Drug War Ravages Colombia 

Drug War Ravages Colombia 
Posted by FoM on March 26, 2001 at 07:50:34 PT
By Jeremy McDermott In Putumayo
Source: Scotsman
Swathes of southern Colombia look like desert: crops withered, the ground parched and brown. The biggest aerial drug eradication in the world is well under way, destroying every plant that grows on more than 30,000 hectares of fragile Amazonian ecosystem. "This is a carefully planned campaign," said James Mack, United States deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement. 
"Crop-dusting aircraft guided by satellite positioning systems are spraying areas plotted by aerial photographs," added Washington’s point man for Plan Colombia, the almost £1 billion anti-drugs initiative. However, there is little evidence of this scientific planning on the ground. Many Colombian peasants have planted legal crops amid the coca, the raw material for cocaine, to hide the targeted bushes and so have lost everything. However, charred fields of plantain are also apparent, with the nearest coca crop almost a mile away. While the fumigation campaign has been going on since the end of last year, the other component of Plan Colombia, some £50 million in aid to help coca farmers to switch to legal crops has not arrived. "What are we supposed to do?" asked Cecilia Amaya, who heads a peasant association based in Puerto Asis, the largest town in the province of Putamayo. "None of this can be achieved overnight. They have fumigated the crops anyway and the promised help has not arrived, and we suspect it never will. Corrupt politicians have already pocketed it." The other concern is the effect of the chemicals. Mr Mack insists the glyphosate being sprayed is safe and is used by millions of Americans as weedkiller. In the US, however, it is not sprayed on people tending their fields and Americans are not drinking from streams and lakes dusted with the chemical. The US Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate products should be handled with caution and could cause vomiting, swelling of the lungs, pneumonia, mental confusion and tissue damage. Clinics in Putumayo have seen widespread cases of skin irritations and respiratory and eye problems, particularly in children. "We are getting cases of mild poisoning every week after the planes have dropped their loads," said a nurse at San Francisco Hospital in Puerto Asis. Environmentalists have also expressed concern. "The situation is alarming," said Ricardo Vargas, an environmentalist and author of a book on coca eradication. "Forests have been destroyed, birds sprayed as well as food eaten by monkeys, in a region with great biodiversity." At least 10,000 peasants have fled Putumayo in the last six months, leaving behind barren fields and escalating violence. Those that have stayed have sought virgin forest to clear for land to sow crops, among them coca; others have joined the guerrillas, strengthening the force the campaign is designed to undermine. Many insist that the problem is not going away, just shifting location, most immediately to the neighbouring province of Nariño. Evidence shows that coca fields in Peru, dormant since US action drove plantations into Colombia, are being resown and drug fields are appearing in northern Ecuador, which borders Putamayo. But the most obvious result is the explosion of new coca crops: not the large fields that attract the crop-dusters, but small plots behind peasant shacks. Coca growing is becoming the new cottage industry and no aerial eradication programme will be able to destroy it. Few Colombians believe the US strategy has any chance of success. The street price of cocaine has not changed. Farmers make £600 for a kilogram of coca base, which is then refined into cocaine worth £30,000 in the United States and £40,000 in Britain. Most Colombians believe that as long as demand remains, the supply will feed it. Colonel Roberto Trujillo, head of the anti-narcotics brigade, is a small, energetic man, carrying out his mission to attack crops and laboratories with efficiency; but he has some doubt about the effectiveness of the overall strategy. "There does seem to be a gap between the fumigation of the fields and the delivery of alternative aid," he said. "Many of the peasants have little alternative to coca." For the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which controls much of Putumayo and profits from the drug trade, Plan Colombia has reinforced their propaganda as well as their ranks. Comandante Simón Trinidad, a FARC spokesman, insisted: "The US is attacking the Colombian peasant who makes nothing from the drug trade, while the huge profits are made by gringo American drug dealers and stashed in gringo banks. The Colombian people are paying for gringo drug addiction. We are paying with our blood." Source: Scotsman (UK) Author: Jeremy McDermott In PutumayoPublished: Monday, 26th March 2001Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2001 Contact:  Letters_ts Forum: Website: Related Articles:Herbicide Used in Colombia Defended on Drugs Takes Toll on Environment Chemical Warfare in Colombia
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Comment #2 posted by observer on March 26, 2001 at 09:26:05 PT
 The Colombian people are paying for gringo drug addiction. Correcion, amigo: The Colombian people are paying for gringo drug prohibition. The Colombian people are paying for gringo drug laws.Addiction never sprayed glyphosate. ``... propaganda tactics for today's Drug War are identical to those he used to promote the Vietnam War. [Pulling] the emotional trigger with a staccato barrage of snow-statistics, weeping for the babies that will die if we don't ESCALATE THE WAR RIGHT NOW!''``. . . the injection of narcotics production and trafficking, which feed the coffers of the guerillas, paramilitaries and crime gangs and strengthen their assault on democratic institutions. . .Cocaine and heroin flowing out of Colombia poison young Brazilians, Germans and North Americans without distinction. . . .It is in the collective self-interest of the democracies of the world to support Colombia in its hour of need.It is also the right thing to do. Colombia deserves our help. Now. -- Peter F. Romero is the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.Colombia Wars Won't Be Another Vietnam For U.S. 3/23/2001 
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Comment #1 posted by Charlie on March 26, 2001 at 08:20:04 PT
Send money, guns and lawyers...(eom)
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