Fairy Dust

Fairy Dust
Posted by FoM on August 02, 2001 at 11:39:19 PT
From The Economist Global Agenda 
Source: Economist
The crop-dusting planes of the Colombian police were back in the air this week, dumping clouds of weedkiller on drug crops after a judge softened a ban that had grounded the flights for several days. But opposition to the crop-spraying programme is growing in Colombia, the source of most of America’s cocaine and some of its heroin. In America, too, doubts are growing about paying for such a controversial scheme. Congress is currently considering next year’s aid budget for the Andean countries, including follow-up funding for Plan Colombia, an American-inspired against both drug crops and the guerrillas in whose territory a lot of them are grown. 
The problems with spraying—the central pillar of Plan Colombia—call into question America’s main tactic in its war on illegal drugs.Last week, the Colombian judge found in favour of a group of Amazonian Indians, who argued that the government had not given enough study to the impact of the weedkiller on health and the environment, and had not bothered to consult them before the spraying began. This week the judge clarified his ruling, saying that it applied only to “indigenous reserves” in the Amazon region. The police say they will carry on spraying everywhere else.The crop-dusters are currently concentrating on some 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) of coca in the departments of Nariño and Cauca.Officials insist that, because of the scale of Colombia’s coca crop and because some of it is in guerrilla areas, aerial spraying is the only way to eradicate it. Coca eradication, along with police action against drug-processing laboratories and development programmes for alternative crops, lies at the heart of the increasingly elaborate American effort to cut the flow of cocaine from Colombia to the United States. As part of $1.3 billion in mainly military aid approved last year, the United States is providing the Colombian police with more crop-dusters and helicopters for a stepped-up eradication campaign. This has seen 52,000 hectares sprayed since December, half of them in Putumayo.Opponents claim that the spraying damages food crops and human health. American and Colombian officials insist that Roundup, the glyphosate-based weedkiller made by Monsanto that they spray, is harmless and is widely used on American farms. But there have been no studies of its effect when applied from the air in concentrated form in the tropics. Colombia’s human-rights ombudsman claims that additives in Roundup designed to make it stick to plants are damaging to health. They include polyoxyethyleneamines, which irritate the respiratory tract, eyes and skin, and dioxane, a suspected carcinogen.As well as the ombudsman, opponents of spraying include the elected governors of six southern departments where much of the coca and opium poppies is grown. This week some of them lobbied America’s Congress, which is contemplating forking out another $676m in anti-drug aid to Colombia and its neighbours. The European Union has called for less use of the stick against coca farmers, and further carrots, in the form of funding for crop substitution programmes and rural development schemes. Even the UN Drug-Control Programme (UNDCP) recently expressed misgivings about the spraying.A second objection to the spraying programme is that, as long as demand for cocaine remains strong, eradication will be ineffective. Indeed, critics say that it encourages coca farmers to move into remote jungle, and to plant twice as much, as an insurance policy. Anne Patterson, the United States’ ambassador in Bogota, recently admitted that coca cultivation in Colombia has been rising, despite the eradication campaign. According to the Americans’ latest estimate, there were 136,200 hectares of coca in Colombia last December, up from 122,500 a year before, although 58,000 hectares were eradicated in that period. Mrs Patterson also said that coca had appeared for the first time in the departments of Arauca and Vichada.The same pattern is played out on a grander scale throughout the region. Coca cultivation only really took off in Colombia in the mid-1990s, as a result of American-backed campaigns against the crop in Peru and Bolivia. But America’s heavy-handed intervention is unpopular in those countries too. In Bolivia, where eradication and alternative development have gone furthest, unemployed former coca farmers have swelled protests against the government. In Peru as well, coca farmers have demonstrated, most recently against forced eradication of coca in national parks. Coca production has been rising again there since 1999, according to the UNDCP. The Apurimac valley, where there have been many efforts at alternative development since the mid-1990s, is once again “a sea of coca”, according to Hugo Cabieses, an adviser to coca farmers. With most Andean economies in the doldrums, and with the price of coffee (an alternative crop) in a deep slump, local farmers are more desperate than usual.Americans, too, are getting edgy about their country’s policy. There was uproar in April when a Peruvian jet, alerted by an American surveillance aircraft, mistook missionaries for drug smugglers and shot their light plane down, killing an American mother and her baby. On August 2nd, the United States’ government was due to release the report of an investigation into the incident, which was expected to blame sloppy procedures by both Peruvian and American operatives. The deaths brought home to ordinary Americans just how much their country’s “war on drugs” in the Andes has come to resemble a real war, complete with civilian casualties and some less-than-attractive allies, such as Vladimiro Montesinos, Peru’s jailed former intelligence chief who first put the shoot-down policy into practice. By the same token, American commentators worry about backing a war against left-wing guerrillas in Colombia, especially given the Colombian army’s spotty human-rights record. But John Walters, who has been nominated as America’s “drug tsar”, is a strong supporter of such “supply-side” anti-drug programmes. Like first-world-war generals, the drug warriors’ response to setbacks has typically been to throw more resources into the breach. The police crop-duster fleet is due to expand from 12 to 26 aircraft over the next nine months. Mrs Patterson says that the spraying programme is only now getting up to full speed and that Plan Colombia will stem the rise in coca cultivation within 18 months. Maybe, but American officials have been chasing the mirage of victory in the Andean coca war for two decades now.Note: Many Americans and Colombians are losing faith in a scheme to eradicate drug crops by aerial spraying. But America’s anti-drug strategy depends on it.Source: Economist, The (UK) Published: August, 2nd 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Economist Newspaper Limited Contact: letters Website: Related Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Orange, All Over Again Protest Fumigation Articles - Glyphosate 
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 02, 2001 at 13:36:39 PT:
Clarify This:
Amerika's policy is genocidal and will result in the total rape of a vital ecosystem for no purpose but appeasing a tired and bankrupt ideology. I hope that the World Court indicts every responsible bureaucrat for war crimes.
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