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News > Colombia

US House Seeks To Block Funds for the ESMAD & Aerial Fumigation

  • U.S. House of Representatives approves bill that prohibits the sale of weapons and training to Colombia's ESMAD, as well as the spraying of glyphosate. It only needs to pass through the Senate to become law.

    U.S. House of Representatives approves bill that prohibits the sale of weapons and training to Colombia's ESMAD, as well as the spraying of glyphosate. It only needs to pass through the Senate to become law. | Photo: Twitter/@Jahfrann

Published 24 September 2021 (9 hours 43 minutes ago)
Opinion

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill banning American defense funds for the aerial spraying of coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, in Colombia.

The bill sponsored by Democratic House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez additionally bans possible U.S. funds for arms and training of the National Police’s anti-riot unit ESMAD.

The bill by the New York Democrat also asks the Department of Defense (DoD) to report to the U.S. Congress every six months.

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Ocasio-Cortez specifically wanted the Defense Department to inform the U.S. lawmakers on the human rights situation in Colombia and progress made in investigations into the mass killing of anti-government protesters earlier this year.

The increased scrutiny from U.S. Congress comes months after the human rights commission of the Organization of American States put the Duque regime on a watchlist for despots.

The financial restrictions on aerial spraying of coca are a major blow for Colombia’s far-right President Ivan Duque, who has expressed his wish to resume the controversial strategy since taking office in 2018.

In fact, the president announced the resumption in April, despite fierce opposition against the strategy that even Duque’s own office called ineffective.

Both the president and Defense Minister Diego Molano have remained quiet about any kind of counternarcotics strategy since then, however.

Duque has consistently refused to implement a crop substitution strategy that is part of a peace process that has been fiercely rejected by the president’s Democratic Center party.

The United Nations on Drugs and Crime announced that Colombia’s estimated cocaine production reached a record high in June after the Defense Minister had been boasting about record coca eradication by police.

Throughout this year, police appear to have abandoned also this strategy, leaving the president and his defense minister without any coordinated counternarcotics policy.

According to defense expert Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, the ban on defense funds would not mean no U.S. funds will be available for aerial spraying.

A large chunk of the funding for the controversial strategy has always been provided by the US Department of State.

Ocasio-Cortez’s approved proposal to also block funding for ESMAD is another disappointment for Duque, even if it has few consequences.

These calls have become louder after evidence indicating that police murdered more than 50 people to quell anti-government protests that kicked off in April.

The president has consistently defended the police while Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa has tried to downplay the number of people murdered by the cops.

Whether the House bill will make it through the Senate it uncertain as the U.S. government, with the support of Congress, has historically supported the aerial fumigation of coca despite the evidence the strategy is all but useless.

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