Criticism of Colombia's Drug War Looms 

  Criticism of Colombia's Drug War Looms 

Posted by FoM on February 25, 2001 at 12:59:15 PT
By Mike Williams - Staff 
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

School wasn't in session the day the crop-dusters bolted out of the morning sky. But the coca, which the U.S. government is paying Colombia more than $1 billion to wipe out, grows right up to the borders of the schoolyard here. It surrounds the tin-roofed homes and fills a large field behind the church. It lines the roads and blankets the rolling hills as far as the eye can see. 
The hillsides --- and the school's soccer field --- are dead brown now, a stark contrast to the vivid greens of the nearby tropical forest. "The effects of the fumigation here have been catastrophic," said Miriam Teresa Rodriguez, a teacher at La Concordia's 150-student primary school. "The spraying killed the coca, but it killed the food crops, too. Some of our children would eat mangos and bananas from the trees around the schoolyard for their lunch, but now those are dead." As President Andres Pastrana travels to Washington this week to meet with President Bush, his ambitious program to break the back of the Colombian drug trade has kicked into high gear. U.S. and Colombian officials are proclaiming the program's first punch, a massive aerial fumigation assault, a success so far, with more than 70,000 acres of coca destroyed. After securing a $1.3 billion commitment last year from the Clinton administration, Pastrana may ask Bush at his Tuesday meeting for trade preferences aimed at kick-starting Colombia's faltering economy. Pastrana's program, Plan Colombia, has garnered strong support in Congress, where backers believe it will slow the flow of cocaine into America while choking off a lucrative resource for Colombia's Marxist guerrillas, who earn millions by taxing coca farmers and drug traffickers. But Plan Colombia has plenty of critics, too. The European Parliament has been critical, raising concerns over the environmental effects of aerial fumigation, as well as the messy record of human rights violations by Colombia's military and right-wing paramilitary groups, which reportedly work closely with the army. A minority in Congress echoes those concerns, while others who generally back the plan worry that the United States may be stumbling into a deeper involvement in Colombia's nasty 37-year-old civil war. They also fear the conflict over the drug trade will spread to Colombia's neighbors, creating regional instability. Colombia supplies an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent of the world's cocaine, with much of the raw ingredient --- coca --- grown in a jungle-covered swath of territory along its southern border. In the past two years, a few hundred U.S. military advisers have trained two special anti-narcotics battalions of the Colombian military and are now supplying satellite maps to target fields for fumigation. A shipment of U.S. Blackhawk helicopters scheduled to arrive this year will provide security for the small fumigation planes, which in the past have been harried by ground fire from guerrilla forces. But Plan Colombia's strongest critics come from within Colombia itself, especially in the province of Putumayo, an isolated terrain of muddy rivers and low hills where the bright green bush flourishes in the blistering tropical sun. Leaders here say local governments were not consulted as Plan Colombia was formulated. Fumigation has decimated the rural economy, while the government has so far failed to deliver significant emergency aid or extensive alternative development programs, they say. "Two months after the fumigation, the national government has done nothing to help the peasants," said Alfonso Martinez, former mayor of La Hormiga, a small commercial hub in the Guamuez River valley near La Concordia. "The peasants grow coca because there is no other way to make a living. Now they have nothing to eat because the spraying has destroyed their food crops as well as their coca." La Hormiga officials have taken 800 complaints from peasants since the spraying began in late December. Along with food crops, the fumigation has killed cattle, pigs, chicken and commercially raised fish, as well as sickened children and adults with skin rashes and lung problems, they say. Rigoberto Rosero, a peasant whose five acres of coca border the La Concordia school, said he grows coca because it's the only crop that makes money. He claims he has been trying to get out of the coca business, raising other crops and pooling resources with neighbors to grow guinea pigs, which are sold for food here. "Everything was killed," he said. "My bananas, sugar cane, corn and 80 guinea pigs," he said. "My son has been ill with asthma and skin rashes, and I've spent the money I saved for a new house on his medical treatment. I've been trying to raise other crops, and I would've signed up to cut down my own coca, but they never gave me the chance." Otoniel Urrea, who lives nearby, said his food crops were wiped out when the planes spread large coca fields nearby. "I won't lie," he said. "I had a little coca. But now we have nothing, and the government has sent no help. A friend is giving us bananas to eat, but soon there won't be any." Colombian officials insist local governments were given the chance to sign up for voluntary eradication programs that would have exempted them from fumigation. An example is Puerto Asis, about 30 miles from La Hormiga, where there has been no spraying because hundreds of peasants promised to cut down their coca in exchange for about $1,000 each. As for claims of sickness, officials say the herbicide being used --- Roundup --- is not harmful to humans, although labels on the product in the United States warn against user contact. They also insist the planes have targeted "industrial crops" --- large plantations raised under contract to Marxist guerrillas. "What was fumigated was where there were zones of industrial crops," said Gonzalo de Francisco, head of Plan Colombia's social programs. "These people are angry because their coca was destroyed. Maybe some of them thought they would never be sprayed." Francisco admitted some food crops have been destroyed but said the peasants can seek reimbursement through the official complaint system. He also said that if aid and alternative programs have been slow to reach the villages, it's because the effort is so massive. "We're setting up a social program that is unprecedented in Colombia," he said. "Obviously, we need to make a huge effort in institutional cooperation. But we really believe it will solve the problem." That confidence isn't shared in coca country. Luis Carlos Gonzalez is head of a tribe of Cofan Indians who live near La Concordia. The group claims it raised only a small patch of coca but watched in disbelief as herbicide sprayed on nearby fields spread over their chicken barn and fish pond, both funded by the Colombian government. "We had 180 chickens and 1,400 fish die," Gonzalez said. "It's a crazy government that could do this. We're all living off bananas and fish caught from the river now. Let the government come here so we can tell them we aren't cockroaches to be fumigated." Complete Title: Criticism of Colombia's Drug War Looms as U.S. Talks NearOn The Web: Information on Colombia from the CIA World Factbook Concordia, Colombia Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) Author: Mike Williams - StaffPublished: Sunday, February 25, 2001Address: 72 Marietta Street, NW, Atlanta, Ga. 30303 Copyright: 2001 Cox Interactive Media. Contact:  insideajc Website: Forum: CannabisNews Articles - Colombia

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Comment #4 posted by dddd on February 25, 2001 at 19:44:04 PT
Where are they?
Professor Lehder said;>"The explanation of what bearing such a heartless program can have on the eradication of coca or even the control of petroleum, I must leave to others more cynical and politically insightful than I."My political insight skills are,at best,somewhat amatueresque,,,but I like to think my cynicism skills are honed to at least somewhat competant level,,therefore,,I couldnt resist adding my 20 cents worth.(inflation).Where the hell is Sting,or Greenpeace,,,or Save the Planet,,Rain Forest Watch,,U.N.EPA,andall the other groups of environmental watchdogs?.....????? What about all the "Right to Life",bigmouths,who are so concerned about abortion,and therights of embroyonic life forms????Or the Christian Conservatives,who would lock upa mom to be who dares to hack down a Winston with a shot of vodka while pregnant??....What happenned to all these caring,and concerned agitators,who speak out so loudly,for those who,"dont have a voice"??? Pardon me,,but is it somehow worse to allow a crack whore to get an abortion,than it isto allow the saturation of the earth with questionable herbacidical toxins,amongst innocentColombian families,who rely on the earth for life?!!!......WAKE UP!!!...These people do notshop at Albertsons!...These people eat the stuff they grow.....Stuff they will now grow fromthe causticly Ortho scorched soil...What about this dichotomy,or paradox,,or whatever you wanna call the observation of twopoints.;......   The same federal assholes who enacted laws to protect its' citizens fromharming their health,by choosing to smoke weed,and claim that the health risks are toogreat to allow people to legally use the herb,,,,are the same assholes,who dont seem tohave a problem with showering RoundUp,on foreign babies.....Where are the concernedpeople who are funding the study into the ill effects of MMJ????What about the FREAKIN ILL EFFECTS OF ROUNDUP!!!It's more than obvious,,,,,no one is really aware of who's running the show......enuff said....4 now.Praise JAH that I still was able to aquire the goods to fire up an illegal spleef now.I cant afford Paxil.ddd,f*#kin,d
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Comment #3 posted by Lehder on February 25, 2001 at 16:39:21 PT
chemical blitzkrieg
Thanks, Duzt, for your first-hand observations of the universally lethal effects of the herbicide Roundup. Despite the claims that it kills only coca, and the smokescreen of social programs and reimbursement for its other "peripheral" effects, it is now clear that our policy in Colombia is one of total destruction of the people: to impoverish and render them homeless and helpless in a violent region.The explanation of what bearing such a heartless program can have on the eradication of coca or even the control of petroleum, I must leave to others more cynical and politically insightful than I.
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Comment #2 posted by Duzt on February 25, 2001 at 14:12:13 PT

What the hell?!!?!?!?!?
this is an incredibly good example of how outrageous this idiotic gov. is."As for claims of sickness, officials say the herbicide being used --- Roundup --- is not harmful to humans, although labels on the product in the United States warn against user contact. ROUNDUP????? I was raised on a farm, we went through about 50 gallons per month of roundup during weed season. That stuff is the most toxic of all weed killers. I would literally start vomiting if I sprayed for more than an hour. It also kills everthing in site, as well as anything that is close. They say THC is an extremely dangerous chemical that is so bad we need to throw anyone in jail who possess it. But roundup is not harmful to humans. These are the people who represent our country, and us; once again, I'm ashamed.
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Comment #1 posted by Lehder on February 25, 2001 at 13:39:28 PT

Bonita Colombia
What a beautiful country, where children can make a lunch of fruits plucked from tropical boughs outside their school's door. How absolutely unforgivable the ugly Americans with their poisons, their drunken violence, crudity and indifference to life.
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