HomeNewsBriefColombia Halts Aerial Coca Fumigation
BRIEF

Colombia Halts Aerial Coca Fumigation

COCA / 12 MAY 2015 BY ARRON DAUGHERTY EN

Colombia's president has ordered an end to controversial aerial fumigations of drug crops with the herbicide glyphosate. However, in some ways, he is arguably replacing one controversy with another. 

The Defense Ministry and other authorities must begin phasing out glyphosate fumigations, and the practice must be completely eliminated no later than October 1, President Juan Manuel Santos announced in a press conference.  

Chemical giant Monsanto produces glyphosate under the trade name Roundup. The substance is used in Colombia's US-funded aerial fumigations, which aim to eradicate drug crops, particularly coca, the base material for cocaine. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Colombia's Health Ministry have both raised concerns about the herbicides' potentially adverse effects on human health. Monsanto has said glyphosate poses no risk to humans when used properly. 

Santos cited glyphosate's potential health risks as the main reason behind his decision. He also cited a recent report by the White House that said Colombia coca cultivation rose 39 percent in 2014. "This indicates fumigations are not having the effect we're looking for," President Santos said. 

The president also said that the decision to end glyphosate fumigations was not a concession to Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The rebels, who are currently engaged in peace talks with the government, are believed to derive the majority of their funding through cocaine production. 

Colombia will look to replace glyphosate fumigations with alternative drug crop eradication methods, including manual eradication, Santos said. 

InSight Crime Analysis

In the short-term, Santos' decision appears to have little political cost. Ending the use of a potentially harmful chemical is unlikely to earn him many enemies domestically (asides from the usual critics). Meanwhile, despite having urged Colombia to continue glyphosate fumigations, the United States appears to have taken Santos' decision in stride. US ambassador Kevin Whitaker said he accepted the decision and reiterated his nation's support and cooperation with Colombia on counternarcotics efforts.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how Colombia's drug policy will adjust to this new scenario. So far, the president has only mentioned increased manual eradication as a replacement for fumigation. But this practice has fallen out off favor due to the number of casualties it often accrues. FARC guerrillas are known to booby-trap coca field with land mines and target manual eradicators with snipers.

Santos -- who has banked his political legacy on a negotiated peace with the FARC -- is likely keen to avoid such casualties, which could potentially upset peace talks. But with Colombia apparently set to reclaim its infamous title as the world's largest cocaine producer, Santos may face a tricky road ahead in terms of defending his policy decision. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 24 NOV 2010

Julio Alberto Lozano, alias "Patricia," accused by Colombian authorities of being one of the hemisphere's most important drug traffickers, has…

COCAINE / 10 OCT 2018

A new investigation says that record cocaine production in Colombia is causing criminal groups to diversify the ways in which…

COLOMBIA / 24 JUN 2011

Colombia's armed forces commander has revealed that intelligence and statements from former FARC guerrillas suggest that rebel commander alias "Fabian…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…