The South American country, Colombia, has announced plans to repeat the widespread eradication of coca from the previous year for 2021. With the use of a banned herbicide, glyphosate, manual eradication will be replaced by aerial spraying and will wipe out 321,237 acres or more of coca crops. Coca leaves are used to produce cocaine, an illicit drug widely cultivated and sold in the country. The underground economy of the coca trade has caused constant conflict between the government, the armed forces and civilians for years.
According to Reuters, the drug trafficking situation in Colombia has claimed more than 260,000 lives, many of which took place between the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and farmers. With the rapid expansion of coca cultivation, especially in recent years, eradication events have been a priority for the national government. Glyphosate was first suspended in 2015 by the World Health Organization. The chemical is known to cause extreme environmental damage and is a possible cancer risk factor. However, the Trump administration has urged the Colombian government to participate in aerial spraying methods for the eradication of coca. Also mentioned by Reuters, in 2020 alone eradication figures per acre were 30% higher than in 2019.
Colombian President Duque’s bilateral meeting with Donald Trump on March 2, 2020, was accompanied by strong pressure to launch widespread eradication of coca with the use of glyphosate. âYou’re going to have to spray. If you don’t spray, you’re not going to get rid of it.
Trump’s strong impulses were followed by the South American country which followed through on those wishes. This year, Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo spoke to Tumaco about the eradication of coca, ââ¦ taking into account all the tools available. These 130,000 hectares eradicated translate into an allocation of approximately US $ 301 million to drug trafficking organizations if we take as a reference the average price of a hectare of coca, [it] represents approximately 115,440 kilograms of cocaine that was no longer produced.
There is an urgent call to eradicate all coca crops in the country, but these initiatives are only scratching the surface. In 2016, a peace accord was reached between the Colombian government and the FARC, the former rebel group that advocated for social equality and contributed to the internal displacement of millions of people for nearly five decades. The agreement contains a chapter entitled âSolution to the illicit drug problemâ with guidelines on coca substitution, but the government has not fully adhered to the main objectives set out in this section.
Farmers receive cash compensation and agency support if they agree to uproot their coca crops, however, civilians have 60 days to dig up all the plants or they risk being arrested. As the coca crops are very difficult to uproot and there is a lack of community support outside of these procedures, these rules place more distance between the rulers and the Colombians.
Many people, especially those who live in rural communities, feel compelled to join the coca industry in order to provide for their families. In order for the government to stop coca cultivation to begin with, senior members must understand the poverty stricken, the causes of economic disparities, and provide the necessary programs to help with manual eradication without enforcing the sanctions listed. . At the same time, fumigation has proven ineffective in stopping coca production, as farmers and workers often reassign themselves to sprayed land to restart their coca production. The move towards chemical spraying will only serve to cause adverse health effects on the surrounding population.
Besides civilians, many Colombian social leaders have suffered the consequences of the coca market. According to the non-governmental organization, the Institute for Development and Peace Studies, a total of 71 leaders have been killed in the country in the first three months of 2020 due to the conflict over drug trafficking. Catatumbo Bari National Park, home to the large rainforest that contains the only Amazon vegetation and the only animals north of the Andes, has lost 6.2% of tree cover over the past two decades. 90 percent of the lost land was used to harvest coca, according to the Mongabay news outlet. These statistics are concerning but still do not fully represent the problem, as they do not take into account the additional effect of spraying glyphosate on the land.
At present, the Colombian government is working with the Constitutional Court to obtain permission to undergo aerial spraying for this year. The landmark 2016 peace agreement and its main points continue to be ignored. In order to resolve the social issues plaguing the country, leaders must walk hand in hand with the goals of the agreement and find ways to provide more support to people of low socioeconomic status.