HomeNewsBriefTime to End Aerial Fumigation in Colombia: WOLA
BRIEF

Time to End Aerial Fumigation in Colombia: WOLA

COLOMBIA / 9 OCT 2013 BY NATALIE SOUTHWICK EN

A report calling for an end to aerial drug crop fumigation in Colombia presents compelling data to support its position, but the country’s political reality makes it unlikely any such reform will happen soon.

In a report published on October 7, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) called on the United States and Colombian authorities to abandon their longstanding policy of aerial coca eradication, a central facet of counter-narcotics efforts in Colombia.

The program, which became a key element of the US-backed Plan Colombia, has been in place since 1994. Aircraft spray a powerful herbicide over the country’s coca-producing regions, covering an estimated 100,000 hectares of land each year, according to the report.

Colombia is currently the only country that uses aerial eradication, which officials say is necessary due to the threat posed by armed groups.

However, the expensive program appears to be less effective than its supporters claim. Increased fumigation rarely correlates with a decrease in coca production — in fact, Colombian coca cultivation began to decline after 2007, despite aerial fumigation efforts also dropping. On top of that, legal crops are often killed, ruining the livelihood of small-scale farmers.

The report points to the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the country’s largest guerilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), as a potential opportunity to introduce the idea of ending aerial eradication efforts.

fumigations

InSight Crime Analysis

Although the WOLA report presents a strong argument for ending fumigation, the reality of Colombia’s political situation provides little hope that it could happen in the near future.

Fumigation is highly unpopular and diminishes the government’s credibility among affected farming communities, who say it has negative economic, health and environmental effects; however, it remains a key element of bilateral relations with the United States.

Furthermore, government claims that aerial fumigation is the safest strategy are borne out by instances of violence committed by armed groups against manual eradicators, a fact that partly explains the recent decline of the practice. A police report in August noted that 62 workers have been killed and 387 more injured in manual eradication efforts since 2009. 

The key to ending this is striking an agreement with the FARC. The guerrillas are the custodians of much of Colombia’s coca crop, which they protect with landmines and snipers, and so remain the biggest obstacle to manual eradication attempts.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

GUATEMALA / 18 NOV 2013

The coastal province of Escuintla has become Guatemala's most violent, as criminal groups battle for control over this strategic territory,…

DRUG POLICY / 1 OCT 2014

Jamaica has taken further steps toward legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of the drug for all users on the…

COLOMBIA / 21 JUL 2017

The Colombian government has issued a new decree to facilitate the release of incarcerated FARC guerrillas, removing an obstacle to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…