have just made the situation worse.In Columbia many peasants have lost their crops that may have fed them and provided some income. But wait, there is one crop that wasn't badly damaged, and can provide even more income -- coca. One can see that Plan Columbia will really backfire, and cause more growth of the coca plant, not only in Columbia, but elsewhere in the region.And then the shutoff off opium from Afganistan will cause more growth of opium in Columbia. Opium used to be unknown in South America, but the WoD has caused the growth of the poppy to increase greatly there in the last few years. But hey, with Plan Columbia we've managed to provide a lot of money to the American Arms Merchants, so it really hasn't been a lost cause.We're rapidly reaching a reductio ad absurdum moment in the War on Drugs. And in fact more and more people are realizing that the whole thing is very absurd. Unfortuantely government officials, who appear to be insane, don't see that, so the war will become more adsurd before it ends. But it will indeed end, or it will end us.
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Comment #1 posted by Dave in Florida on June 17, 2001 at 09:44:21 PT
Off Topic
MSNBC Investigates MONDAY, JUNE 18 - 8:00 PM ET  Pot Wars  The most potent, and most expensive form of marijuana on earth is making its way into America at record pace. And the main supply is coming from Canada. Come along with cops as they bust up the grow houses, and we’ll hear from the smugglers and dealers who say they are making millions due to Americans’ demand.
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