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News > Colombia

Colombia: 25 Organizations Tell Biden No To Glyphosate Spraying

  • "Most Colombian coca bush growers are not criminals linked to organized crime or supporters of illegal armed groups. They are families with small plots of land," reads the document signed by international organizations. | Photo: Twitter/@EarthJustice

Published 30 March 2021

In a letter sent to the White House, 25 international and Colombian organizations ask the U.S. government not to finance aerial spraying in Colombia, which will send peasant families from poverty to extreme poverty, they warned.

Once again, the possibility that the government of Iván Duque resumes aerial fumigations with glyphosate against coca crops raises voices of rejection not only in Colombia but internationally.

Twenty-five international and Colombian organizations sent a letter directly to the White House in Washington, asking President Biden not to finance this program, as the U.S. has done before.

This new document emphasizes the conditions in which the coca-growing families in Colombia live, around 119,000 and 215,000 throughout the country, to affirm that supporting fumigation "sends a message of cruelty and insensitivity with which the United States should no longer be associated."


Colombian Communities Reject Meeting on Glyphosate Use

"Most Colombian coca bush growers are not criminals linked to organized crime or supporters of illegal armed groups. They are families with small plots of land," reads the document signed by international organizations such as the Center for International Environmental Law; Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America; Drug Policy Alliance; Elementa DD.HH.; Oxfam America, Institute for Policy Studies, Drug Policy Project; and Washington Office on Latin America.

According to the figures presented by the organizations in the letter, households that live off coca earn around $1,000 per person per year, "which makes them the lowest-paid link in the cocaine supply chain. Also, they tell President Biden, these are families who live in areas without paved roads, without a national power grid, without potable water, without land titles, and where purchases are made with coca paste; areas where "evidence of the existence of the Colombian government is scarce."

"These people need to be governed and protected by their State. A plane flying anonymously overhead, spraying chemicals in populated areas, is exactly the opposite of that," they argue in the letter also signed by the Colombian organizations Corporación Viso Mutop; the Center for Studies on Security and Drugs of the Universidad de los Andes; the Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento, ILEX Acción Juridica and the Proceso de Comunidades Negras.

The message also recalls that between 1994 and 2015, the United States supported the program with which 1.8 million hectares of Colombian territory were fumigated, "an area of land three and a half times the size of the state of Delaware."

In the document, the organizations reaffirm other arguments against aerial spraying that some other cases have also made amid the string of communications in recent weeks to the governments of Biden and Duque against this method, among them seven UN rapporteurs for human rights and a letter of 150 academics from different countries. For example, that aerial spraying can reduce the number of hectares planted with coca, but that this will be limited to the short term, or that it has "enormous costs and terrible results."

Among the consequences of returning to that strategy, say the organizations, further weaken governance in those regions and worsen security; sending growing families from poverty to extreme poverty; a high probability of coca replanting; and a wave of large-scale protest, reminiscent of the 1996 coca mobilizations.

But in addition to the arguments against spraying, the organizations are forceful in their letter: "We know what has to be done." According to the document, farmers who have land titles or who live near paved roads do not grow coca. To this end, they highlight the coca crop substitution program agreed in Havana and the Comprehensive Rural Reform of the same agreement as a path to follow for the long term.

In the letter, the organizations say they are hopeful that the Biden administration will not support fumigation. Since the U.S. president took office, there has been speculation about the position he will take on the fight against drugs, as some sectors have indicated that he could turn this fight around, as he has done at the domestic level with a new approach to drug users more towards public health than punitive.

That said, others have recalled that the current president was one of Plan Colombia's proud protagonists, which intensified the war against drug trafficking throughout the hemisphere.

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