Last year, the United States approved a $1.3 billion aid package toward the massive $7.5 billion Plan Colombia, a program devised by the U.S. and Colombian governments to eradicate coca crops in Colombia and return control of the entire nation to democratic rule. Approximately 80% of these funds will go to the Colombian military in an attempt to regain control of the nearly 40% of Colombia that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have seized. The foundation of Plan Colombia’s strategy is to eliminate the FARC by eradicating the coca crop, and in turn reducing the narcotics trade to the US
The U.S. government began fumigating coca fields in Columbia in December 2000, destroying 62,000 acres of coca fields and declaring the operation a success. However, this “success” comes at a high price for the peasant coca farmers of Colombia. The indiscriminate spraying of glyphosphate destroyed, along with coca leaves, the legal crops and livestock of poor peasants, and caused significant damage to the health of the farmers and the ecosystem. After coca eradication, growing legal crops in herbicide contaminated soil may be impossible.
Despite Monsanto chemical company’s warning that it is not safe to spray glyphosphate from more than 10 feet above the ground, the U.S. government irresponsibly chose to spray the herbicide from 100 feet. In addition, our government has added Cosmo-Flux to the herbicide, an agent that increases the herbicide’s ability to stick to crops and strengthens its potency.
Worst of all, these efforts are unlikely to be successful in either eliminating the drug-trade or the FARC. The U.S. claims that eradication programs in Bolivia and Peru were successful in eliminating the cultivation of coca leaves in those nations. Even if this is true, it has had no effect on the actual availability of cocaine and heroine in the United States. As long as the market for narcotics remains stable in the U.S., production will simply move to new areas. It is clear the objective of Plan Colombia is not to solve the U.S. drug problem, but instead to provide military aid to Colombia in order to eliminate the FARC and protect U.S. political and economic interests.
Ironically, the U.S. could alleviate its drug problem without causing so much destruction and suffering. The chemicals needed to manufacture cocaine and heroine are produced and exported primarily by Royal Dutch Shell. If the international community were to strictly regulate their export, the availability of narcotics would be greatly reduced, along with the pressure to produce coca leaves. The poor who now depend on coca crops to survive could then cultivate legal crops to feed their communities, and the environmental threat of fumigation would be avoided.
—Jenny West and Gustavo Setrini, Students for Leftist Action